A few years ago (okay, more than a few) I had the awesome responsibility of being the IFC President at Ohio University. As new leaders take over in Greek communities throughout the country, I’d like to share some of the key things I learned in this role to articulate the amazing lessons you can receive in these community-wide positions and how they can shape your future leadership skills. Here is what I learned from this valuable experience and how it served me well moving forward:
- Exposure to Diversity: I wouldn’t classify my college experience prior to joining IFC as involving much diversity in terms of the people I surrounded myself with; this wasn’t by choice but simply the realities of how we all typically gravitate to those that are similar to us. Because I was IFC President I met a lot of people, interacted with Presidents of other student organizations and attended way more campus events. All of this collectively exposed me to diverse people by every measure possible and gave me such a better perspective of our entire campus community, as opposed to just my little bubble of friendships. I believe this has served me well in life because I can understand a wide-range of viewpoints, challenges, attitudes and behaviors, as opposed to only those that are very similar to me. As an adult, you are far better off understanding a variety of perspectives as opposed to only those that view the world the exact same way you do – understanding people from all walks of life, rather than just your own, will serve you incredibly well as a leader.
- Leading a Variety of Organizations: Being a leader within one organization is far less complicated in a lot of ways than leading an entire community full of different organizations that oftentimes have competing interests, values, missions, visions and overall ways of conducting themselves. When you are leading a community-wide council, you must have a grasp on every organization and really understand the “big picture” rather than just trying to advance one specific organization. This experience in college continually helps me in my business now because I have a stronger awareness of how a variety of organizations function within an industry and am able to create “win-win” scenarios, as opposed to being narrow-minded and only understand how my business functions.
- Building Consensus: Trying to build consensus among people or organizations with differing views can be incredibly challenging – fortunately, I had to do it every week for two years on IFC so I had plenty of practice! Learning how to find common ground, build bridges and have a variety of people/organizations coalesce around a common path forward is an incredible skill to possess and I feel fortunate to have gained that experience being on IFC. It is something I pride myself on as being one of my strengths and I am constantly looking for opportunities to bring people together and rally them around a common vision.
- New Friendships: I have no problem admitting that I was just like most fraternity guys waving the “our chapter is better than yours” flag and thinking “all the guys in XYZ fraternity are losers”. A funny thing happened when I joined IFC – I realized that our chapter members were very similar to members of other chapters on campus. Some of my best friends in college came out of relationships formed from our IFC executive council and I’ve maintained them for over a decade since we graduated. Trust me, I got a lot of “how the hell can you be friends with that guy from XYZ chapter?” from my brothers but it was well worth it to develop these great new friendships and gain an understanding of just how petty these little rivalries were in our community!
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