Category Archives: values-based leadership

How Did You Live the Ritual Today?

By Leadership Consultant Daniel Hallgren

What did you do today to live your Ritual?

Rereading The Secret Thoughts of a Ritual prompted me to consider how I live the Ritual each day. It is a thought provoking piece that talks about how Ritual should not be so secret that it becomes a mystery to us and our members.

The Ritual should be read, studied, and used as a road map to live a good life.

It should be openly discussed between brothers and taught to our new members once they are initiated.

The meanings of The Ritual should be examined closely and argued passionately.

I encourage you to read both The Ritual and  The Secret Thoughts of a Ritual, and to reflect on their teachings and meaning.

Or to share a passage from each at an upcoming chapter meeting, discussing its current relevance with the membership.

As I write this, I am reflecting on how I am currently living and doing what The Ritual prescribes.

Am I living up to the Oath I made five years ago when I became an initiated brother in Sigma Nu?

Am I living the values and precepts set forth by my founders?

I challenge you to ask these very same questions of yourself and others.

It is only upon reflection and discussion that we can reach an understanding of The Ritual and how well each of us lives up to our knightly vows.

I challenge you to consider where you stand and to help others do the same.

Once you have learned The Ritual, taught it to others, and lived by it, I challenge you to expect the same from our brothers.

Your Initiation Ceremony is Only the Beginning

By Drew Logsdon (Western Kentucky)

This was it. Twelve long weeks had culminated into this exact moment. I had passed the tests. I knew the history. I was familiar with risk reduction, time management, community service, and leadership concepts. I was also still very naïve.

I knew I was about to go through a ritual that had been passed down through the years but I didn’t really understand the significance of the event until much later.

I remember that morning very distinctly. My candidate brothers and I were waiting with strong anticipation for this moment. However, internally, I was thinking of so much more.

I was about to become a member of not just a chapter with over 40 years of history on campus but also a fraternity of international membership.

I remembered what my father had told me during a phone conversation the night before. “Don’t waste this experience. Don’t be an empty seat. The easy part is over, now the hard part begins. You have nothing to prove to anyone else but you do have something to prove to yourself. Prove to yourself that this commitment wasn’t a half-assed one. Prove to yourself that you’re going to actually do something.”

Honor candidate ritual robe.

He was absolutely right.

When I finally walked into the room for the ceremony I remember feeling extremely excited. So excited I wanted to almost skip the ceremony and go straight to my first meeting. That’s when it dawned on me: This wasn’t the culmination of twelve weeks. This was the beginning of change. I now had a voice. I now had an obligation. There were no more “but I’m just a candidate” excuses. Now I had an obligation to stand for the values of the Fraternity. When the door shut behind us I felt the weight of the silence in the room. In roughly one hour I would be an initiate.

To this day I can’t accurately recreate in my memory what followed because it seemed to happen so fast (it didn’t). But I will never forget those first few moments and my father’s words to me the night before. I believe it is a charge we are all obligated to uphold.

As initiates we have nothing to prove to anyone else, but we do have to prove something to ourselves.

We all have to prove that we will carry through with the vows we took. We all have to prove that our decisions were not made in vain and that we will all leave our active chapters better than when we came into them.

So throughout this week of celebration for our Ritual I encourage every active member and candidate alike to think about what they have done or plan to do. Don’t be an empty seat. Do something.

Recruitment Tips from Football?

National Signing Day (NSD) is the first Wednesday of February every year. Now I’m sure productivity in the office doesn’t decrease nearly as much as it does during March Madness, but as a huge college football fan, NSD should be a national holiday.

All day, and in the weeks leading up to NSD, I am constantly evaluating prospects. Five star, four star, three star etc. I admit I’m a bit obsessed. Right now there are eleven bios of senior athletes bookmarked on my browser, all kids who are undecided but might choose to commit to my university. It’s funny these kids born in 1993 have a profound impact on how my day will go. Because like it or not these kids will become men and have a profound impact on the success of my university’s football program. Recruitment is the lifeblood of college football.

At the end of the day each team will be ranked by the quality of the class they recruit. Odds are that the best teams will have the best classes. Auburn, Alabama, and Oregon are all poised to have top 10 classes. These universities hope this new crop of young talent will help them return to the title game, back to that No. 1 ranking. It is no surprise that these schools are signing successful recruiting classes–these are the best programs, and competitors want to play on the best team.

However, these same highly ranked football programs use a questionable recruiting method called “grey-shirting.” Recently this practice has earned a fair amount of attention in the media. Universities will sign more players than they have scholarships to give. 33 athletes will commit to University X while the university has only 25 scholarships to give. Over the summer, after all the scholarships are filled, eight of these men will be informed that they no longer have a spot on University X’s squad. The athletes who are unexpectedly turned away are left with few options.

So what am I getting at? This is a fraternity blog, not ESPN. Why should you care? Here’s why: I think we, men aged 18-24, sometimes get our priorities mixed up. Do you evaluate prospects for your chapter the same way you evaluate prospects for your university’s football team? How often do you care more about a running back’s 40 time than a PNM’s involvement on campus? We have much to learn about fraternity recruitment from reflecting on NSD.

Rank your prospects. Websites such as Scouts, Rivals, and ESPN rank football players on a five star scale. Do you rank PNMs? How many five star recruits did your chapter bring in last fall? Do you constantly evaluate and gauge the interest of the five star recruit deciding between your chapter and others?

The best prospects want to join the best programs/chapters. Where does your chapter rank? If your university was to release signing day (bid day) rankings of all of the fraternities would you have the top class? What about top 5? If not, why? Football recruiters have found the best recruits typically come from Florida, California, and Texas. Where are the best recruits on your campus? How can you tap into that market?

Georgia is looking to have a top 10 recruiting class this year and that is mostly due to recruiting on their home turf. Most top prospects in Georgia are going to attend UGA. Are you recruiting on your home turf? How many guys are reaching out to kids from their high school? If half of your chapter is from the same city or high school do you use this as a recruitment tool?

Manage your Master Prospect List (MPL) with the same passion you would the football commitment list. (Just don’t make the same mistakes many football programs do in grey-shirting candidates.)

Only extend bids to prospective members who are right for your chapter. Don’t ask for his involvement and commitment and fail to honor that commitment. What was the retention of your last candidate class? Did you keep 90% or more of that class? If not, have you considered why? Are you signing too many guys and offering too few scholarships? Are you misrepresenting your chapter during recruitment?

I hope one day the NCAA will outlaw the practice of grey-shirting. The Big Ten conference did back in 1956 and Ohio State remains a powerhouse in college football. I hope one day we can have 90% retention or better in all of our chapters. At the end of the day strong chapters, just like football programs, are not made by the number of members you sign, but by the number who stay. Those are the individuals who will carry your chapter to excellence.

Crowdsourcing to Eliminate Hazing: Announcing #40Answers in 40 Days

To promote this year’s National Hazing Prevention Week (September 20-24), the best minds in Greek Life are crowdsourcing their knowledge to provide a comprehensive list of swift and reasoned arguments against the 40 most common excuses for hazing.

Beginning Wednesday, August 11th, this spontaneous team of contributors will blog/tweet/post about a different excuse each day using the Twitter hashtag “#40Answers”.

Some of these excuses might warrant only a short response; others might call for more complex and lengthy explanations.  Contributors are encouraged to use a variety of mediums (blogs, websites, Facebook) that can link back to their Twitter page under the “#40Answers” hashtag.

Once the forty-day countdown is complete, the responses will be compiled, edited and made available for all.  This is likely to become the ultimate resource for fraternity men and sorority women who want to eliminate hazing and provide the true Greek Life experience.

Thanks for your participation and happy tweeting!

***Contributors are encouraged to post a similar announcement on their own blog leading into the campaign.***

Click here to view the calendar and corresponding list of hazing excuses.

Teaching Empathy to Eliminate Bullying: The Reverse Parents’ Weekend

Grade school bullying and fraternity hazing share many of the same root causes.  While the activities might change from one age group to the next, the underlying philosophy of coerced respect remains the same.

As such, fraternities can draw insightful parallels from efforts to eliminate grade school bullying.  One such program, Roots of Empathy (ROE), aims to eliminate bullying by teaching empathy to students as early as preschool.

TIME magazine reports:

One of the most promising antibullying programs, ROE (along with its sister program, Seeds of Empathy) starts as early as preschool and brings a loving parent and a baby to classrooms to help children learn to understand the perspective of others. The nonprofit program is based in part on social neuroscience, a field that has exploded in the past 10 years, with hundreds of new findings on how our brains are built to care, compete and cooperate.

So maybe we’re not going to place a mother and her baby in every chapter home.  But the lesson here is about teaching empathy and living the golden rule.  What are some innovative ways your chapter can teach empathy?  Here is one possibility, the reverse parents’ weekend:

Send every initiate home with a new member for one weekend each semester.  Get to know his family and learn about his background.  When the would-be hazers have a deeper connection with the new members and their families, they’re more likely to form relationships based on common values and shared [positive] experiences rather than faux relationships built on intimidation and coerced respect.  Maybe this would pose logistical problems for large chapters but variations are available.

Greek Life professionals have two favorite reasons for eliminating hazing:

1) Someone could die or be seriously injured.

2) Hazing is against the law and the members responsible could face jail time.

Unfortunately these serious consequences are not compelling to many hazers.  Why?  Because the probability of someone suffering serious injury or going to jail are probably relatively rare for the seemingly harmless hazing.  This, however, should not undermine the importance of eliminating all hazing, not just the pernicious hazing.  Respect yourself and others regardless of age or tenure and the perceived need for respect through coercion disappears.

Creativity: The Unsung Leadership Quality

Our Founders and early members were prescient in choosing the Rock and the Rose as enduring symbols of The Legion of Honor.  Our fundamental purpose to produce ethical leaders for society will never change (Rock); however, the strategies and tactics we use to accomplish our mission are changing constantly as we adapt to our surroundings (Rose).

Similarly, most enduring companies maintain a fundamental purpose through the years.  Strategies and even products and services may change, but the core mission remains.  And as Fast Company magazine reports, finding the right strategies and tactics often requires an under-appreciated leadership quality:

For CEOs, creativity is now the most important leadership quality for success in business, outweighing even integrity and global thinking, according to a new study by IBM. The study is the largest known sample of one-on-one CEO interviews, with over 1,500 corporate heads and public sector leaders across 60 nations and 33 industries polled on what drives them in managing their companies in today’s world.

The Rose can manifest itself it many different leadership qualities, and least among them is creativity.  Take some time this summer to ponder how you will lead your chapter through innovation and creativity this coming year.  It could be something as simple as changing the time and location of chapter meetings.  Or maybe it’s time to bring creativity to your LEAD Program in the form of some new and energizing guest facilitators (see how Fresno State is bringing creativity to LEAD in the spring 2010 issue of The Delta) .

Change, renewal and purity of purpose–as represented by the Rose–is necessary to the long-term success of any organization, especially the college fraternity.

Criticize in Private, Praise in Public

Florida Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez learned an important life lesson this week on how to properly provide feedback to leadership.


Ramirez was not in the lineup for that game. On Monday night, he was benched in the second inning for failing to hustle after a kicked ball. Afterward the game, and Tuesday morning, he ripped manager Fredi Gonzalez to reporters for taking him out of the game.

Ramirez, a two-time All-Star, accidentally booted a ball and then lightly jogged after it, allowing two runs to score Monday night in a 5-1 loss to Arizona.

Gonzalez benched Ramirez, who let loose with his criticisms the next day, saying he felt no need to apologize, he’d lost respect for his manager, and that “It’s [Gonzalez’s] team. He can do whatever … He doesn’t understand that. He never played in the big leagues.”

On Wednesday, Ramirez apologized to his manager and teammates and was re-inserted into the starting lineup.

Perhaps the team can buy Ramirez a copy of Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Who knew TV could be Educational?

I don’t know how many of you have seen the new KFC commercial (for those of you who haven’t check out this link To provide a quick summary, KFC is donating money to aid breast cancer research. For every bucket of fried chicken purchased they donate money to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. To me this seemed almost humorous. We are going to combat breast cancer by making America’s growing obesity problem worse. Hopefully many of you find this as perplexing and funny as I do.

It’s so funny that someone (KFC) is trying to fix one problem (breast cancer) while making another worse (obesity).

The funny thing is we may mock KFC or show one of our brothers this YouTube clip but we won’t learn from it. A few of you may say, “I don’t get it,” so let me put this into fraternal terms.

It’s so funny that someone (your chapter) is trying to fix one problem (low manpower) while making another worse (the guys we bring in are party animals and ignore the Risk Reduction policy).

The commercial is only funny when it is someone else and not our chapter. We need to learn from this. How many of us look for the quick fix to one problem but don’t realize that we are making another problem worse in the long term? Recruitment is only one example and rest assured there are many more. Countless times I meet outstanding chapter officers who do a ton of work and pick up slack for lazy officers. This certainly solves the problem of something not getting done, but over time we are hurting ourselves. We fail to create a culture of accountability and sooner or later our officers begin to slack more and more because they know Johnny the Lt. Commander, or our Exec board or whoever will pick up the slack and do the work for us. To go back to our example:

It’s funny that someone (our chapter’s outstanding officer) is trying to fix one problem (something not getting done) while making another worse (accountability).

I won’t bog you down with more examples but I strongly encourage you to determine if in any situation in your chapter you are the “someone” in that sentence. Perhaps not. But I bet whether we are the Alpha Chapter, a new colony, or somewhere in between we can think of one example where we fix one problem while making another worse. Let’s recognize that and address the issue.

Random Thoughts

If fraternities are supposed to stand for such values as honor, integrity and respect then why must every national office employ a full-time Director of Risk Reduction?

Why are marketing campaigns to eliminate hazing almost always directed at our our own members rather than the general public?  Isn’t it pathetic that we should have to convince our own members that the mission of our organization is in fact good?

The few chapters that are either too cool or too dysfunctional to attend Grand Chapter will inevitably complain the most about the new bylaws and policies they didn’t bother to vote for.

If chapters are so proud of their diversity, loosely defined, then why do pledge programs insist on making everyone the same (“our #1 goal is to mold a united pledge class”)?

If hazers are so confident that arbitrary harassment builds brotherhood then why not advertise every activity and expectation during recruitment?

And if hazers are so confident that hazing has an ounce of relevance to real life then why don’t they list “endured hazing pledgeship” on their resume?  Or do they understand that no employer would take them seriously?

Why do some chapters spend more time developing marketing campaigns to make themselves look good rather than actually being good in the first place?

Why do chapters spend so much time trying to motivate members for recruitment rather than just recruiting people who don’t need to be motivated?

If hazing is supposed to teach respect then why are the loudest proponents of hazing always the least respected members in the chapter?

Employers Will Not Be Impressed by Your Hazing ‘Accomplishments’

Tracy Maxwell, Executive Director of, exposes the scam that hazing builds genuine brotherhood/sisterhood:

On top of that, most employers will not be impressed by stories of torture and abuse no matter how creative or “educational” you have deemed it. You won’t tell anyone outside the confines of your organization about what is going on behind closed doors, you certainly aren’t going to brag about it in an interview. Further, I’m guessing the huge amount of time you spend thinking up and carrying out creative hazing activities or administering hell week, probably keeps you from being that involved on campus or holding any leadership positions that you can actually learn from and talk about.

Professionalism and passion are both key to career success. You can certainly have a passion for hazing, and believe in the power of that experience to toughen people up and make them good members and better people (and many, many hazers and formerly hazed will say the experience did just that for them). You can spend an inordinate amount of time on hazing too. Time, in my opinion, that could be much better spent doing something good for society, serving in a visible leadership position and networking on campus, or developing new leadership skills that you can use to land you a job. The latter activities develop professionalism. Screaming obscenities and calling new members maggots does not.

Indeed, the unseen tragedy in hazing is the time that could have been spent on more worthwhile activities.

Tracy’s entire post is a must read.