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Leadership Skills Learned In Fraternity Life

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When I pledged the fall of my freshman year all of the posters and t-shirts proudly displayed John Wayne’s quote, “Men join fraternities; leaders of men join Sigma Chi.” Later when I was rush chairman, our shirts said “You can’t spell SΣΧ without ΣΧ” or something far less profound, but I was originally a sucker for the Duke. Even Bolen grabbed the first part of that quote for the TFM book (RIP to Bolen’s Frathoe) and there’s good reason for it – it’s powerful. It’s what we were promised, along with “we don’t haze” and “pledging is only 8 weeks” and “there will be mountains of cocaine and naked women everywhere.”

The fact is that you do learn valuable life skills throughout your fraternal tenure. Risk management, bringing people from different backgrounds together, how to drink socially, “closing the deal,” putting up with untold amounts of crap, and leading others toward a common cause are all essential things to learn in order to achieve success later in life. That being said, while the overarching concepts you learn translate well, the methods used generally do not.

Team Building Exercises

Whether it’s knuckle pushups on a concrete floor in the basement while balancing chairs on their back and getting sprayed by a hose to learn how to “support this house,” or sorting by color fruit loops that have been dumped all over the same wet basement floor to learn how to work together as a unit, or chugging as much as you can out of the pitcher ad to “not fuck your pledge brother” in the process, pledging is undoubtedly one giant team-building activity. It crafts connections through mutual strife. Similarly, in life, forging cohesive units where each members’ weaknesses are covered by another’s strength directly leads to success, whether under pressure from a looming deadline or an antagonistic boss. Still, you don’t get any points from your coworkers for training your underlings in the most outlandishly over-the-top and unnecessary ways possible. Instead you’re just a dick who bought a bunch of tacos from the food truck in the parking lot and threw them at interns while they raced to see who could finish a spreadsheet first, and now nobody will invite you to things anymore.


In the workplace it’s always good to find a mentor you can go to for advice. In my four plus years of college, I never had a little brother due to some of the above-mentioned occurrences, but my own big brother was always helpful. “Use your best judgment” was a regular suggestion when facing a complicated situation. Blacked out alumni just told you to chug a half gallon of milk? “Use your best judgment.” You’re the driver on a road trip and have to take a left turn across a 5-lane highway when there’s a sign that says “no left turns?” “Use your best judgment.” The girl rumored to have some sort of STD is really into you tonight? “Use your best judgment.”

In the real world, the judgment of entry level workers, like pledges, is almost always awful. Using their best judgment isn’t really setting a high bar, and unlike in the fraternity, where poor judgment leads to comical situations, in the real world it usually leads to lost accounts or otherwise unnecessary awkwardness.

Positive Reinforcement

If the pledging process is anything, it is nurturing. As these young men leave their families for the first time with dreams of tits, ass, and beer everywhere, it becomes our job as fraternity elders to regulate their appetite at first, so that they can reach new heights later on. It isn’t enough to make them chug or memorize or prove their worth, no, you have to give them level-headed advice in a clear and concise manner.

“Alex, Jordan is not spelled with a fucking G. It isn’t the Jeff Gordon standard you moronic inbred fuck. This is quite honestly the dumbest mistake I have ever seen. You might literally be retarded.” While highly effective in a fraternity setting, that doesn’t work well in an office. You’d think that there would be more leeway since employees are actually being paid to be there, while pledges are pretty much paying you to be there, but in reality workplaces are far more concerned with the personal feelings of younger employees and prefer not to have them run away crying before lunch. We live in a backwards world.

Respect for the Chain of Command

As we all know, fraternities are institutions famed for their respect for authority. Risk management chair gets blacked out instead of watching the door? Swat. Social chair books a fat sorority for a prime mixer? Swat. Vice President, who is in charge of discipline, golfs numerous beer bottles from our parking lot to the student co-op’s lot while repeatedly reciting the monologue from Caddy Shack? Doesn’t pass.

Anyhow, while you can punch your president because “the power’s getting to his head” and you can give pledges personal sessions behind the pledge master’s back, you certainly cannot do anything of the sort in the workplace. Making an intern recite company policy at breakneck speed while he calls you sir at the end because he messed up your coffee order, or instituting corporal punishment because of the lack of physical attractiveness of a client your coworker landed, or straight up assaulting your boss, are all ways to ensure that you get reprimanded and most likely fired. Also, people don’t really take kindly to not holding yourself to the same standards as others.

Ultimately, it’s important to remember the personal growth that each of you are achieving during your college years, as it is almost as invaluable to your future as having a rich dad. Steve Jobs once said, “Stay hungry, stay foolish.” While girls would be well suited to remember the first, guys would be far better served ignoring the second as they pass on to the next stage of their lives, unfortunately.


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I used to write for TFM and PGP when they were funny.

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