If you’ve never had the opportunity to sit in a room filled with hundreds of Type A personalities who share a common enthusiasm for busy schedules, jam-packed resumes and business casual attire, allow me to enlighten you: The tables are cluttered with more coffee cups than hours of sleep collectively received by any member of the group and there’s a perpetual buzz of conversation in which the phrase “catching up on my email” gets uttered about every other sentence.
In short, it’s empowering.
Last weekend, I hopped a plane to Dallas, Texas, for the Delta Zeta Presidents Academy– a 48-hour slew of keynote speakers and breakout sessions designed to unite and educate the presidents, College Campus Directors and Regional Collegiate Directors from the 165 chapters of Delta Zeta. The activities were intertwined with photo-ops and plenty of dessert, and I couldn’t decide if I was more enthused about the opportunity to leave Athens or the chance to meet scores of “sisters” from across the United States and Canada.
Within the first hour of the conference, I quickly realized that the latter was what would resonate with me long after I landed in Ohio. After meeting my roommate, Sarah, I was introduced to more Ohioans– a group that my CCD described as “cult-like,” but in the best possible way. In the same amount of time it took for me to memorize their names, I had already learned so much more about everything from the dynamics of their chapters to what it takes to be a leader.
Our dinnertime small talk turned into boisterous laughter, and I was amazed by how quickly a group of strangers could turn into confidants and adventuring accomplices.
Throughout the weekend, I met presidents who lead chapters of 25 women and presidents who lead chapters of 250 women, presidents with dynamic executive boards and presidents who often feel as though they are flying solo. I heard from presidents whose chapters host the most successful philanthropy events at their schools as well as presidents who are courageously leading their chapters through their first year on campus, and from each of these individuals I learned just as much about confidence and character as I did about sisterhoods and chapter operations.
I was continually amazed by how many experiences we all had in common (including our concerningly limited amount of sleep), yet I was more impressed by how greatly I was inspired by brief conversations with people whom I may never cross paths with again.
No matter how creative you think you are, how many organizations you’re involved in or how well you think you can lead a group of people, there is always someone out there who is doing exactly what you’re doing just a little better.
And that’s okay!
One of my favorite quotes from the weekend was pulled from the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath: “For anything to change, someone has to start acting differently.”
So often I– and so many other leaders of organizations– get stuck in an unintentional rut where we continue to do things because “that’s the way it always has been,” but we rarely have the chance to reach out and discover if there is a newer way to shake up our routines. Yet now, more than ever, it is so important for everyone to see their worlds through different sets of eyes, spend more time listening than speaking and ultimately transfer what we learn into our day-to-day lives.
If you ever get the opportunity to sit in a room with hundreds of hardworking, passionate leaders who enthusiastically banter about their goals, divulge advice about teamwork and spend more time catching up on their email than catching up on their homework, pull up a seat and take note of their successes and failures.
In short, it’s empowering.