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Eye on Psi Chi: Fall 2005

What Constitutes Leadership
Robert A. Youth, PhD, Psi Chi President, Dowling College (NY)

When an individual takes office as the president of an organization, there should be a moment when he or she tells others what his or her ideas are about leadership.
While there is disagreement as to exactly what constitutes leadership, I believe that leadership involves a two-way influence process between a leader and those with whom he or she must work. Leadership is not inborn, rather it involves the acquisition of those skills, abilities, or competencies which insure that objectives can be set, tasks can be tackled, and productive outcomes can be reached. As history reveals, individuals can have power and authority and still not be effective leaders. On the other hand, one can be a successful leader with others without either a formal "position title" or formal authority.
Any individual moving into a leadership position should recognize that leadership is situational and that it depends upon relationships between people. Work contexts influence what leaders must do and what leaders can do. From this perspective, leadership always involves a group, the environment in which the group is functioning, skill levels brought to the situation, and the tasks that are to be undertaken. If one understands that there are key areas of work that underlie success, then one can also understand that these work factors can be places where failure grows. An effective leader must be able to assess the strengths and the weaknesses of such factors in order to organize effective work strategies.
I believe that leaders must inspire others and that leaders must set agendas for action. It is others, however, who must contribute to the process of setting the goals and others who must work to achieve goals. Within this process, we often hear the words "shared vision" invoked in discourse. It is also common to hear about leadership styles and types of leaders. I believe that it is more productive to stop trying to find so-called universal truths about leadership. Instead, I think that it is more fruitful to have a leader who will be straightforward, prioritize honesty, exhibit openness, show a commitment to membership concerns over central-authority concerns, and practice leadership by example.
As a leader, I will work to exhort the members of Psi Chi to be more knowledgeable about their organization. I will not be reticent to take strong positions about matters that relate to the disclosure of information to Psi Chi members and about how the business of the society is conducted. I intend to send out monthly electronic "factoids" (via Psi Chi Digest) to faculty advisors and chapter presidents about how Psi Chi operates. These messages will be aimed at educating Psi Chi officers and advisors about how their organization works.
As a leader, I will work to expand the sense of ownership of Psi Chi to the membership. An organization should have its resources shared equitably by the various constituencies within the society. I intend to expand the circulation of the Psi Chi Digest to individual members who have their email addresses on file with the organization. With respect to equity, I think that Psi Chi should also study the regional makeup of the organization. At present, there is one region with over 300 chapters and another region with only about 40 chapters. It might be time to consider a reorganization of Psi Chi which would more equitably distribute awards or grants. For instance, there could be a reorganization of the Eastern and Southeastern Regions into a New England Region, a Mid-Atlantic Region, and a Southeastern Region. It is something to think about and a matter which would require the approval of the membership (with Constitutional changes also required).
As a leader, I will work to implement organizational changes without damaging trust and commitment. Sometimes old ways are good ways, but organizations should not become stagnant and defensive about "fast-tracking" new developments such as the Psi Chi Leadership Conference which was proposed by a Psi Chi chapter and approved by a national vote this past year. In addition, I hope that the chapters will support a new amendment which will allow a new officer, the Executive Director (currently held by Virginia Andreoli Mathie), to be added to the Executive Committee and the National Council. This matter will require a change in the Psi Chi Constitution.
As a leader, I would like to see Psi Chi reexamine its membership standards. At the present time, there are problems that exist as to what allows a student to opt for membership in the society. Take this situation. Many colleges and universities accept transfer students' credits (especially those who have earned associate degrees), but these same institutions DO NOT count the quality points earned at other institutions in the grade point averages (GPAs) computed at the new institution. The Psi Chi Constitution states that membership requires the completion of a minimum number of credits, but it does not require a minimum baseline number of credits upon which GPAs must be based. Thus, a junior transfer student can present a GPA based upon work in one semester or one term as being his or her "cumulative" GPA. The 9-credit hour minimum of psychology course work currently requires no residency rule regarding these credits being earned at the institution where membership is awarded. The aforementioned situation creates discrepancies as to the kind of standards being applied for transfer students versus those students completing 45 credits or more at one institution. Leaders should address such an issue because it speaks to the baselines that Psi Chi brings to its mission of recognizing and promoting excellence in the field of psychology.
As a leader, I would like to maximize participation by Psi Chi chapters in the work of the organization. To be frank, it is an embarrassment when only approximately 35 chapters out of 1,039 chapters participate regularly in the business of the organization as Model Chapter winners. It is also embarrassing when only a handful of chapters vote in an election for Regional Vice-President. In this context, I would like to see Psi Chi establish a National Assembly (made up of former Psi Chi VPs and/or Presidents) which could meet each year at the APS annual meeting and provide the National Council with ideas and proposals that the Council could consider. It was just such an effort by former President Norine Jalbert that stimulated the National Council to issue Psi Chi lapel pins free to all new initiates at Psi Chi induction ceremonies starting this past year. These annual assemblies could also be open to chapter officers and faculty advisors who attend APS, and they could be run at minimal cost by utilizing attendees who are already planning to be at APS sessions.
As a leader, I will work hard not to be mesmerized by Psi Chi's long history and many traditions. Psi Chi is an organization rich in history, but it is also an organization rich in resources. For a multimillion dollar organization, the Psi Chi website can be greatly improved upon, and it can become a much better resource for its membership. In this regard, as in all matters, I would appreciate hearing from the membership about issues of concern to you and goals you would like to see the society pursue. The job of the Psi Chi President is both to hear the membership and to entreat others that changes should be considered.
As a leader, I would also like to see Psi Chi chapters work together on a National Psi Chi Thanksgiving Food Drive for the needy as an annual event. Mailings were sent out about this effort in mid-July and a follow-up message was sent in late August. If every chapter were to devote three weeks in November to collecting food and if every chapter were to collect 500 pounds of food, then we as an organization could collect over 250 tons of food for needy individuals in this country. The potential is there and all it takes is a coordinated effort to make it happen. It is also a great way to get chapter members to work together on a project that benefits others, promotes chapter vitality and cohesiveness, and reflects LEADERSHIP.
Listed above are some of the leadership goals that I would like to see reach fruition. I am not afraid to take the risk of stating explicitly what I would like to see happen. I will work with the Executive Committee and the National Council to make Psi Chi the best organization that it can be. Yet, the best strategies in the world will not work if all our oars are not pulling together to achieve these goals and others. In sum, I would like to work with the entire membership of Psi Chi to make the job of President a leadership position which promotes new ideas, expands expectations, and advances the mission of our society of recognizing and promoting excellence.

Robert A. Youth, PhD, is a New York State licensed psychologist, who has been affiliated with Psi Chi for over 37 years. Dr. Youth earned a BA in psychology from Queens College (City University of New York). He completed his MA in psychology from East Carolina University. And, he earned a PhD in psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Youth is currently a tenured Professor of Psychology at Dowling College in Oakdale, New York. He has completed 33 years of full-time teaching. During this time, his work has focused on performance assessment and performance management. Dr. Youth is also the Director of the Long Island Organizational Psychology Institute (LIOPI).

As a Psi Chi Regional Vice-President, Dr. Youth added innovations to the Psi Chi programs at the Eastern Psycholo-gical Association and the New England Psychological Association meetings. While on the National Council, Dr. Youth chaired the External Affairs Committee; he helped develop the then new Psi Chi website; he worked with the group that reviewed the development of the Psi Chi CD about career areas; he worked to establish food drives as a standing service area; he served on the Psi Chi Task Force that studied Chapter effectiveness; and, he worked on the 2002 External Evaluation of Psi Chi.

At a recent Psi Chi session at EPA in Washington, D.C., Dr. Youth outlined some of the goals that he has for 2004-2007 during which time he will serve on the Executive Committee and the Psi Chi Board as President-elect, President, and Past-President. Among the points that he made were: (a) the re-examination of the Psi Chi membership standards in light of recent American Association of College Honor Societies recommendations; (b) the development of a biennial Psi Chi Leadership Conference (as a stand alone event); (c) the improvement of the Psi Chi Website with respect to templates being available for Chapters to use to establish their own sites; (d) the development of resources to help Chapter officers (or other representatives) to attend Regional Conferences; (e) the use of the Eye on Psi Chi to include minutes of Psi Chi Board meetings; the results of elections; financial reports, etc.; (f) the development of an annual Psi Chi Thanksgiving Food Drive wherein 1,000+ Chapters could pool their efforts to help the needy (this effort being done in partnership with a targeted organization such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation); (g) greater use of the National Office site for Mid-Winter meetings, etc.; (h) the development of an Assembly of former Presidents of Psi Chi to use such a body as a resource for the organization (especially related to the Leadership Conference idea and special committees that are set up from time to time); (i) the clarification of Affiliate Chapter status in order to preserve the National character of Psi Chi; (j) the articulation of a clear policy related to resident sites of Psi Chi Chapters given the growth of cyber-technology and distance learning companies which do not have "brick and mortar" sites, plus, (k) the development of a Psi Chi "chat site" to facilitate intercommunication between Chapters.

Dr. Youth values having worked with both Ruth Cousins and Kay Wilson in the past. He also looks forward to renewing his acquaintance with Virginia Andreoli Mathie (Psi Chi's new CEO) since their time overlapped as graduate students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Lastly, Dr. Youth would like to acknowledge Dr. William Grossnickle (East Carolina University and a former Psi Chi VP) for starting him on his journey with the organization. According to Dr. Youth, when you devote your energies to building upon others achievements, it is always appropriate to recognize those who helped you along the way.

Dr. Youth can be reached at Please include on the subject line of any email, the words "Psi Chi Correspondence" and your first and last name. Also, please state clearly the Psi Chi chapter to which you belong.

Copyright 2005 (Volume 10, Issue 1) by Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology


Eye on Psi Chi is a magazine designed to keep members and alumni up-to-date with all the latest information about Psi Chi’s programs, awards, and chapter activities. It features informative articles about careers, graduate school admission, chapter ideas, personal development, the various fields of psychology, and important issues related to our discipline.

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