With nearly five months of traveling and over thirty chapters visited, there has been one unifying theme emerging from what I consider to be my best and most successful chapters. For the sake of argument, let me first go ahead and define a successful chapter in my terms. I consider success to be based on a number of factors, all working together to create an excellent chapter. These are: strong recruitment that results in high retention rates, high academic achievement (chapter above a 3.0 cumulative), philanthropy and community service efforts that go well beyond the minimum required, and a friendship and bond that extends beyond Phikeia classes to include every chapter member for a true sense of the word “brotherhood.” Perhaps as important to any of these though, and what I have deemed as the unifying theme for all of the chapters that fit this bill is…swagger.
Now many of you may be smiling or even laughing at the notion of swagger having a great deal of importance but I digress. First off, swagger is a term thrown around entirely too loosely today. Swagger is not given, it is earned. Swagger is not an emotion but a characteristic. It can be had by all, but achieved by few. It goes beyond confidence but is not arrogance. It is a manner in which we carry ourselves that other fraternities may look at us and say, “I may not like him, but I want to be like him.” While there are many instances and cases where swagger is necessary and may apply, for the purposes of this blog I shall focus on two; individual swagger and chapter swagger. Both are equally important in a successful chapter.
Individual swagger can perhaps be the most important for a chapter that is struggling. For an individual to have swagger in a chapter, there must first be respect. This means that a person carries themselves at all time as if the eyes of the Founding Fathers are watching them. How much respect will there be for a president that tells his chapter not to drink in the house when he was belligerently drunk the night before? Remember, chapters have a memory and something done as a Phikeia may haunt you until you are a Senior. After respect, swagger can be achieved by believing in the right things. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times, even though The Bond is one hundred and sixty-one years old, it is not an antiquated document. Friendship, sound learning and moral rectitude are as important now as they have ever been. Finally, for an individual to truly achieve swagger, he must stand up for his beliefs, even in the face of strong opposition. This is most often the case in a chapter lacking swagger. No good chapter leader ever did his job without pissing someone off. Too often “traditions” get in the way of a chapter doing what is right. Do we really believe the founding fathers got their little brothers drunk!? No! You each know what is right and what is wrong. Have the courage to stand up to your “brother” and tell him NO. They may not like you at the moment, but believe me when I say they will respect you later for it.
Once the chapter has established a few key individuals as having swagger, it is time to translate this in to chapter swagger. As members of Phi Delta Theta, you have a unique opportunity that most other fraternities on your campus do not. Ten years ago, we made the decision to return to our values and adopt the alcohol-free housing policy. This gives us the opportunity to recruit men who care about much more in their collegiate career than getting drunk every weekend. Identify these men and go after them! Easier said than done, I know. This is where swagger comes in to play. Walk around campus with your head held high. Let everyone know that we are men of character, of a higher purpose and of an objective that extends beyond the social aspects of fraternity life. Exude a confidence that lets men, particularly the unaffiliated, know that we stand for something. Believe that you are the best and others will see this. No one wants to join a mid-level or “tier two” fraternity. They want to be a part of the best. But believing it is not enough, you have to live it. Give up a couple weekends a year to build houses for habitat for humanity. Take the time out of your busy schedule to tutor those in need. Do a walk for ALS, become an Iron Phi, raise money for Haiti, the opportunities are endless! Study when others are partying, do activities as an entire chapter, be the fraternity that doesn’t need to haze to have brothers “earn” their way in to the chapter. Look, I’m not telling you not to drink or have fun, I’m asking that you find a balance. Once you are doing these things, make it known! It is OK to be the fraternity that doesn’t throw the sickest parties or rush events. Those aren’t the men we are looking to recruit anyway. Let your campus community know that Phi Delta Theta is an organization of truly elite men looking for other truly elite men. Embrace the fact that you are different and sell it.
I wouldn’t be telling you these things if I haven’t seen it in action. The Southeast Region along with the others regions are truly blessed to have some outstanding chapters. I’ve talked with chapters who turned away members with 3.0 GPA’s or incredible athletic skills because they didn’t have what it took to be a Phi Delta Theta man. Your chapter can get to this point too but it starts at home. Change your approach, change you best friends approach and in no time at all, you can exhibit the swagger that will draw men to you. Before long, the best and brightest at your school will be knocking down your door to join. Gain some swagger and I promise you, the results will come.