Student Leaders Are Not Raw Material [From LinkedIn Pulse]

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In Tim Ferris’ “4-Hour Workweek,” he shares the Pareto Principle, which is a general rule that suggests that in any situation, a split of 80/20 occurs.

  • 20 percent of your work takes up 80 percent of your time or makes up 80 percent of the value of your job.
  • 20 percent of your population produce 80 percent of the wealth. (it’s clearly open to variation)
  • 20 percent of a student population leads 80 percent of its clubs. . .

Think about that last one. T.J. Sullivan wrote a book called Motivate the Middle; you can read it on a 1.5 hour plane ride. He suggests that roughly 1/3 of an organization does most of the work, 1/3 of an organization does none of the work, and 1/3 of the organization can be swayed either way.

There is brilliance in T.J.’s work that many acknowledge, but few adopt as a governing principle.

If we woke up each day with 100 energy points, how many of those points are we expecting our student leaders to give us?

We take significant advantage of our student leaders and Greek-letter organizations because we know we can and we know they will respond. Then, when we’ve overworked them, we complain that they are incapable of meeting “basic” expectations of a leader.

This isn’t how things are supposed to work.

We can’t simply add more and more expectations to the 20 percent of students who lead in hopes that it’ll make up for the lack of effort of the other 80 percent.

Young people are not raw material; they are not play things.

  • Ron Paul

Time, like money. . . which is nothing but a representation of time and work, is precious, and we are taking advantage of our top leaders’ time to place a mask over the inactivity of the rest of our communities. 

We burden student leaders with ideas to start new associations, take the lead on a dying club or to work with us on special pet projects. They aren’t required to do it, and can always say no, but face the silent threat of no longer “getting it” or being a let down or “disorganized.”

We pilot new programs, expectations and ideas “with” our top-performing organizations, many times without their consent, because we guilt them into being role-models for other groups. Then, we sell their successes as a success for the whole community, when 80 percent of that community is simply coasting by without effort or expectation.

Our fraternity and sorority chapters, who already have standards higher than any other student organization and the threat of charter revocation, are our go-to’s when the athletic department needs fans in the stands or when we need attendance for a high profile speaker. That has nothing to do with being a fraternity man!

A person can only have so much energy in a day. You would be doing your student leaders and high-performing organizations a favor to give them less to do, and allow them to be awesome at what they do well.