If you find yourself struggling through your current leadership role or are considering running for one this fall, a few of Her Sorority Journey’s interns have advice for you based on their experience. Here are a few lessons they have learned from sorority leadership:
Even the Best Leaders Need People to Lean On!
“While there are countless lessons that I’ve learned through my sorority leadership positions, the one that has been the most consistent is that even the best leaders need people to lean on. So often we think that the best leaders have it all together and never need to ask for help, but as I’ve grown I have realized that the opposite is true! In my first role as Director of Academic Affairs I learned the importance of asking for help from people outside my sorority. There were so many resources on my campus that I could refer my sisters to, but I had to reach out to them to make those collaborations possible. During my time as Vice President of Member Development I learned how to lean on my team. By delegating tasks I allowed the other women on the team to grow, while allowing myself to focus on larger projects and issues. While this is a lesson that I often had to learn the hard way, it’s one that has benefitted me immensely, and that I will take with me into my professional career. In my current role as Chapter President, I have learned that no leader can operate alone, and through that I’ve learned to lean on my executive team. Each of them were elected into their roles for a reason, and by trusting and empowering them to fulfill their roles, the entire team and chapter have thrived. Even through difficult or complex situations, we have been able to work effectively together to problem solve and find the solutions. While each of these lessons may have been difficult to learn, they have helped me grow into the type of leader I never imagined myself being!”
You Need to Learn to Forgive Yourself.
“Being a leader in my sorority was never something I thought I would be doing during my time as a collegian. Truthfully, I never thought I was the right person to lead a chapter. When I did decide to run and I got the position, I was petrified. I was so scared that I was going to make a mistake and ruin the chapter that meant so much to me. After now having held three positions, the biggest lesson that I have learned from my leadership experience is how important forgiveness is. There will come a time when you do make a mistake, or you handle a situation badly, but living in fear of that inevitable misstep won’t do you any good. The best thing you can ever do is ask for forgiveness and do your best to make amends. However, you will never be able to move forward and learn from your mistakes unless you learn how to forgive yourself. This was one of the hardest lessons I had to learn as a leader, and I truly think it is one of the most important. You will always be able to find a way to right your wrongs, or find a way to salvage the situation, but none of that will mean anything to you if you don’t find a way to forgive yourself for your mistakes and take the lesson with you as a learning experience. Being a leader isn’t about being perfect all the time, it is about doing the most good for the most people that you can. However, you won’t be able to do that effectively unless you find it within yourself to stop beating yourself up about your missteps or replaying in your head ways that you could have been better. In my role as sisterhood chairman, I took on a lot of pressure for myself, believing that the culture of my chapter rested on my shoulders. So when I did make a mistake, I felt like I was letting my chapter down, and felt trapped in the weight of that pressure that I had taken upon myself. I had to learn that until I forgave myself, I wasn’t allowing my chapter or myself the ability to learn from the mistake and move on from it. The ability to take what you can from that failure and move on only happens once you release that weight off of yourself and choose to forgive yourself in hopes of doing better the next time. This lesson of forgiveness is still one that I’m still actively working on, but that has pushed me to being the best leader I can be, and achieving the personal growth that comes along with holding a leadership position!”
Nothing Prepares You for Your First Failure.
“The first year of sorority membership is buzzing with excitement and eagerness. From getting your big to being initiated, attending your bid day and first formal, there is so much to look forward to during these first few months. For me, a single goal stood out among the rest. Just after my Initiation, my G-big was elected as president. As she made her promise to serve the chapter, I made a promise to myself. One day I would be chapter president. The entirety of the next two years became devoted to this accomplishment. I learned everything about my organization, took on leadership roles, attended national conferences, and shadowed the presidents who came before me. By the time I was elected for this role, I felt like I knew everything there was to know about the job. I was ready and proud to serve my sisters.
Here I learned the toughest lesson in leadership; nothing prepares you for the first taste of failure. As upcoming leaders, we spend so much time preparing. What things we’ll change, what we want to achieve, how we can improve. We ponder over each of our sisters and think about how we can help them be the best sorority woman they can. We put so much of ourselves and our heart into our chapter. We wouldn’t become leaders if we didn’t. Then we are hit with that first experience of failure and it stings in a way you can never anticipate. It’s personal, and it cuts deep into the part of ourselves that desires nothing more than to be the best for our sisters. To be the leader we promised our new member self we would be.
All of this brought me to perhaps the most important leadership lesson I had to learn; chapter leader, you are a sister too. When our sisters fail, we hold them accountable, yet we also offer them grace. One mistake doesn’t destroy who they are or what they offer to the chapter. This is my advice to you. Allow yourself to hurt. Failure is painful and disappointing and it’s not what we want to experience. But when it’s over, give yourself forgiveness. When you vowed to serve your sisters, they agreed to love you through it. So make mistakes, be humble, be responsible, be true, be loving. I promise you’ll end up as exactly the kind of leader your younger self dreamed of being. Better yet, you’ll be the chapter leader who inspires the next new member on her sorority journey.”
Trust Yourself & Build Your Own Confidence
I’ve always considered myself a natural leader. My whole life I’ve always sought out leadership opportunities and succeeded in the leadership roles I had. In group projects and around my friends, I’m the one who usually takes charge to give guidance and direction. Naturally, when I joined Sigma Kappa I was highly anticipating taking many leadership roles in my chapter. I was thrilled when I was elected as Vice President of Philanthropic Service, and jumped into the role. It has been the most transformative leadership experience and I’ve learned more about leadership than ever before. One of the biggest things I had to learn is how to trust myself and be confident in my planning and decision making. Although you have advisors to guide you, you are in charge of everything within the duties of your position. Nobody is there to make decisions for you or tell you exactly what to do. In many positions, there is also room for creativity so that you can make the position your own. My position was one of them.
I had the responsibility of planning my chapter’s philanthropy and service events and I could do pretty much whatever I wanted. it was daunting. I had no idea what I was supposed to do because I could do anything. In this situation, the resources that were provided by my national organization were super helpful. There was a suggested yearly plan for events I could hold as well as ideas of what I could do. I had my framework and my ideas, but as I began planning I found myself thinking, “What if my chapter doesn’t like what I plan?” I was so scared that they would think I was horrible in my position or that they wouldn’t come to the philanthropy and service events I was planning. I was asking multiple people if they thought my ideas were good before committing to them. It wasn’t until after my first semester that through reflection on my time in the role, I had done an amazing job. Sisters had loved and participated in most of the events I held, and I received positive feedback that my ideas were great! I had reached the goal I had set for chapter fundraising that semester, and I was able to hold an in person, COVID safe, service event; both of which felt like huge accomplishments. It took me a whole semester to realize that my sisters already had so much confidence in me when they elected me into the position. I just had to have confidence in myself. Going into the fall semester, I’m going to trust myself and have confidence in myself in my role.