Sometimes Silence is Louder

When I first decided I was going to run for President of my fraternity, I knew that I had a lot of work to do. I studied my chapter’s policies and bylaws and felt confident that I was capable of fulfilling the responsibilities that were detailed. Frankly, there weren’t really that many. It mostly stated that the President was to serve as a mentor to the other leadership positions and as a liaison between my chapter and the National office. It was pretty straightforward.

But I didn’t just want to check off tasks on a to-do list. I really wanted to be a leader – more specifically, an effective leader. I pondered the various leadership styles I had come across in past experiences. There was command-and-demand, democratic, laissez-faire, and so many more. But I wasn’t sure that I fit into any of those cookie cutter definitions of a leader. What I did know, though, was that I wanted to accomplish two very specific things. I wanted to establish effective communication between myself and the other members of my board, and I wanted to do what I could to help them grow as leaders.

I was elected in April, and as per tradition in my chapter, I received the President’s binder from the exiting President. The binder contained documents from previous Presidents detailing what they wish they had known before their term, what they learned, and what they wish the could have accomplished. As I studied their words, I came across a piece of advice that resonated with me and the goals I wanted to accomplish. This President suggested being a “silent leader.” As I first came across the term I was perplexed. Silent leader? What does that even mean? But as she elaborated on the idea, it made perfect sense. She said, “Don’t comment on anything the officer is discussing with you unless they directly ask you a question. I found that when I made a suggestion, they took it as law. They were afraid that if they questioned my authority there would be ramifications.”

I thought back on my previous experiences and I found that I had been guilty of that, too. I’ve given people advice when they weren’t necessarily asking for it, and they followed my suggestion to the T. And I’ve also done exactly what someone had said to me out of fear that I would somehow be punished if I didn’t.

So give silence a try! If someone informs you of a plan that they haven’t fully formed yet, give them a chance to flesh it out. Don’t give them the answer. It’s okay to help out sometimes, as that is one of the purposes of being a leader. But another, is to help other leaders grow.

The Value of a Helping Hand

“Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you’ll find one at the end of your arm. As you grow older you will discover that you have two hands. One for helping yourself, the other for helping others.”

-Audrey Hepburn

Community service has always been a huge part of my life. I think I learned it from my mom. She was always the classroom parent, or volunteering at various events my school put on. No matter how busy my three older siblings and I kept her, she always made time to give back to others in the community. So when I got to high school and our community service requirement was only 60 hours for the whole four years, I thought, “That’s it?”

Yes, high school was a busy time for all of us. The coursework was the heaviest we had seen to date, and you might have been involved in extracurriculars because you had to impress colleges, but we really weren’t that busy. Surely the kids in my high school had more than 15 spare hours every year to help others. 60 seemed like a dismal number. How were we supposed to make a difference with only 60 hours?

I find a lot of people that begin volunteering start out with the mentality that I had in high school. You sign up to volunteer somewhere and you think to yourself, “Yes! I’m going to make such a huge difference and impact so many lives!” And that’s great if that’s your goal! But no one can change the world in an afternoon. And a lot of times, when you sign up to volunteer at an organization, you’re never doing exactly what you think you signed up for.

Over the course of 7 years I’ve probably clocked in nearly 1,000 service hours at over 100 different organizations. And at every service event I see the same person. This person typically doesn’t volunteer often, and they are always shocked and disappointed by the tasks assigned to us. I’ve been to organizations that only wanted me and the other volunteers to organize their back storage room, and others where I was told to just stand at the entrance and greet guests. Not the kinds of tasks you’d expect at an organization that provides resources for babies born into poverty, and a food bank. And this person is upset that they don’t get to interact with the people they’re helping.

In volunteering, it’s not always about the clients. A lot of the times it is, but sometimes it’s just about the organization. And you know what? I’ve never seen anyone more grateful for my help than the woman that asked us to organize her storage room. Because the room was neat and easily navigable, she informed us that we just increased the efficacy of their program by a lot. No longer will clients have to sit and wait while a staff member does their best to be quick while retrieving something from that room. Now, it takes that staff member a matter of seconds. And the man that asked me to greet the guests at his food bank, informed me that his clients shouldn’t feel ashamed for needing help. So when they have the door opened for them by someone with a smile, it completely sets the tone for their experience.

It’s important to remember that when you volunteer, you’re often working with nonprofit organizations. They don’t have the time or the funds to pay someone overtime to organize a room. And they also can’t afford to have their staff greeting guests when they need them in the back handing out food. When someone comes along to do it, it’s a huge help whether it seems that way to you or not. So to that person, you might not have made an enriching connection with someone that the organization benefits, but you did help change at least one person’s life, even if it is just the director and their staff.

I was naive to think that 60 hours wasn’t enough. That was more than enough. Because the reality in the volunteering world, is that one hour cleaning out a room or greeting people can make all the difference.

Brooke’s Leadership Spotlight: Learning to Lead with APO

When I got to college, I didn’t know who I was going to be or what I was going to do. I had a major in mind, but I wasn’t exactly sure if I was in love with it. And I knew I should probably join some type of student organization, but I had no idea which one out of the hundreds on my campus. So, like every freshman at BU, I went to SPLASH, a huge carnival type deal before the beginning of school where every on-campus student organization had a booth. I figured I could easily find something there; I was right. But I found so many things I was interested in that by the time I put everything into my calendar, I realized that there was no feasible way for me to be a part of 17 (yes, 17!) organizations. Plus, like my major, I wasn’t really in love with any of them. They all just seemed kind of interesting to me.

Thankfully, later that week, I got a text from a sophomore I met when I was moving in. It was a reminder to go to her organization’s info session. At the time, I didn’t realize how important that text would be. Because of that reminder, I was introduced to what I’m confident is the greatest group of individuals I will ever meet: my brothers in Alpha Phi Omega.

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Various Members of Alpha Phi Omega Zeta Upsilon Chapter, Spring 2015

Alpha Phi Omega is a national community service fraternity. The 400,000+ brothers in the United States all embrace the cardinal principles leadership, friendship, and service in day-to-day life. Our greatest means of demonstrating these principles is providing service to our chapters, campuses, communities, and country.

I went through my pledging process with ease, and I was so eager to spend the next three and a half years with these wonderful people that all shared my passion for community service. By the end of my first semester, I was so excited to get more involved that I ran for the executive leadership board, despite only being a freshman. And somehow, my fraternity had the confidence in me and my “big” to elect us Pledgemasters for the following semester.

Unfortunately, it did not occur to me that being on the leadership board would be a lot of time and a lot of work. I was a leader in my chapter and I admittedly did not take it seriously. I was in way over my head. I had only been an actual brother for about two months, and I had little to no idea of how my organization operated. It was a really difficult semester because I was excited about how much fun being Pledgemaster would be, instead of being focused on completing all of the tasks that come with the job. Needless to say, I dropped the ball on a lot of things. Despite my mistakes and slip-ups, my pledges, co-Pledgemaster and I all made it through the semester.

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Me, and my co-Pledgemaster, Morgan Fleming

After that rocky introduction to being a brother in Alpha Phi Omega, I decided I wouldn’t run for a new board role until I knew that I could truly handle it. And even though I wouldn’t be looked to as a leader if I wasn’t on the board, that didn’t mean I couldn’t be an exemplary brother. So I set out to be just that. In the past few years I have gone above and beyond all of my requirements, studied and memorized my chapter’s bylaws and operations, and have been an active participant in everything from weekly meetings to events that my chapter puts on. And through all of that hard work, I am looked to as a quasi-leader in my fraternity.

This past semester I decided that I was finally ready to truly dedicate my time and efforts as an executive board member. So I ran for President, and I was elected. The coming semester hasn’t even started yet, and it’s already been a tough job. But I’m excited about the opportunity because now, I truly understand what it means to be a leader.

In the past three years I’ve learned a lot about leadership. Much of that is from my fraternity because leadership is one of our three cardinal principles, and we actually take leadership courses. But I’ve also learned a lot about leadership by watching my brothers interact with one another, and through my own actions. No one has to elect you to office for you to be a leader. If you truly want to be a leader, you’ll be one.
If you think you’d be interested in becoming a brother in Alpha Phi Omega, or simply want to learn more about the organization, check here to see if your college has a chapter! And if it doesn’t, start your own!

The Times They Are a Changin’

As the great Bob Dylan said, “The times they are a changin’.” That statement could not be more true for college students. For a lot of us it is our first time living on our own and experiencing true independence. While it’s a very exciting time, it’s not always easy. And just as we think we are getting the hang of it, we are so thoughtfully reminded by our school to confirm our graduation date because the real world is right around the corner.

But before you start having an anxiety attack, take a step back to look at what amazing opportunities lie ahead of you. You are on your way to finishing college, you have your whole life ahead of you, and you can do just about anything! Yeah, it can be scary to think about the future, but it can also be incredibly exciting!

Change is never easy. No matter how hard we try to make the process go as smoothly as possible there’s always bound to be some kind of complication. So here are 4 things to keep in mind while going through any transition

1. Don’t Panic

Whatever you do, do not panic. Panicking will only make change more taxing than it already is. Don’t allow yourself to get caught up in the stress of the situation because freaking out will only distract you from what you need to do.

2. Be Proactive

If the transition is something that you are anticipating, that’s great! Take the time you have between now and then to do whatever you can to make it easier for yourself. For instance if you know you are moving to a new city, maybe you could do some research about your neighborhood or save up some extra cash in case things are more expensive there. If you can do anything before the change occurs to make it easier on yourself, you’ll be thankful you did.

3. Be Patient

Change takes time to get used to. You might hate your new job for the first month because you don’t know anyone, and things are unfamiliar to you. But as you become more comfortable, it will get better. Allow yourself time to adjust, not everything falls under the old adage of “love at first sight.” Give it time!

4. Stay Positive

Finally, be optimistic! Things will look much better if you have a smile on your face.

So whether you’re beginning your freshman year this fall in a new city, or you’re about to start your first job out of college, take leadership of your life to make the change a little bit easier.

How Should We Approach Group Work?

This past semester I took a course called Organizational Structure and Behavior. In a nutshell, the class was about how businesses are structured, and how those structures affect the ways employees behave and communicate with one another. I found that a lot of the concepts covered not only applied to the business world, but also applied in my own life and the organizations I belong to. One of the concepts covered in that course that truly resonated with me was “group development.”

Group development is a concept that is researched to determine how and why groups change and evolve the way that they do. In the 1960s, psychologist Bruce Tuckman identified the four stages of group development: forming, storming, norming, and performing. In the forming stage, members of the group are getting to know one another, learning who they are as individuals. The storming stage is where a lot of differences among the members arise;teams that can’t compromise and negotiate will fail in this stage. For those  who make it through the storming stage, the norming stage is where members finally start to accept one another and others’ ideas in order to accomplish their goals. And finally, in the performing stage, members are working together and are competent enough to complete their responsibilities without outside aid. I think this concept really resonated with me because it described a lot of my experiences working with groups.

Groups are ubiquitous in college – everyone is involved in at least one. You have friends and social groups, various organizations and activities you participate in, maybe a sports team, and especially group projects and assignments. Some groups navigate through group development with ease because the people involved are together due to some shared interest. But others, particularly group projects, involve being forced to work with people you don’t know that well, making the process all that more difficult.

Some groups I have worked with have been amazing. Everyone got along really well, ideas were limitless, and we completed our goals without incident. But I’ve worked with my fair share of groups that didn’t work out. One group in particular involved a toxic antagonist who thought his ideas were superior to everyone else’s simply because they were his, and a lot of freeloaders unwilling to help out. Needless to say, we were not a team that made it through the storming stage successfully. Some members of that group, including myself, would hold secret meetings so we could get work done without complications or interruption from our other teammates. And as you might have guessed, that only made matters worse. Unfortunately, our grade suffered due to our inability to cooperate with one another. In retrospect, I would have done things much differently, but mistakes are often the best lessons.

After years of working with groups, and reflecting on Tuckman’s stages of group development, I have found that clear communication and open mindedness are key components of making group work successful. A lot of groups fail in the storming stage because members are unable to listen and accept other people’s ideas that are different from their own. Many people forget that communicating is an exchange of words or ideas; exchange implying that you aren’t only sharing your own ideas, but also welcoming the ideas of others. So next time you’re working in a group, taking a moment to listen to your peers’ opinions or ideas could make all of the difference!

Their Feedback Could Be Your Key to Success

It’s not always easy to receive feedback. Whether it is a bunch of red marks scrawled across a paper you worked on for days, or someone telling you you need to follow through more on your jump shot, it’s easy to misconstrue someone’s constructive feedback as criticism. I know because I used to do it all of the time.

When I was younger I was terrible at receiving feedback. If someone gave me a small suggestion on how I could improve something I was doing, I often thought to myself, “Ugh, I don’t need your help, the way I was doing it was perfectly fine.” And in my head, I was sticking my tongue out at them. But that’s just it. The key word in that thought is fine. The way I was doing it was only fine, and if I remembered their feedback the next time I did it, it could be better.

I don’t remember the exact moment, but thankfully at some point, it occurred to me that when people give you feedback, they are only trying to help you improve. When someone gives you feedback you should happily accept it! Even if you got a bad grade on that paper, don’t just chalk it up to your professor not knowing what he’s talking about. And your basketball coach isn’t just picking on you. They are genuinely trying to help you. And if you let them, you will get much better at the things you set out to do.

So next time someone gives you feedback, whether it be positive or negative, be thankful. That person only wants to see you succeed.

Brooke’s Leadership Highlight: The Mighty Ducks

This month, the Lead365 team will be talking about examples of leadership in sports. Be it actual sports moments, or ones that you’ve seen in movies or TV, we want to share with you the moments on the field, on the court, or in the gym, that make us want to be better leaders. Brooke’s pick for a great moment in a sports film: The Mighty Ducks.

What’s your favorite sports moment- in film, on the field or in the pool, anywhere at all? Let us know in the comments!