February 18, 2015

Collegiate Perspective: Achieving the Balance

In “sorority world,” the lines between public/private, work/home, and professional/fun easily disintegrate in a storm of glitter. Passing through this storm, I have learned you can never know a leadership position’s full range of responsibilities until you tackle it yourself. General membership can keep you very active—striving for academic success, staying on top of attendance, and meeting community service requirements—but toss a demanding leadership role on top of it all and the level of commitment only increases. When you take on a position, your experience in sorority world—and the relationships that define it—evolves. You relate to advisors, administrators, alumnae, PNMs, and, of course, your sisters in new and sometimes intimidating ways. Inevitably, your perspective, your opinions, and your actions change. Sometimes the glitter storm feels like a monsoon. In the midst of the shimmering downpour—in class, at work, or on the weekend—you are always representing your organization to the people around you.

Separating “chapter business” from “personal business” is a notable accomplishment, especially when your sisters are also your roommates, friends, and classmates. Sometimes in these contexts sisters will second-guess what they say or how they act around you, wondering whether or not they can be completely open with you. You might question if it’s possible to be both a good leader and a good friend. I've realized that most of us want to be both leaders and friends. It’s great when the two overlap. The reality is, they’re not always going to. You hold your friends to your own personal standards, but you hold your sisters to Alpha Phi’s standards—that’s part of your responsibility. As long as you remain consistent, your friends should understand that part of being a good sister means supporting your loyalty to your leadership position. What matters is that we’re able to work together to achieve the same goals. At times we need to remind each other what those goals are. Embodying professionalism as a peer leader doesn't have to mean you’re anti-fun. It just means you need to find a healthy balance between being fun and being focused.

In sorority world we compartmentalize professionalism, but the popular saying tells us that we’re always wearing our letters. Like it or not, being a leader of your chapter is a round-the-clock job that will require you to rebalance your schedule. When I was Chapter President, I answered 3:00 a.m. phone calls from sisters and attended 9:00 a.m. classes in spite of them. I rearranged my study schedule to hold judiciary hearings during finals weeks. I made a commitment and I took it seriously. Whenever you drop the ball, as a member or a position-holder, it doesn't just go away—it rolls into someone else’s court. Your success as a leader and your ability to achieve professionalism in that role sometimes depends on what you are willing to sacrifice. That being said, leaders can sometimes bite off more than we can chew; we instinctively take on too much.

One huge misconception in “sorority world” is that being an impactful leader is mutually exclusive with holding a position. Positions aren't the only way to develop professionalism. We all have concerns we want prioritized, and we don’t need titles to voice them. Being an active rather than passive member of Alpha Phi will ensure that each of our chapters will continue to strive for improvement rather than become stagnant.

Alina Walentowicz is a collegiate member at SUNY/Plattsburgh (Theta Psi). Learn more about Alina by clicking here.

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