This article is written by Timothy J. Murphy, Order of the Golden Eagle, Past Chief Executive Officer, Tau Kappa Epsilon International Fraternity. "Your Leadership Structure" is Part 4 of an 8 part series on leadership.
Your Leadership Structure
Part 1: Leading vs. Managing – There IS a Difference!
Part 2: The Chapter Leader’s Toolbox of Excellence
Part 3: Identifying and Utilizing Your Leadership Style
If you have an idea for an article or would like to share your knowledge with TKE Nation, please reach out to us at TKEOGC@TKE.org. We would love to learn more!
As a leader, did you ever wonder why we have the leadership structure we do? We have officers, each in charge of a specific area of the operation; committees and task forces that have been charged with specific projects and programs; and members volunteering their time and talent to see these through to successful completion.
It’s a pretty safe bet that every fraternal society and other societies and associations on your campus are very similar, if not identical. But think about this beyond the main gates of the campus; consider how this very structure is part of the fabric of our business infrastructure in the corporate world as well.
Let’s look at the elected officers as a group. I have heard this referred to as the “Executive Committee”, “E-board”, “Leadership Committee” – even the “Dream Team”. But it is actually – as well as legally – your chapter’s Board of Directors. It is organized exactly like any other corporate Board of Directors. Your chapter is a registered corporation in your state as well, just like other not-for-profit corporations and for-profit corporate entities. The officers are elected by the will of the majority of members in good standing; it has fiduciary oversight responsibilities; it makes and enforces chapter policies along with the Bylaws and other miscellaneous codes that may have been enacted by the chapter. Sounds kind of technical and boring, doesn’t it? So why does this matter?
It is this leadership scheme that will facilitate your chapter’s habitual success in all its endeavors. The Board structure is designed to create efficiencies in operation, more even distribution of labor and effort, and a better chance of successful outcome. In this leadership arrangement, everyone knows what their jobs are, who they report to, and what their resources are. Your chapter leadership structure is no different than that of GM, Google, IBM, or Apple. (Maybe our comparative budgets aren’t in the same ballpark, but you get the point!) Just as this leadership structure is designed to make corporate America successful, so too is your chapter’s leadership scheme designed to make you successful…taking you from “good” to “great”.
Boards are tasked with a series of processes collectively referred to as “governance”. Engaging great governance takes discernable skill, education and training on the subject, motivation, and the absolute will to win. When all these come together, and the members of the Board are completely engaged, then “Top Teke Chapter plaque, here we come!” Let’s look at what great chapter Boards (as well as all Boards) do and how they think to maintain and accelerate their momentum to success. These great Boards:
- Ensure effective organizational planning - No part of chapter operations can be routinely successful if proper planning isn’t part of the everyday activity of the chapter. Every member involved in the chapter’s programs and events must meticulously plan, and the Board’s obligation is to ensure that this is the case.
- Determine, monitor, and strengthen programs and services - Great chapter Boards strategize its annual programming, from academic to social, and everything in between. Every activity is monitored to see if it’s within budget and on schedule. On the back end, each program/service is analyzed by the Board to check its performance or outcome against expectation, and strategies are put in place for improvement.
- Enhance the chapter’s public image – Public relations with all segments of the chapter’s sphere, like campus officials, city/town officials, law enforcement, sororities, and other student organizations, is a regular and interwoven activity of the Board. It is such automatic behavior, it’s actually like an app running constantly in the background; ongoing, necessary, and effective.
- Ensure legal and ethical integrity, and maintain accountability – The Board sees to it that the chapter is in compliance with state, local and federal laws, as well as the policies and procedures of the host institution and Tau Kappa Epsilon International Fraternity. These include mundane (yet absolutely critical) processes like filing IRS Form 990 (your federal income tax return), associated state/county tax statements and returns, and paying all assessed fees. The information, data, and fees required by the Offices of the Grand Chapter must be handled in a timely fashion. Further, the Board ensures that the chapter’s decision-making processes are beyond reproach, and are always ethical and fraternal; that policies are enforced equally across the board, and that high-level ethics governs every member’s daily existence. The Board holds all chapter leaders accountable for their performance of duties and favorable outcomes.
Great Boards, then, are deliberative in their approach to governance; i.e., they gather all information, and base decisions on known facts, yet they are action-oriented and don’t get wrapped up in “analysis paralysis”. They are knowledge-based, and act on the best information at the time, rather than being emotionally-based. They are strategic thinkers, rather than being in tactical (step-by-step) mode. As such, their thought processes focus on vision and the associated strategies to realize that vision. Their thinking is rather long-term, as opposed to the “now”; they realize that positive action today will result in successful outcomes for years to come.
At this point, you now know what a great Board looks like, and how they think. Now, here’s what they do in order to guarantee successful endeavors. These Boards:
- Advance the mission of the chapter – Their governance model is guided by the chapter’s mission, and programs or services that don’t serve to advance the mission are discarded or “on hold”.
- Engage strategic planning – Way beyond mere goal-setting, a bona fide strategic plan focuses on not only goals that have been prioritized, but also assigns budget allocations, timelines, and key responsible personnel to see their projects through to success.
- Constantly build the leadership base – They don’t wait to get lucky with electing great people; they groom them for their future roles. This behavior is absolutely necessary for constantly-evolving leadership, and ensuring the best talent is in the room.
- Create and maintain a positive fraternal environment – Great Boards make sure that a sense of “fraternity” prevails when the fraters are together; that disagreement never turns to hostility; and everyone feels an inherent sense of trust. This atmosphere goes a long way to assisting in recruitment, but also in maintaining the longevity of the member base.
Finally, the leaders who comprise great Boards ask themselves these three questions when considering any program, service, or process: “Does it fit into our mission?” “Does it positively affect a majority of our members?” “Do we have the resources to be successful?” If they can answer all three in the affirmative, they’ll move on the idea. They constantly assess their performance as a Board and seek to consistently provide professional-level leadership in service to their fellow fraters.
Now get to work, and prepare to show up at Conclave to receive your Top Teke Chapter plaque!