Apr 13, 2012

When A Mold Doesn’t Fit, A Leader Makes His Own Mold

Student Bloggers
When A Mold Doesn’t Fit, A Leader Makes His Own Mold

By Charlie Colato

When I left the army to go to college I thought that my days of molding future leaders was over. Sure, I thought that while I was in college I would join some kind of organization, take the reins, and put my leadership skills to use to drive it to success, but I never thought I’d join a fraternity, and much less, have the opportunity to mold the future leaders of an organization after helping to lay the foundation.

Phi Delta Theta gave me the opportunity to be a (re)founding father of the California Epsilon Chapter at UC Davis. The expansion team from GHQ selected me to be the president of the interest group, tasked with the goal of becoming a colony and eventually a full-fledged chapter. For those of you who have been founding fathers you know these tasks are a lot harder than it seems on paper. Equipped with a myriad of manuals and the sage advice from GHQ, California Epsilon went on its journey to accomplish the tasks at hand. Not having any history to be able to draw from, we learned a lot of our lessons the hard way–through failure. From the onset we suffered from lackluster attendance at recruitment events, member attrition, and eventually low morale among the membership that did stay.

This was a testing time for me. I felt like a failed leader when I encountered this series of failures in our infancy. I had been used to success, whether I was leading and teaching soldiers in the art of modern warfare or I was leading the country’s largest student-run event. One night I was watching television and I saw an old interview of Bruce Lee and he said “If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup.” That’s when it hit me; instead of trying to fit California Epsilon into a mold, why not mold California Epsilon into something.  With this in mind, I changed my approach. Sure it gave heartache to a certain Director of Expansion (I love you DeMarkco), but with the big picture in mind, we did what worked for us locally. We were still able to more or less make all parties happy and flourished into one of the largest fraternities on the UC Davis campus.

Eventually, we achieved the goal of getting our charter back which also coincided with me stepping down as president. This was bittersweet for me. On one hand, I had my fill of being the lightning rod for the organization, but on the other, I sought to have a continued influence in the chapter so I nominated myself to be the Phikeia Educator and got elected to the position. This position has allowed me to play a paramount role in the Fraternity–in its future. I not only get to teach new members about the history of Phi Delta Theta and the Greek community, I also get to shape their work ethic and their conceptual skills, both which are the ultimate drivers in what will lead the Fraternity in the future.

Charlie is a senior majoring in managerial economics with a concentration in agricultural economics. He is originally from Hollywood, California.

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