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Chapter Micromanager or Chapter Leader?
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by Martha S. Zlokovich, PhD - Psi Chi Executive Director and Associate Editor
Category: Executive Director's Message
By the time you read this edition of the Eye on Psi Chi, President Obama will have been in office about a month. In the weeks leading up to his inauguration, much was made in the news about his unwillingness to give up his Blackberry (two Blackberries, by some accounts) rather than allowing his White House staff to worry about his schedule and answer his emails. One commentator compared President Obama’s unwillingness to give up his Blackberry to President Carter’s micromanaging when he first arrived at the White House; supposedly Carter went as far as scheduling the White House tennis courts before turning over such details to his competent staff. Having just returned from a successful National Leadership Conference in January, these news stories about our nation’s presidents made me wonder about leadership in Psi Chi’s chapters. In particular, could some chapters’ problems with officers feeling overburdened and members lacking incentive to participate, stem from leaders not recognizing the difference between micromanagement and leadership? Are you a chapter leader or a chapter micromanager?
A very important aspect of leadership is delegating tasks, which can be hard for students or faculty who are accustomed to independently managing their own affairs while putting in lots of hard work to control their academic and/or career destiny. Psi Chi officers tend to be very conscientious students who sometimes find it hard to trust others will complete tasks, or do the tasks as well as they would have. Unfortunately, this attitude results in officers who don’t allow others to shoulder some of the burden—officers who aren’t willing to risk losing total control of how things get done. While the faculty advisor and chapter officers should have an overarching vision of where they would like to see their chapter go in the future, getting there should not be solely the job of this small group. Leaders who do everything for the chapter may create a vicious circle where members expect the advisor and officers to do everything—because the advisor and officers always do everything!
A related concept is empowering others to perform to their best abilities. Good leaders take the time to notice what their constituents need, as well as what individual members can contribute to the rest of the group. There has to be a balance between asking people to contribute their best efforts, while not asking too much of any given individual. This is especially important to keep in mind if many of your members work, participate in other on-campus groups, have obligations in order to maintain scholarships, or have families of their own. But once members have agreed to take on a task, leaders should keep the big picture in front of these individuals, yet step back and allow them to live up to their potential and contribute their best efforts. Admittedly, if your chapter is already experiencing officer burnout and lack of broad member participation, changing the status quo can be a difficult task. Maybe one important place to start is by enlisting as many chapter members as you can to contribute to that overarching vision in the first place. One of the tasks that participants engaged in during the National Leadership Conference was developing a five-year strategic plan for their chapters. Participants then worked specifically on the beginning and end of that plan. They put specific tasks on paper as they first considered, “if this is where we would like the chapter to be in five years, what needs to be done during the spring 2009 semester?”
I would encourage every chapter to develop a five-year strategic plan, with specific tasks and goals for each year. In this issue of the Eye, you have the opportunity to see some of the work that was accomplished at the NLC (see article). Feel free to use these examples as a jumping-off point for starting the planning process in your own chapter. In this way, current officers and members have the opportunity to lay the groundwork for developing a stronger chapter now, and well into the future.