Category Archives: values-based leadership

6 Tips For High School Seniors

Washington Post has a few tips this morning for high school seniors planning to attend college. We’ve added one more:

6. Join a fraternity.

One of the least talked about reasons to “go Greek” is the fraternity system’s unique ability to ease the transition from high school to college. Do some basic research to make sure you join the best chapter on campus (e.g. search for chapters that have recently won awards from their national office; stay away from the chapters with a history of risk reduction problems). The right chapter will:

What are some other reasons college freshman should consider joining a fraternity to ease the transition from high school to college? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.

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How Wikipedia reminds employees of the organization’s mission

The April 2011 issue of Fast Company profiles Sue Gardner, the new executive director of Wikimedia Foundation, which operates the free online encyclopedia Wikipedia. The full story is worth reading as an example of “officer” transition and setting ambitious goals for growth.

One paragraph in particular stood out to me as an innovative and symbolic way to remind Wikipedia employees and volunteers of the organization’s mission:

Recently, Gardner spoofed Wales’s evangelical zeal by putting a picture of the founder in the employee bathroom above the aspirin and dental-floss basket and typing up a mock plea from Wikipedia’s benevolent founder. “This basket exists for one reason: the free and open sharing of personal-grooming items. For many of us, most of us, this basket has become an indispensable part of our daily lives. Help protect it now. Please make a donation.”

The crowdsourced Wikipedia is, of course, produced entirely by volunteer editors who donate their knowledge and talents for the greater good (aside from a small staff to run the organization). This sharing box in the bathroom constantly reminds Wikipedia employees of the organization’s mission to share free information.

This small example got me thinking – what are some similar ways your chapter can constantly remind members of Sigma Nu’s mission to produce ethical leaders inspired by Love, Honor and Truth? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.

(By the way, Sigma Nu’s Wikipedia page could use a few good volunteer editors.)

Ethics LEAD Session

Here’s a great idea for a customized LEAD session:

SIOUX FALLS, SD – Local business leaders are heading back to school this week. They are teaching students a valuable lesson on ethics and building a reputable business career before it even starts.

Sioux Falls business executive Steve Kirby is one of 250 local business leaders who are preaching the power of ethics in the workplace to about 3,000 high school sophomores.

“So we’re trying to hammer-in for only one day, it’s only about an hour and a few minutes, what ethics means and try to personalize it for these kids,” Kirby said.

Read the full story here.

Four Reasons Ritual is Important to Sigma Nu

By Director of Communications Nathaniel Clarkson

1. Renewal of purpose.

There are plenty of practical reasons to begin every chapter meeting with The Ritual. Most chapters only convene for 1-2 hours per week so opening with The Ritual sets a serious tone for the meeting. The Ritual asks participants to wear coat and tie, which contributes to an atmosphere conducive to accomplishing the business of the fraternity.

Beyond fostering a professional atmosphere and providing other tangible benefits, The Ritual serves a much deeper function, namely, to remind us of Sigma Nu’s purpose. Between the hectic day-to-day activities of running the chapter, sometimes it’s easy to forget why we’re all doing this fraternity thing in the first place. The Ritual serves as a reminder of Sigma Nu’s purpose and a weekly renewal of the oath each Knight swore to uphold.

2. Articulates honorable action.

Without publishing any secrets of the ceremony, the opening of The Ritual essentially asks each Knight to renew the oath he took as a candidate. Moreover, the closing reminds us all that the passages recited each week are not just words; rather, they are a call to action.

While The Ritual is secret, non-initiates should be able to decipher our Ritual by observing our actions. The Ritual serves as a guide for honorable behavior.

3. Distinguishes us from other organizations; unifies all Sigma Nu chapters.

Sigma Nu maintains nearly 180 collegiate chapters throughout North America. Naturally, each chapter develops its own unique culture over time. Some chapters boast 200+ members, each involved in a bevy of other campus organizations, while other chapters maintain a smaller brotherhood all recruited from the football team.

Despite the menagerie of interests among different chapters and even members within the same chapter, each Knight is united by the same oath to live an honorable life.  It’s a moving experience to watch Brothers from Boston, Macon and Santa Barbara stand side-by-side reciting the same ritual during conclave.

While The Ritual unites tens of thousands of Sigma Nu Brothers who’ve never met, the fraternity ritual also distinguishes us from other (inter)national fraternities.  However, the differences are much smaller than most realize. In fact, a confidential study administered by the North-American Interfraternity Conference concluded that ritual ceremonies for the prominent social fraternities showed strong similarities.

4. Teaches us to eliminate hazing.

In a subtle way, The Ritual also presents a problem for the typical hazing logic. According to the hazing narrative, candidates must complete a series of arbitrary tasks to prove they are worthy of initiation.

As the opening to ritual shows us, however, we don’t earn our membership in Sigma Nu by submitting to activities that have nothing to do with ethical leadership. Rather, we “earn our badge” each and every day by remaining faithful to our Knightly vows.

What I Learned From My Initiation

By Associate Director of Leadership Development Alex Combs

Throughout my development as a candidate, my experience revolved around the concept of becoming part of a more exclusive group.  I was trying to join a group whose values and purpose stood just beyond my knowledge, as I still felt like just another student at my university.  I wanted to identify with that group, those values, and that purpose.  Initiation represented my transition to that more exclusive identity as a candidate, but upon initiation, I learned just how inclusive Greek life was.

I am not suggesting the old, tired claim that our organizations are all the same.  Whether that’s the case or not, it’s irrelevant to my point and represents the wrong kind of inclusiveness.  My point is that despite the fact that our organizations all have different histories, different values, and different ways in which to live those values – aspects that make us exclusive – initiation showed me the aspects that make us very inclusive.

Initiation taught me that we might spend the better part of our undergraduate careers, and perhaps our lives, aspiring to attain an ideal state in our moral and ethical lives.  And the men in that room represented an exclusive group with the willingness and ability to do so.  But initiation also taught me that our aspirations, our achievements, our moral and ethical progress are all in vain if we don’t include the rest of society in our journey.  Every Greek organization has the potential to be great.  If we keep that greatness within our own walls, we’ve essentially done nothing.

Initiation taught me that although we are an exclusive group, we have an obligation to include the world and its people in our lives and do our part to make progress together.

Founders’ Intent: How Ritual Binds Us Together

By Austin Landry (Louisiana Lafayette/Birmingham Southern)

There are Rituals and there are rituals. A ritual for some men is that, when they shave, they start on the same side of the face every day, more like a habit than anything else. However, a Ritual is something totally different. A Ritual is a formal, well thought out ceremony that is meant to be something more than a habit. Some Rituals go back thousands of years.  Some are new and some are yet to be established.

The Sigma Nu Ritual began in 1869 when three young cadets at the Virginia Military Institute decided to form a new organization opposed to hazing, which, at the time was rampant at the Institute. On the edge of the Institute parade ground, three cadets, James Frank Hopkins, Greenfield Quarles and James McIlvaine Riley met and committed to each  other to form an organization opposed to hazing, with Love , Truth, and Honor as a foundation. Thus, the Legion of Honor was formed, an organization now known as the Sigma Nu Fraternity.

Now, more than 140 years later, Sigma Nu continues to hold true the basis of the foundation of Love, Truth, and Honor set by the founders. As with any organization, some form of Ritual was needed to induct new members into the Fraternity. In the beginning, like many organizations, the ceremony was new and resulted in some later changes. In Sigma Nu, in those early days, there was not a formal candidate or pledge process or ceremony. Young men were observed and, by their actions and honorable behavior, were determined to be worthy of wearing the badge of Sigma Nu.

Later, when a formal pledge or candidate process was deemed necessary, an addition to the Sigma Nu Ritual was made to include a meaningful and memorable ceremony for those desiring to be members of the Sigma Nu Fraternity. However, this ceremony did not yet make them full members of the Fraternity.

In many Rituals, the candidate for membership does not really know what to expect from the ceremony. As a result, if the ritual has any substance and meaning, the individual going through the ceremony is nervous about the process and may not remember all that happened in the ceremony. Therefore, it is important for the Ritual to be informative and memorable. The Sigma Nu Ritual is both. Every member remembers the place, setting, and process, both during the candidate and the initiation ceremony. This is one of the things that binds together every Sigma Nu from the first Ritual which was passed word to mouth and was memorized, to the current hard bound Ritual. The Ritual is the symbolic glue that includes the words and actions to which we can all relate, whether in a large chapter of 100 Brothers that is over 120 years old or a newly chartered chapter. Each of our meetings begins and ends with the Ritual for meetings, during which, we are reminded of the commitment we made during our Initiation.

In the same fashion, Greek fraternities and sororities become bound together by means of each of their unique, but related Rituals, creating a common bond of members, both undergraduate and alumni. Without Rituals, we would only be clubs, rather than fraternities and sororities. How many alumni would be willing to go back to the college or university campus to have a reunion of one of the clubs? In fraternities and sororities, all of us are ready to stay in touch with our Brothers and Sisters, whether they live down the block or in Thailand. The Ritual helped provide the foundation of that common bond.

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.