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