When I went through sorority recruitment and asked about the time commitment, I kept being told “what you get out of your experience is related to what you are willing to put in.” While it sounded very vague at the time, I quickly understood what they meant when I decided to try leadership positions in Pi Beta Phi.
Sororities are very focused on the development of their members and want to spot future leaders early on. For this reason, they offer many opportunities for the younger girls to take command. The older sisters in leadership roles become these younger girls’ role models; they inspire them to one day stand in their shoes and take responsibility for the excellence of the chapter. My sorority big sister and her big sister were both new member educators for my class. I remember looking up to them and wanting to be as involved as they were.
During my new member period, I was part of the committee on chapter morale and got involved in the Jr. Panhellenic Association, which allowed me to interact with emerging leaders from other chapters by participating in each other’s philanthropic events as a group and planning activities for the new members. Then I decided to aim higher and applied for my chapter’s executive board, becoming the new member educator. I was thrilled to share what I had just learned about my sorority with the next new member class and have been a leader in my chapter ever since.
One important thing that being a sorority leader has taught me is that motivating the most active members is not always the most effective strategy. When I led new member meetings, I usually rewarded those who consistently showed up, but this policy ignored the people who were too busy to come to meetings. We decided as an exec board that we were going to work on “motivating the middle” and reaching out to those sisters who couldn’t make it to chapter meetings or events all the time. Those who came every time were going to keep coming because they liked it. Other sisters just needed some encouragement and a little “push” to make them realize how easy and enjoyable it was to participate. We had active sisters who were close to infrequently-attending members reach out personally and invite them to walk together to chapter, or meet for dinner before an activity, or simply just tell them that we missed seeing them around. Our attendance records have improved greatly since then.
Being a leader isn’t all easy. One of the hardest things is knowing when to act as a friend and when to act as an officer. The line between those two roles can be very thin, especially when you are working with confidential information or laying down rules. When I was matching big and little sisters I had to put aside what I had heard my friends say about who they wanted to be matched with and instead go with the preferences of both parties to maximize happiness. This was one of my most difficult situations because I wanted all my sisters to end up pleased with my decisions.
As a leader in an established organization, you get to work with people who share your same interests and passion. Even though there is a set governmental structure, you all still work together as a “united front” towards the same goals. This makes for an atmosphere where you are more willing to commit your time towards the betterment of the organization, and makes work a privilege rather than an obligation. In my case, it also gives me the sense of security that sisterhood entails. I am not as afraid to make mistakes, allowing me to go the extra mile.
One of the best experiences as a leader in my chapter has been leading all the new members through their new member program, teaching them about the sorority, showing them what I’m passionate about, seeing them get involved in the chapter, and attending their initiations. Even though I’m not officially responsible for them after they are initiated, I can’t help but offer advice and feel proud when one of them decides to take on a leadership role in the chapter.
I encourage everyone to start getting involved in organizations they’re interested in and ask about leadership opportunities. Serving my chapter has benefited me greatly, both emotionally and educationally, and I am so grateful to them for giving me that opportunity. The skills my sorority taught me have come in handy in choosing my career path, and I believe they have made me a better person. It is the little things like flowers at chapter after planning, executing initiation, and grateful comments that make serving the chapter so rewarding.