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2 Things That Caused The Death Of Deference In Black Greekdom (And What We Can Do About It!)

[This piece was written by Alexzandria Chill | UNT Graduate. Marketing Freak. Frankie Bev Fanatic. Adamant Knowledge Seeker. Lady of ZPHIB [Pearl Clu5]. Founder of Blog: @DPTaughtMe]

I don’t know about yall, but when I think about the word “deference”, I immediately think of one thing: how many times I hear prophytes complaining about the lack of integrity and respect younger, unruly and hardheaded lines have for themselves and seasoned Greek members.  This came to me last week when I was penning 3 Ways Prophytes Can Be Better Mentors. Then, follow up questions slowly began to percolate: what caused the disintegration of deference? Why do you think this took place? And most importantly, what can we do to reverse the epidemic?

As I marinated on this notion, two things came to mind:

GENERATIONAL DIFFERENCES IN PRIORITIES

One of the problems that seems to be a reoccurring trend when it comes to “taming” younger members is the idea that they are “nonchalant” and would rather “play and party” instead of focusing on their academics, social influence and the impact they could have in the community. Now, let me just say this: every Greek generation has their “rebellious” successors that vary in style, personality and form. However, deeming them nonchalant might not be the right adjective to describe them.

Many of our seasoned fraternity and sorority members grew up in a time where “bigger picture thinking” was in the forefront of chapter activities.  Community-centric programs were set as organizational priorities as a means to combat the injustices that were taking place around college campuses. These priorities trickled down to regional and local levels as a way to stay cohesively grounded to serve as a source of inspiration, knowledge, and leadership when it came time to spear-head communal initiatives. In today’s time, blatant injustices have become more hidden, and younger members, somehow along the way, lost the essence of our mission. Rather than being labeled, “nonchalant” or “arrogant, the newer generation of Greeks might be responding to disengagement, sensing the lack of understanding or yearning for a need for unbiased and consistent guidance. Here are some ways to bring them back in the loop:

  • Set Clear Objectives But Keep Execution Open:  One of the best ways to keep your organization on track is to make sure the national, regional and local objectives are in the forefront of all activities. Explain what your organization is working towards and why. Give examples of what programs and initiatives are being rolled out for the year. Then help your chapter (undergrad or grad) identify ways in which they can individually and collectively contribute to the cause.
  • Don’t Dictate: Because more seasoned members are usually more knowledgeable about what’s going on, they sometimes have a tendency to try to dictate how things should be done rather than expressing what needs to be done. Be their guide. Engage in activities where they can see you as a mentor and a resource of knowledge and know. Keep the objectives definite, offer suggestions on execution, but ultimately ( as long as it abides by the by-laws) the carrying out of the plan should be up to the chapter. It gives members a sense of ownership and purpose. If they’re having a hard time thinking of ideas (or seem reluctant), give them an established program to rework or reinvent. This way, they don’t have to start from square one.
  • Be Present:  While we have some Prophytes who are over zealous about being hands on in everything, you can find just as many members who go ghost as soon as probate is over. Not because they’re busy with school, work, or relationships. They’re absent because there are new members on the yard mean vacation. All of sudden, the work is transferred from line to the other and responsibilities evaporate. Do you know how frustrating that is? That’s like going to basic orientation for a job, getting hired, and then your boss dropping 10 tons of work on your desk with no rhyme or reason as to how to get started and expecting you to succeed like yesterday! Prophytes need to be as present as possible. This is the training ground for your new line. If you’re chapter looks like crap, it’s a sign of your training or lack there of.  If there’s no time spent in developing your new initiates, then chapter and organizational progress is going to suffer. Don’t abandon your flock.
  • Remember, It’s Not About You: Nothing turns Youngins off more than hearing “Back in my day, we did things like…”. That’s talking from personal experience on both sides. There is nothing wrong with offering advice. However, you have to remember, you have to adjust to the times.  Their approach and mind frame won’t be the same as yours. If something is unclear, don’t chastise them because you can’t understand it. If they have a difficult time articulating it, walk them through the thought process. Help them align and refine their plans in a way that stays true to the current chapter culture, but still holds the integrity of national’s image. The campus and chapter climate and environment is completely different from when you started. You have to adjust, but that doesn’t mean you have to completely transform.

DILUTED IDEAS OF LEADERSHIP

Another trend that has caused deference to dissolve is the misconception and miscommunication of what a member of Greek life is supposed to look like, sound like, think like  and act like. As of late, it seems like it’s a little harder to do that. Here are some of the root causes why and how we can solve them:

  • No One Knows Your Role: One thing that Greek Life taught me about Corporate America is that if I don’t feel like I am of any significance or if I can’t add value to company, whether that feeling is self induced or not – I ain’t stayin. Or I’m not going to put that much effort into my job. The same goes for Greek Life. EVERYONE HAS A ROLE. EVERYONE! Just because you don’t have an exec board title or you’re not a committee chair doesn’t mean you aren’t a leader. How do you expect someone to respect your authority if you don’t even understand the authority and the responsibility you have? The misconception that titles define leadership often indirectly discourages members from being engaged.
    • Prophytes with no purpose tend to breed lines with less and less life in them aka Lame Lines. And they’re not like that because they necessarily choose to be. It’s because the ones before them either didn’t know how to lead or didn’t know their specific purpose. Thusly, they’re left floating through the chapter doing aimless and miscellaneous tasks without fervor or concept of how they’re contributing. They become place holders in the chapter because no one engaged them in leadership activities.
    • If this sounds like you (no judgement), know you have the power to change all dat! If your Prophytes lacked, that doesn’t mean you have to. Jot down things you would have liked to see them do. Then compare it to the things you wish to contribute.  After that, write down a few things you would like to teach your successor.  Be the Prophyte you aspire to meet. Or as Ghandi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” And most importantly, find out how to implement  that change WITH the next generation.
    • Signifying one’s significance is imperative to creating a culture of excellence – let people know HOW and WHY they are important to the team and encourage them to contribute in their own unique way. When younger lines can see that 1) You have reserved a special place for them 2) See they have someone in their corner to help them build on their skill sets. This garners respect and reverence.
  • No One Is Setting a CONSISTENT Standard – Practice Show N’Tell: When I think of Greek Members that I admire, especially in Zeta, I can point out key characteristics that make them distinguishable and an inspiration. It doesn’t matter if it’s on a personal, professional, emotional, mental or spiritual tip, the point is – I know why I consider them a leader. I think it’s fair to say there are a handful of people where that can all apply, or else we wouldn’t have joined the organizations we rep for today.  Ideally, we should be able to look at every member and identify not only who that person is and why they are important to our organization and what they bring to the table. In every chapter, at ANY level, there should be a CLEAR concept (socially, academically and in civic terms) of the caliber man/woman should be. Remember – YOU have the responsibility to set the standard. While everyone has their own personalities and ways, newer generations are mimicking you and what they see. If they see excellence, they mimic excellence. If they see diligence, they mimic diligence. If they see lackadaisical leadership, they mimic lackadaisical leadership. Make your expectations and standards crystal clear – then mirror them.
    • Leadership is about setting the tone: Sometimes, people equate being powerful to being overly aggressive instead of confident and assertive. Micromanaging, being loud and short with people equates to prowess in your position. All these things negate the true perception of leadership. Leadership in itself is servitude at its best. Your job as a leader is to breed strong, capable and confident legacies. The way you lead sets the tone for the lines to come. So you need to listen to your followers and get feedback. Practice understanding and resolution rather than blame and strict restructuring. Brainstorm ways to reward and congratulate each other. Evaluate ways to increase productivity so when you leave, there are several people left to hold down the fort.

Deference only comes when respect is given: respect to the responsibility you hold, respect to the role you play in a new generation’s life, and respect to the idea of servitude. Again, be the Prophyte you wish someone was (or should have been) to you.

Now, if this seemed heavily charged at Prophytes, you’re right.  However, don’t worry. Neo’s are gettin it next week, so stay tuned. Comment below or hit me up on Twitter /Facebook to let me know what you think!

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