Category Archives: leadership

Alabama Governor Issues Proclamation Honoring Sigma Nu Fraternity

Jacksonville State University, where tonight a proclamation will be presented declaring January 1, 2015, as "Sigma Nu Day" in the state of Alabama. Photo by flickr user Jay Williams.

Jacksonville State University, where tonight a proclamation will be presented declaring January 1, 2015, as “Sigma Nu Day” in the state of Alabama. Photo by flickr user Jay Williams.

Jacksonville, Ala. – Alabama House Representative K.L. Brown will read a proclamation this evening recognizing the chapters of Sigma Nu Fraternity in the state of Alabama. The proclamation, signed by Governor Robert Bentley, will recognize the historic men’s fraternal organization as the only such group founded in direct opposition to hazing and rooted in the honor principle.

Earlier this year Governor Bentley signed the proclamation declaring January 1 as “Sigma Nu Day” in Alabama.

The proclamation will be presented during a ceremony at 7:00 p.m. CT this evening on the 11th floor of the Houston Cole Library on the Jacksonville State University campus.

Rep. Brown will be joined by national alumni leadership from Sigma Nu Fraternity, including Sigma Nu Educational Foundation (SNEF) board member Ralph Moore, past Sigma Nu Fraternity board member Austin Landry of Birmingham, and SNEF chairman Joe Gilman of Atlanta. Mr. Gilman is also a past national president of Sigma Nu Fraternity. Dr. William A Meehan, president of Jacksonville State University, is also expected to attend.

The story behind the proclamation is a testament to the strong student leadership that has come to define Sigma Nu Fraternity. Kenneth Smith, a political science major and member of the Sigma Nu chapter at Jacksonville State, originally proposed the idea to Rep. Brown. “I wanted to do something different to celebrate Sigma Nu and our Founders’ Day for 2015,” Kenneth said. “With everything going on in higher education right now I know elected officials and other public servants like to hear from younger college students.”

“This proclamation reaffirms the ideals Sigma Nu stands for at the campuses where we have chapters and in the communities where our alumni live,” Kenneth continued. “To some this might seem like merely words on a paper. But I’m glad I get to live out these high ideals and hold this brotherhood close to my heart.”

The signed proclamation, included below, will be framed and displayed at the Sigma Nu Fraternity national headquarters office in Lexington, Va.


By the Governor of Alabama 

WHEREAS, since its founding on January 1, 1869, at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia, the Sigma Nu Fraternity has been a pioneer in the fraternal world; and

WHEREAS, Sigma Nu currently has 172 active chapter and colonies on college campuses throughout the United States and Canada. Sigma Nu has initiated more than 230,000 members since its founding; and

WHEREAS, active Sigma Nu chapters in Alabama are located at Jacksonville State University, University of Alabama, Auburn University, Samford University, The University of Alabama in Huntsville, Birmingham-Southern College and Huntingdon College; and

WHEREAS, originally founded and known to this day as The Legion of Honor, Sigma Nu is the only social fraternity in existence founded in firm opposition to hazing and based on the principal of honor; and

 WHEREAS, Sigma Nu is the first general college fraternity to offer risk reduction policies and a comprehensive membership education program, remaining committed to both their mission and vision for more than 140 years; and

WHEREAS, the mission of Sigma Nu is to develop ethical leaders inspired by the principles of love, honor and truth, to foster the personal growth of each man’s mind heart and character and to perpetuate lifelong friendships and commitment to the fraternity; and

WHEREAS, Sigma Nu’s organizational structures and internal operations provide for the effective deployment of resources to deliver an unmatched level of service to its constituents; and

 WHEREAS, Sigma Nu is continually increasing its membership and capabilities as it creates and capitalizes on new markets and opportunities that support the fraternity’s mission; and

 WHEREAS, Sigma Nu enhances the experience of its members and builds a sense of community in a way that generates a desire to invest time, talent and treasure in the development of both the organization and its future members which is recognized by all as a contribution to the greater good:

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Robert Bentley, Governor of Alabama, do hereby commend the Sigma Nu Fraternity upon its 146th Anniversary on January 1, 2015. 

Given Under My Hand and the Great Seal of the Office of the Governor at the State Capitol in the City of Montgomery on the 20th day of November 2014.

JSU at the Rock

Brothers of Iota Lambda Chapter (Jacksonville State) during a visit to the Headquarters Shrine earlier this year.


Innovative LEAD Ideas (Part 1)

Sigma Nu Leadership conference

By Scott Smith (Central Arkansas)

Innovation [in-uhvey-shuh-n] – something new or different introduced; introduction of new things or methods.

When it comes to providing a personal, professional, or chapter development experience we could all use a little help in spicing things up. LEAD includes some great topics and activities but sometimes your chapter needs to go that extra step with making a session fit into an already hectic chapter calendar or to include another organization or a campus resource into a session. We’ve collected some of the most innovative session and implementation ideas for LEAD – selected based on their novelty and broad utility.

Ideas For…

Phase I

Phase I: Session 11: Community Service – Invite the director/coordinator of a local community service organization to speak to the chapter about the importance of service. Use the session as an opportunity to introduce the chapter’s local service partner, inspire support for the cause, and teach members about the value of their impact in the local community.

Phase II

Create a bylaw – like Gamma Delta Chapter (Stevens) – mandating that any brother who wishes to run for office must have completed the LEAD Phase II online sessions and attended multiple facilitated sessions.

Phase III

Phase III: Session 4: Career Development – Reserve a classroom with a document projector. Each member of the junior class takes turns showing their resumes on the screen. Brothers then have the opportunity to provide feedback, make suggestions, and edit each other’s resume for improvement.

Rockbridge Habitat Build_Lambda_Ben Nye_Winter 2014

Lambda (Washington and Lee) participating on a Habitat for Humanity build site.

Phase III: Session 2: Personal Development – Host a “Reverse Gavel Pass” teambuilding activity. Members sit in a circle passing the gavel to their left. The person holding the gavel is not allowed to speak. The rest of the brothers in the circle are then directed to each provide one piece of positive and constructive feedback. Session ends with a traditional “Gavel Pass” (gavel travels in the same direction). This time the person holding the gavel is the only one allowed to speak. Brother reflects on the activity and provides one thing he learned about himself from others and how he will work to improve himself using this new piece of information (positive or negative).

Delta Alpha Chapter (Case Western Reserve) as part of their Phase III implementation tasks the junior class with writing the big brother ceremony for that semester’s candidate class. This project gives the juniors the opportunity to reflect on their time in Sigma Nu and provide meaningful guidance and instruction to the candidates through the written word of the ceremony.

Phase IV

Task the senior class with hosting a speaker panel for the candidates. Panel provides advice and instruction for candidates on how to make the most of the time in the chapter. Candidates have the opportunity to ask questions like, “Is there something you wish you had taken advantage of when you were a freshman?” “What advice would you give to a candidate interested in pursuing an officer position?”

Work with an alumnus or professor in finance and investing to set up an investment simulation. Participants can learn the basics on investing, shadow a professional, and even invest (fake) money with the help of a broker. This can be a great addition to the Phase IV session on money management, just ask Lambda Upsilon Chapter (Cal State Fullerton).

All Chapter

All Chapter Sexual Assault Prevention session. Team up with a sorority and have someone from the campus health/wellness/counseling center talk about what sexual assault is, why it happens, how to stop it, and how to assist a survivor. Follow up the session with a non-alcoholic mixer event with the participants.

Work with the local fire department to teach brothers how to properly use and maintain a fire extinguisher and put out a fire.

Research shows how fraternity membership enhances personal growth

Sigma Nu Leadership conference

Chapter presidents share best practices at College of Chapters, Sigma Nu’s flagship leadership training conference.

By Merritt Onsa

The UniLOA assessment is a 70-item, self-reporting instrument designed to measure student growth, learning and development or “GLD” of college and university students. The research is conducted by the Center for Learning Outcomes Assessment at Indiana State University.

UniLOA measures behavior at key points in a student’s college career and focuses on seven critical domains: critical thinking, self-awareness, communication, diversity, citizenship, membership & leadership and relationships. In the last few years, this diagnostic tool has provided a rich source of new data to inform program development and support services on campuses across the nation.

To ensure high reliability, the authors spent three years developing and testing the instrument before reporting their findings. Now, after six years of data collection, themes and patterns have emerged about the impact of fraternity membership on the development of male students.

The spike in development—especially in the first 15 credit hours—is not seen in athletics, student government or residence life; it’s found uniquely in fraternity members.

Five national fraternities have participated in this research along with more than more than 300 institutions of higher education. Students—not just fraternity members—from across the campus life spectrum have participated in the study.

However, the results confirm what many fraternity members have known all along—the fraternity experience positively influences the personal development of male students. This is demonstrated in three key outcomes from the research:

  • Fraternity men experienced higher net gains in growth over their academic lifespan in each of the seven critical domains.
  • Average growth of fraternity men was higher than non-affiliated men during the first semester of their first year in college, which is often the “pledge” semester.
  • Fraternity men scored substantially higher in “citizenship” and “membership & leadership” than non-affiliated men.

The spike in development—especially in the first 15 credit hours—is not seen in athletics, student government or residence life; it’s found uniquely in fraternity members. And the North-American Interfraternity Conference President and CEO, Peter Smithhisler, says it’s the best argument against deferred recruitment. “The earlier a man can join, the more significant his development,” he says.

Sigma Nu Leadership conference

Director of Leadership Development Scott Smith facilitates a discussion at the 2014 College of Chapters in Roanoke, Va.

Of course, the authors of the UniLOA acknowledge that growth, learning and development happen naturally through the maturation process; but meaningful and consistent engagement in organized activities like fraternities tends to accelerate the rate of GLD for those students.

The NIC has been aware of UniLOA for the past five years; however, the organization waited to react to the results until the data could be replicated. Now that it has been deemed a reliable and valid instrument that consistently reveals the same overall patterns, the NIC is working to help undergraduate members and college administrators understand the total impact of the fraternity experience on male student development.

“While we own, acknowledge and are dealing with the issues that are out of line with the values of the fraternity experience, we also have to start identifying what’s going right. As a result of the new member experience, young men have leadership opportunities, interact with a diverse group of students and develop personal relationships. If we can eliminate the negative aspects and enhance the positive aspects, I expect the fraternity experience to become even more impactful,” says Smithhisler.

Sigma Nu Leadership conference

Chapter presidents discuss ways to positively influence their campus at the 2014 College of Chapters in Roanoke, Va.

And that opportunity rests in the hands of our current chapter members. “Our current undergraduates are entrusted with the future of fraternities. What they do today in the ways they recruit, create expectations and how they lead, all of these things will determine the focus of fraternities in the future. And it’s up to the undergraduates to ensure our future,” says Smithhisler.

At the same time, alumni play an important role in the development of young men. Smithhisler challenges all fraternity alumni to reengage with their organization as role models and mentors. “Undergraduates need positive role models to provide guidance and encouragement along the path to becoming fraternity men. It’s through mentorship that student leaders are taught the value of fraternity membership and how to live out those values in their daily lives,” he says.  Equally as important, “alumni must resist perpetuating the myths and stereotypes through their interactions and expectations of the young men in our chapters.”

Sigma Nu Leadership conference

Vice Regent John Hearn stands by to assist chapter presidents during a goal-setting session.

To continue to share the research outcomes, the NIC created The Case for Fraternity Rights website and is working through multiple channels to disseminate the information therein. They are communicating directly with IFC and campus leaders, especially those campuses with deferred recruitment. And they’ve translated the research into a 60-minute presentation that their 75 member organizations can use at national conventions or provide to traveling staff members to share with individual chapters. In case you’re wondering, the NIC is not affiliated with UniLOA and does not commission, finance or influence the research in any way.

In addition to communicating the good news about fraternity life to those closest to the experience, the NIC is working to share this research with other stakeholders like the media, government officials, parents and potential new members.

To learn more about the research visit and help us spread the word about the dramatic positive impact fraternity life has on student growth, learning and development for the young men who join.

This story originally appeared in the fall 2012 issue of The Delta.

My Fraternity Tattoo

Photo by Flickr user deano

Photo by Flickr user deano

By Steven Harowitz (Central Florida)

I broke a well-known rule of life: Don’t get a tattoo on spring break in Panama City when you’re 18.

I placed the Fraternity letters on my right shoulder one sunny day with some of my brothers circled around me. It wasn’t planned and definitely not thought out, but in the moment I felt like it meant enough to me to have the letters placed publicly on my body.

Fast-forward a few months. I’m visiting friends in a sleeveless T-shirt (which warrants an entirely different discussion) when one remarks about my “frat tat.”  It was the first of many less-then-enjoyable conversations over the next few years with one central theme:

“Why would you get that on your body… forever?”

It seems that most individuals, even those involved in Greek life, did not feel this permanent choice was wise. As if being a fraternity member was only acceptable as long as I wore my letters in a non-permanent way.

I’m willing to admit this only now with a few years of reflection: I bought into the shaming. I believed the friends and acquaintances who took my choice away from me.

Maybe I shouldn’t have gotten that tattoo. Maybe I should always have it covered so people don’t judge. Maybe I shouldn’t have placed something on my body that wouldn’t identify me as a “frat boy” the rest of my life.

For the majority of the last five years I refused to show my tattoo to people.  I would make up an excuse, or say it wasn’t done, or just downright say no. I was afraid I would be labeled, yet again, as a dumb “frat boy” who made a bad choice one spring break. My arms, and fraternal pride, went into hiding.

I placed the letters on my body because I wanted a reminder to myself, and to those who see it, that I strive to live a life based on a set of values.

I helped facilitate an Undergraduate Interfraternity Institute last summer during which I asked a participant to redefine the term “frat hard.” It was written in his Twitter profile and when I pointed it out he apologized and then deleted it.  I pushed back, telling him not to run from the term, but to tell people what “fraternity-ing hard” actually meant: living by your values, caring for your brothers and the greater community, leading a life of integrity.  A renewed sense of pride rushed over me until I remembered my own refusal to own my fraternal roots. I let those around me take the symbolism of my tattoo and skew it into a generalized, stereotyped version of fraternity.  I didn’t have Greek letters (and in correlation, my values) placed on to this once-in-forever body for others; I placed the letters on my body because I wanted a reminder to myself, and to those who see it, that I strive to live a life based on a set of values.

How dare they see this symbol and think it’s a mistake. Those values are tattooed to my heart, mind, and soul; what’s a shoulder in comparison? Even as I write this article at a crowded coffee shop I get antsy thinking the woman next to me saw the title of my article and upon reading “My Fraternity Tattoo” decided I was just another frat boy. It’s an ongoing struggle.

I strive to live a different life. I refuse to let Greek members who live incongruently with their values ruin an experience that helped thousands become leaders in their communities.

I refuse to let people take an experience that has shaped me into the person I am today and decide that it must be the same as that of all others.

I refuse to let others turn my tattoo into a symbol of raging parties that upset entire neighborhoods. I refuse to let my tattoo stand for disrespecting other’s identities. I refuse to let my tattoo stand for hosting theme parties that disparage a community. I refuse to let my tattoo stand for hazing new members because of a skewed perspective of what building brotherhood means.

My tattoo stands for actual community service, where brothers spend their time directly helping others, not planning a philanthropy that just swaps money between organizations. My tattoo stands for not being a bystander if I see someone acting dishonorably. My tattoo stands for supporting my brothers in all their endeavors, not just by liking a Facebook status, but actually showing up at their athletic events or at their bedside when sick.

My tattoo stands for refusing to let Greek professionals be harassed because they held a Greek community accountable for the community’s actions or inactions.

I now wear sleeveless shirts – not because it’s hot outside or because I feel like I have muscles to show off (which believe me, I do not) but rather because I invite the discussion.

“Yeah, I do have a tattoo.  I’ve had it for a few years.”

“Yep, those are Greek Letters. I am a member of a Fraternity”

“No, I did not get hazed.”

“No, I didn’t pay for my friends.”

“Do you have a few minutes, I would love to tell you what a true Greek experience looks like.”

My tattoo stands for opportunity to educate others on what Greek membership really stands for.  My tattoo stands for Love, Honor, and Truth. My tattoo stands for the pride I carry from being a Sigma Nu and a fraternity man. Want to talk about it?

Steven Harowitz is an initiate of the Mu Psi Chapter at Central Florida and the Coordinator of Student Involvement and Leadership at Washington University in St. Louis.

Visionary Leadership: The College of Chapters Experience

Sigma Nu Leadership conference

Regent Charlie Eitel delivers the opening keynote address during the 2014 College of Chapters in Roanoke, Va.

By Ben Nye (Arkansas)

“Over the next 60 hours we’re going to teach you everything you need to know to help your chapter achieve excellence.” –Regent Elect Joe Francis (Oklahoma State)

According to Simon Sinek the best companies and the best leaders always “start with why.” Most people start with “what,” then tell “how,” and lastly they articulate “why” they do what they do. Sinek thinks people get it backwards. In his concept known as the golden circle, Sinek explains how great leaders do the opposite. “There are leaders and there are those who lead … leaders hold a position of power/responsibility … those who lead inspire us.”

College of Chapters was all about visionary leadership. Visionary leadership is the foundation of being an effective Commander and it was the major impetus behind the College of Chapters curriculum. It is the primary job of the Commander to inspire the action of the chapter behind a shared vision.

Leadership by effective Commanders is not about management or hierarchical decision-making from the top elected positions. Effective leadership is a process that a group goes through together – the Commander just happens to be the individual tasked with making sure it happens.


Simon Sinek’s golden circle.

The vision of a leader is related to the “why” of Sinek’s golden circle. A vision is how the chapter leader motivates others to follow him. Instead of focusing on the minutiae of day-to-day activities – making flyers, planning a social, running chapter meeting, etc. the leader should focus on why the chapter does what it does.

Relating a vision to the chapter is a challenge. It requires many action steps. To get the vision into more actionable forms, it has to be broken into strategies, goals, and objectives. Developing an effective strategy requires assessing current context – the “what” of Simon Sinek’s golden circle – and measuring the distance between context and vision. This distance between the context and the vision is the chapter’s strategy or the “how.”

Once a chapter determines its strategy, it’s simply a matter of putting specific, measurable, applicable, realistic, and timely (S.M.A.R.T.) goals into the chapter’s action plan. So a strategy to improve academic performance in the spring 2014 term could have a S.M.A.R.T goal of “improving the chapter’s GPA from a 2.79 to 2.95 by June 2014.”

S.M.A.R.T. goals help conceptual vision and strategy statements become much more practicable. Vision is not going to be implemented without effective goals and objectives that other members can put into practice. Delegation is how the Commander spreads his vision to other members of the chapter.

Delegation can be broken into five distinct phases: preparation, planning, discussion, auditing, and appreciation. Preparation and planning are how the Commander – or more generally – the delegator formulates what needs to be done. Discussion allows for the Commander to assign the task to his designee. Ideally this will be a conversation that allows the designee to make his own decisions about accomplishing the task. The Commander should audit the progress towards the goal and finally appreciate the accomplishments of the member who has completed the goal.

Sigma Nu Leadership conference

“The success of our mission will depend on each of you in this room’s ability to learn and to translate this work back to your chapters.” -Regent Elect Joe Francis

Through delegation, the Commander can fully spread his vision to the entire chapter and get everyone involved in accomplishing it. The Commander must ensure that the chapter has a vision and is progressing towards that. Through delegation and an effective action plan the Commander can ensure that this happens.

During his keynote address, Past Regent Robert Durham relayed a story of a learning moment that came while he was Commander at the University of Georgia. Durham recalled a piece of advice that he received from Mu Chapter (Georgia) Alumnus George Hearn on a gameday during his fall term. “Son, these men have elected you to lead them; you have an obligation to excellence,” said Judge Hearn.

Sigma Nu’s success depends upon Commanders applying the lessons they learned at College of Chapters: communicating a shared vision and implementing it through strategy, goals, and delegation. The mission of Sigma Nu hinges upon each Commander fulfilling his obligation to excellence through visionary leadership.

2014 College of Chapters Day 3 Recap

1. Some catch a snooze while others converse on the bus ride to Lexington. Sigma Nu Leadership conference

2. Commanders compare notes on the pilgrimage to Lexington. Sigma Nu Leadership conference

3. Visitors take smartphone pictures outside the Headquarters Shrine. Sigma Nu Leadership conference

4. College of Chapters participants endure a cold rain to photograph the Rock that sits in front of the Headquarters Shrine. Sigma Nu Leadership conference

5. Visitors photograph a clay rendering of the badge on display in the Headquarters’ foyer, Smith Hall. Sigma Nu Leadership conference

6. Commanders descend stairs leading to the Alpha Room. Sigma Nu Leadership conference

7. Staff member Bill Morosco talks Sigma Nu history with collegians gathered around a scale model of VMI in the Headquarters museum. Sigma Nu Leadership conference

8. A visitor snaps a photo of the original painting of The Quest. Sigma Nu Leadership conference

9. A Commander has his photo taken with his chapter’s burgee in the Alpha Room. Sigma Nu Leadership conference

10. Staff member Drew Logsdon gives a tour of the Founders’ Room, which includes the encyclopedia set Founder Hopkins used as a VMI cadet. Sigma Nu Leadership conference

11. A topographic map in the Hall of Fame gives Headquarters visitors a spatial view of Sigma Nu’s wide geographic reach across the U.S. and Canada. Sigma Nu Leadership conference

12. Visitors explore the Hall of Fame in the South Wing of the Headquarters Shrine. The lectern in the foreground contains a photo and bio for every Hall of Fame inductee. Sigma Nu Leadership conference

13. A College of Chapters participant browses titles by Sigma Nu authors in the Richard Fletcher Honor Memorial Library. Sigma Nu Leadership conference

14. Commanders tour the Hall of Honor in the North Wing of the Headquarters Shrine. Sigma Nu Leadership conference

15. Busloads of Sigma Nus unload at VMI just a few hundred feet from the Legion of Honor’s founding site. Sigma Nu Leadership conference

16. Sigma Nus get a special tour of the VMI museum. Sigma Nu Leadership conference

17. The pilgrimage will be Instagrammed. Sigma Nu Leadership conference

18. Back in Roanoke, Regent-Elect Joe Francis knights the 2013 Alpha Affiliate inductees. Sigma Nu Leadership conference

19. 2012 Man of the Year Wells Ellenberg returns to deliver the evening keynote address. Sigma Nu Leadership conference

20. In the final chapter session, Commanders finalize their goals for the year based on the vision they developed during College of Chapters.  Sigma Nu Leadership conference

21. Commanders write their goals on a poster that will be taken back to the chapter home. Sigma Nu Leadership conference

Photos by David Hungate/Dominion Images.

Wells Ellenberg 2014 College of Chapters Keynote Address

Sigma Nu Leadership conference

I can’t believe it’s been two years since I was standing in your shoes as the newly elected Commander of my chapter. At the time, I thought I had all the answers.  In retrospect, I had no idea what I had gotten myself into.

As you will soon discover, this year is going to be one of the most difficult and challenging of your lives. The responsibility is great; the liability, even more so.

But when the stakes are high, so too are the rewards. Tonight, I want to share some advice and perspective that will hopefully help you make the most of your term as Commander.

I want to begin by asking three simple questions. Your answer to each of these questions will be a good indicator as to how successful your term will be.

First:  Are you in this for the right reasons?

There are two types of leaders in this world: those who seek to add value to every endeavor, and those who seek to extract it.

As Commander, you should be focused on creating value for your organization by leveraging your strengths and the strengths of your members to solve problems.

If you are in this for yourself, for a line on your resume or a letter of recommendation, you will almost certainly fail.  How can you govern each act by a high sense of honor if your decision to run for office was based on dishonorable motives?  You will lose the respect of your members and ultimately yourself.

Second:  Will you be an ethical leader?

Much of your curriculum these past few days has focused on the concept of ethical leadership.  In my opinion, ethical leaders are those who lead with vision and courage.  They have a vision of a better future for their organization and are willing to make the courageous decisions along the way to turn that vision into reality.

I cannot think of a more appropriate venue that the Virginia Military Institute to share this message with you.  One of the Institute’s Latin mottoes, when translated, reads: “By vision and courage.”

Ethical leadership often involves saying “no,” and choosing the harder right over the easier wrong.  This is no easy task.  But make no mistake – your members elected you to lead; to make the difficult decisions they themselves are not willing to make.

Third:  Will you leave a lasting legacy?

Twelve months from now, at the end of your term, will your members be willing and able to fill the void you leave behind?

I am not suggesting you handpick a successor; quite the contrary. Identify those individuals who are capable of following in your footsteps. Give them opportunities to prove themselves, and provide them with support and guidance along the way. Then, let them compete for the hearts and minds of their would-be constituents. Let them prove they have the vision and courage to take your place.

One of your most important responsibilities as Commander will be to cultivate a sense of ownership amongst your members.  You may be their leader, but this is their chapter, and they are stakeholders in both its successes and its failures.

Remember:  Your obligation to excellence, at its heart, is an obligation to others.

Having considered these three questions, and their implications, you may feel a little overwhelmed or apprehensive.  Allow me to offer some words of comfort: you are not in this alone.

College of Chapters has provided you with a roadmap for success; a guidebook for achieving excellence. And, as you have seen over the past few days, the Fraternity offers a wealth of resources to help you along the way (if, of course, you choose to take advantage of them).

You will undoubtedly face adversity. And you will undoubtedly make mistakes. I did. But if you commit yourselves to leading with vision and courage, your alumni and this Fraternity will stand beside you every step of the way.

But you, and only you can make this commitment, and the time to make it is now.

Last year, your predecessors were asked to make this same commitment. Some of them chose to lead with vision and courage; others chose to maintain the status quo; to accept mediocrity; to shirk their obligation to excellence.

In particular, two Commanders from last year come to mind: one from North Carolina, the other from Ohio. Each had inherited a once-strong chapter facing serious operational deficiencies.  Each left College of Chapters with a vision, and a framework for achieving that vision, knowing that the survival of his chapter was on the line. But only one had the courage to govern his chapter with the high ideals and noble purposes of this fraternity – Love, Honor, and Truth.  The other saw his chapter’s charter suspended and its doors closed, on his watch.

Tonight, though he is not in attendance, please join me in thanking Brother Josh Cherok from the Zeta Gamma Chapter at Kent State University for his hard work and dedication to excellence.

Sigma Nu Leadership conference

The question remains:  Will you follow Brother Cherok’s example and lead your chapter with vision and courage?

I want to share with you three pieces of advice that served me well during my term as Commander.

First:  Be kind.

Kindness inspires results. People enjoy working for those they enjoy working with. Whenever possible, let your members know that you respect them and appreciate their contributions. No matter how hard you try, you simply cannot run a successful chapter on your own.

In their book Remarkable!, Randy Ross and David Salyers draw an important distinction between leadership and power. Leadership is about influencing others.  Power is about dominating them.  And nothing of enduring, positive value ever happens by force.

Second:  Be humble.

The position of Commander is a thankless one. Your best will never be good enough. Your achievements will be minimized and your mistakes blown out of proportion.  But, at the end of the day, if you can look back on your term confident that you left everything on the field, you can hold your head high and be proud that you did your level best.  What more could anyone ask?

In times of trial, I often look to a passage entitled “The Penalty of Leadership.” The passage comes from a 1915 Cadillac advertisement in the Saturday Evening Post. Cadillac had just introduced the first mass-produced V8 engine automobiles. The company’s competitors said they were destined to fail.  Cadillac responded:

“If the leader truly leads, he remains – the leader.  Master poet, master painter, master workman; each in his turn is assailed, and each holds his laurels through the ages. That which is good or great makes itself known, no matter how loud the clamor of denial. That which deserves to live – lives.”

Third:  Have fun.

Your experience as Commander will serve you well in the real world. And though you have taken on some real world responsibility in this new role, you are not in the real world just yet. Take advantage of every opportunity to enjoy yourselves and spend time with your friends. You will look back on college as four of the best (but also four of the shortest) years of your lives.

Take a moment and look at the person seated to your left and to your right.  Collectively, we are a diverse group of individuals representing a diverse group of chapters.  For example:

Garrett Oberst from the Epsilon Mu Chapter represents 103 members.  Tony Lee from Eta Omicron represents 49.

Jon Paul is the Delta Gamma Chapter’s 106th Commander.  Brendan Hall is Mu Psi’s 9th.

Glenn Walls leads the Iota Delta Chapter from Harrisonburg, Virginia.  Cody Wagner leads Delta Iota from Pullman, Washington.

And yet, despite these differences, each of these chapters is on pace to achieve Rock Chapter status.

The metrics we use to judge success from one campus to another vary.  But ethical leadership is the constant; vision and courage will always be the keys to success.

I want to leave you with the words of General George Patton, best known for his command of the Seventh and later the Third United States Army in the European Theater of World War II.  Patton, an alumnus of the Virginia Military Institute, is remembered for his fierce determination, capable leadership, and ability to inspire men on the battlefield.  He said, “Lead me, follow me, or get the hell out of my way.”

Gentlemen – I hope you choose to lead; to lead with vision and courage; to meet and exceed your obligation to excellence. Your chapter needs you. This Fraternity needs you. And this country needs you, desperately.

I am honored to call each of you “Brother.” Good luck, God’s speed, and remember: there is no honor in mediocrity.  Honor can only be obtained through excellence.

Wells Ellenberg (Georgia) is a past Collegiate Grand Councilman and the 2012 Sigma Nu Man of the Year.