Leading People: Olympic Glory - It's Not

As we entrench ourselves in the Olympics this month, it's clear: everyone loves winning.


The pride of being the best, of being able to exclaim, “I’m a winner!”  is exhilarating. And on the world stage, against the best of the best, OMG, that has got to be a feeling that can't be beat! It's the ultimate prize. One could easily argue the same for leadership--and in fact, many in our culture do.


But here’s the thing: leading people is NOT about winning and losing. I know, I just lost some of you A-types that feel results are everything, and what's the point if not to win? Well, I'm not arguing against that perspective.


What I AM suggesting is that it's time to ask ourselves who we are competing against. When it comes to our leadership, who is our real opponent? The vast majority of people many leaders compete with are not their genuine opponents--they’re employees, our own teams, staff, prospects, customers, suppliers, family members, neighbors, kids, clerks, fellow drivers, and more. These people are on our team. We work and live with these people to achieve our goals! So why then do so many “leaders” see every interaction with every individual as a competition, an ‘us vs. them,’ a battle with another teammate?


Every interaction is an opportunity to build a stronger team. As leaders, our job is to emulate what it means to engage, to learn, to struggle, to question, to challenge, to succeed and to fail. To a real leader, struggling, failing and making mistakes isn't an indication of poor leadership, it's indicative of great leadership--we learn more from what we do wrong than what we do right! Creating a culture of embracing that growth in ourselves and others can expand learning, build deeper loyalties and give you and your team the courage to take the real risks that yield greater success and bigger wins against your actual opponents.


So be careful where you keep score. You may be outplaying a teammate--someone who can help you break the next world record.


Steven Fulmer was the opening keynote speaker at the ODK's 48th Biennial Convention and Centennial Celebration held in June 2014 in Lexington, Va. He is the author of "Leadership Just Got Personal."

Writing the Next Chapters of Our Story

I am thrilled to write this first of many blog posts O∆K National President. Our esteemed society owes so much to our volunteers who have provided leadership, support, and guidance to O∆K. I am honored to have been elected the 35th National President of O∆K at the 49th Convention in Grand Rapids, Mich., and I hope to serve with distinction. During the convention, I had the opportunity to share a few stories and my ideas for O∆K in the future.

Our society is in a wonderful position due in no small part to the efforts of Dr. Michael Christakis, immediate past national president, and the national headquarters staff. During the convention, we reported on the state of the society at the end of FY 2016 which included 300 total active circles, 8,044 new initiates, and $316,326 raised to further the mission of O∆K. Many thanks to the leadership of Dr. Christakis, Executive Director Tara Singer, and all of our volunteers for their hard work.

In my remarks at the convention, I spoke about the power of our collective story. Despite the successes of the past few years, we still have much to write about the O∆K story. Leadership is a story of dedication, passion, and drive to create positive change. In the collegiate environment, leadership is often and perhaps inevitably a story about the gentle nudge from a trusted friend, the calming presence of a professor in the midst of a setback, or the enthusiastic encouragement of an advisor.

We each have our own leadership story. Mine began at Davidson College. Other stories will begin at circles, both old and new, across the country this year. What is the story that O∆K will tell? Much of the story has already been written, and I look forward to helping define our story over the next four years and beyond. During our centennial convention in 2014, we adopted O∆K 2024: Leading for our Second Century as a ten-year plan for our work. The long-range plan provides an excellent framework for our story.

For my part as national president, I would like to focus on three specific chapters of our story. First, we must continue to pursue avenues of exposing O∆K to college students. Members are the lifeblood of our organization, and we cannot hope to extend the reach of O∆K without expanding the opportunity of membership.

Additionally, we will focus on strengthening our programs of distinction. The convention, drive-in workshops, and circle-specific programs are important to the future of our society. Our members deserve the very best, and we must focus our efforts toward providing a world-class and lifelong experience.

Finally, we’ve heard a lot recently about people being written out of the story because they are different. The O∆K story is written for everyone, and we will doggedly pursue diversity and inclusion at all levels of our society. Leadership in a global society is a vital commodity, and we must embrace the challenge to prepare our members for this environment.

I look forward to writing this story with the talented volunteers on the Society Board of Directors, the Foundation Board of Trustees, the National Advisory Council, and the Student Advisory Board in advancing our mission.

Yours in O∆K,

Matthew W. Clifford, Ed.D.
O∆K National President

A True Gentleman of ODK



Glenn Hilburn, who served Omicron Delta Kappa as its National President, from 1978-84 and again from 1985-86, passed away earlier this week at the age of 86.  During his tenure, the O∆K Foundation was established, our first executive director was selected, and membership continued to grow.  Glenn was devoted to the Baylor University Circle, and a circle-specific scholarship fund has already been established in his name.  A tribute to his service is included in the inscription of the O∆K monument at Baylor . The Dallas Baptist University Circle is known as the Glenn Hilburn Circle of Omicron Delta Kappa because of the influence Glenn had on the founding members of that circle.

Dr. Hilburn would occasionally call the office to offer historical background information and share stories.  He was incredibly helpful to Mike Nichols in preparing The Laurel Crowned Circle:  Omicron Delta Kappa and 100 Years of Leadership.  It was such a joy to have him here with us for the 2014 Biennial Convention and Centennial Celebration.

It was such a joy to have him here in Lexington for the 2014 Biennial Convention and Centennial Celebration.  I have a special memory of him talking with Coach Mike London and the two of them discussing mutual friends from the world of intercollegiate athletics.

His official obituary is posted here.  We join the Baylor and Waco families in sending our sympathies to his sons, Kelly and Jeff, and their families.



O∆K Bracketology 2017!

I’ve just returned from an annual student affairs conference and on my flight back Tuesday night, nearly every row had someone who was pouring over their brackets – checking and rechecking their picks.

In the annual Clifford family showdown, my kids have been paying a little too much attention to the prognosticators and changing their minds about how it will all play out. When we first started the bracket challenge in our house, one of our girls picked based on the funniest mascot, while another always picked the best seed. Of course, when Davidson College is in the tournament, they always pick them to be national champions like good future Wildcats!

I know predictions have had a tough go of it recently, but I think we’ve found a really solid methodology that will be sure to give you a perfect bracket! In O∆K and on the court, leadership matters! Here are the rules for the O∆K bracket:

1. If one school has a circle and then other does not, the school with the circle wins.

2. If both schools have a circle, the circle with the oldest circle wins.

3. If neither school has a circle, the higher seed wins.

You can see my official O∆K bracket below. It’s going to be an exciting championship game, with the winner decided by a matter of days in May 1925, when both Virginia and Kentucky were chartered!

Enjoy the tournament, and remember those students in your circle who exemplified the athletics phase of leadership that we honor every day in O∆K.


Springing Forward with Our Future

Although spring has arrived on Wake Forest’s campus and Daylight Savings Time begins this weekend, it’s hard to believe that it will soon be the end to another academic year. When O∆K started the academic year, there were nearly 300 circles of record. Since that time, we have established new circles at Western State Colorado University, the University of St. Katherine, and the University of Mary. On February 24th, I was the installing officer when we presented a charter to our newest circle at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. The Citadel, Washington State University – Tri-Cities, and Purdue University Northwest are all are working toward April chartering ceremonies. These schools are excited to bring O∆K to their respective campuses to facilitate collaboration between collegiate members and to advance leadership.

Earlier this year, in January, the Omicron Delta Kappa Society Board of Directors and Foundation Board of Trustees held their semi-annual meetings in Irvine, Calif. on the campus of Concordia University Irvine. We are indebted to Mike Bergler and his colleagues for hosting our volunteer leaders. While we were there, we continued our discussions about potential extension opportunities in Canada and Mexico. International expansion is one of the initiatives coming out of our strategic plan, O∆K 2024: Leading for Our Second Century. I hope to have more to share with you about our international efforts after our summer meetings in St. Paul, Minn.

Throughout the fall semester and into the start of the spring semester, our membership numbers have tracked ahead of last year and the previous year. As of today, membership numbers for the fiscal year are 4,682. There were 4,281 initiates this time last year and 4,539 at this time in FY 2015. Our membership goal for FY 2017 is 8,600 initiated members.

The Omicron Delta Kappa Foundation is also having a very good fundraising year. It is my pleasure to announce several gifts including the establishment of a scholarship for O∆K members in the creative and performing arts. This scholarship is being funded by Foundation Vice President Sally Albrecht. Linda and Jeff Stone have also established a challenge fund for the Samford University Circle Endowed Fund and a fund supporting programming for our regional drive-in workshops focused on ethical leadership challenges. Jeff is a member of the O∆K Foundation Board of Trustees.

This year’s drive-in workshops have been built around the topic of Leadership: Mind and Body, which was selected by our members at the 2016 convention. Each workshop has included a session on how our collegiate leaders may better embrace their personal wellness and set an example as they lead their organizations. Also, this year’s workshops have provided each participant with an opportunity to complete the Student Leadership Competencies Inventory so that they better understand their strengths and areas in which they may continue to grow and learn. The developer of this instrument, Dr. Corey Seemiller, is scheduled to be one of the featured speakers at our next biennial convention which will be held in Nashville in 2018.

Dr. Seemiller is also the co-author of Generation Z Goes to College which is a fascinating text that provides some insights about our students who were born between 1995 through 2010. This generation of students are the true digital natives – born with ready access to computers in the family den. My four children are in this generation although they’ve still got about ten more years before they head off to college. From reading the research on this generation of students, I understand that they are less interested in recognition and more interested in credentialing. Judging by the shelf of sports participation trophies collecting dust in my garage, I’d say that’s true! This characteristic is an important consideration for Omicron Delta Kappa because it challenges our circles to do more than simply celebrate collegiate leaders. It means that we need to identify strategies to help our collegiate members develop and demonstrate that they have the competencies of integrity, collaboration, and communication.

Our biennial national convention, the 50th of which will be the one held in Nashville, is a major program of our organization. It serves many functions related to the governance of Omicron Delta Kappa including the election of national officers as well as review and approval of proposed constitutional amendments. It is also a wonderful opportunity for collegiate members and advisors from across the country to share information about best practices in circle operations. However, the cost of operating this biennial gathering have grown with inflation through the years, and it may be time for us to refocus our approach to the convention. For this reason, I have appointed a presidential commission on our convention which will present its recommendations to the Board of Directors at the winter 2018 meeting. I am pleased that Past National President Steve Bisese and current National Advisory Council Chair Michelle Burke have agreed to co-chair this commission.

One of the greatest joys of being involved with Omicron Delta Kappa is having the opportunity to meet our collegiate leaders. This summer, at our convention in Grand Rapids, I had the pleasure of visiting with Pasquale “Paqui” Toscano who is an initiate of the Alpha Circle at Washington and Lee University. We celebrated Paqui by recognizing him as one of the National Leader of the Year award winners. In case you missed in the last issue of The Circle, Paqui has been selected as a 2017 Rhodes Scholar.

We continue to focus on our mission to recognize and support the collegiate leaders of today as they become the community leaders of tomorrow. As always, please don’t hesitate to contact me should you have any questions or suggestions.

Thank you for your continued devotion to our Society!

Yours in O∆K,

Matthew W. Clifford, Ed.D.
O∆K National President