September 24, 2015

Living Like A Leader - Living Your Values

I am a woman who wears many badges – figuratively of course. Some badges I hold close and cherish. Other badges I hold with out-stretched arms anxiously waiting for the end of responsibility. But every badge I wear has a history both in my life and in the sheer possibility that I could even have that badge – that responsibility or opportunity.

My children know I love Alpha Phi and its importance in my life. When my son was seven and I told him that a fun neighbor was NOT an Alpha Phi, he leaned close and whispered, “Why not?” as if something was wrong with her. Because in my kid’s world most women are Alpha Phis. I love that my kids think it is out of the ordinary to be unaffiliated.

This thing called fraternity that we all “pledged” to join and support is a funny thing. Some of the greatest joys and greatest challenges are shared in fraternity. But why does it matter after graduation when you “get on with your life”? The seeds of fraternity are strong and stellar stuff. At our roots, we are tough women!

Just try to imagine the average day of our ten founders – 

Going to class and not being able to take a seat until all the men had been seated. 
Standing for an entire class wearing heels, a tight dress and a corset.
Standing behind a screen because your presence might be too distracting for the men.
Waiting to register for classes until all of the men first received their schedules.               Raising your hand to ask a question and never being called on by your professor.

I can’t imagine a campus life where you weren’t welcomed. These 10 women came together to make a space where they could feel supported. They created a space where they had literary debates and vigorous discussions not found in the classroom. They loved one another. They challenged one another. They celebrated one another. They accepted one another. This is the roots of fraternity.

This is the reason I am able to wear so many badges. The badges of professional, philanthropist, friend, partner, student, wife, mother, president, mentor, director, advisor, etc. I am able to wear these badges because of these women who came before me. Together they were oddities on a campus. Collectively they became a force to be reckoned with. Collectively they brought more than 200 thousand to the badge they crafted. This is my fraternity. 

My collegiate experience was very good with many opportunities, but that was such a small part of my Alpha Phi experience. Past International President, Linda Boland refers to collegiate members as “stewards” of the Fraternity. These “stewards” that we educate well and instill the power of women coming together supporting each other continue to wear the badge. When the fraternity truly permeates the member they learn the meaning of lifelong membership. The values of leadership, scholarship, loyalty, sisterhood and service are the fabric of life that hold my badge. It’s not just words, it’s a reality.

My membership remains strong and continues to grow. The values aren’t just something I read, they're something real that lives and grounds what I do. I feel the loyalty of sisterhood when I connect with not a stranger, but an unknown Alpha Phi in Washington. She answered a desperate email to help me find professional clothing when my luggage didn’t arrive on the airplane and I was delivering a keynote to 800 people that evening. I feel the leadership of sisterhood when we celebrate the professional successes of one another as we continue to push the limits of what’s possible. I feel the power of service when I see the millions of dollars given to support women’s heart health and scholarship. These are beacons and reminders of this special thing we belong.

No, I don’t recite the creed or study ritual daily, but the values decreed remain. When a side conversation develops in a group of people and someone starts to share less than nice comments - somehow the word “disparage” always comes to mind. This is a word engrained in my lexicon by Alpha Phi and I know what to do. When I’m hearing some awesome constructive feedback from a colleague or client that stings with its truth – somehow the phrase “both take and give” comes to mind. This phrase is part of my lexicon and I know what to do. 

The badge of Alpha Phi is definitely on me and in me. I am richer because of Alpha Phi. I value Alpha Phi!

Patty Hendrickson (Zeta Alpha-Eastern Illinois University 1983-87) Chapter President & Panhellenic Vice President

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