Teaching Values Congruence through Leadership Training

How can you align leadership training with established student development and leadership theory? Use the Social Change Model of Leadership to create align your departmental and organizational goals with your activities.

Being a new professional in student affairs or higher education can be daunting. Especially if you are advising student organizations, fraternities, and sororities or being a club faculty/staff advisor for the first time! The transition to a capable advisor has some unique challenges but there are places we can start our own learning.

Within our advising capacities, we have several outcomes we want to accomplish. We want the groups to gel, how to do their jobs, work collaboratively, learn something about their personal leadership style. Sometimes we have learning outcomes from our division and the college we need to manage to squeeze in somehow.

You often ask yourself how to align the work you need to do with the work you want to do. You will need a clear model to help you reach these outcomes. Hopefully without randomly choosing among several developmental models that could accomplish these outcomes. I believe we need to start with helping the members understand values and how they align with their new organizations.

Start by asking yourself the following questions:

What are the overarching outcomes you want your students to learn?

What does it mean to lead through your values? How can I help my chapters understand the importance of values-based leadership education?

It's always important to think about the outcomes we want to accomplish before we start to train our students on how to meet them. Especially when we begin to lead with our values.

Starting with Values

Fraternities and sororities are inherently values-based organizations. But what does it mean to be led by your values? What does values-based leadership mean to you? The Institute of Values-Based Leadership defined this style of leadership as “the exercise of influence in relationships, teams, organizations, and communities through choices and decisions guided by explicit and consistently practiced values that balance healthy self-interest and the common good.”

“Values-based leadership is the exercise of influence in relationships, teams, organizations and communities through choices and decisions guided by explicit and consistently practiced values that balance healthy self-interest and the common good.”

The Institute of Values-Based Leadership: Defining Values-Based Leadership

You’ll notice that values-based leadership is really about influence. Relationships are important. We can have our own values, but the real leadership comes in sharing these values — through teams, organizations and communities.

Also, we see that sharing these values is about our choices. We have the values that are inside of us — but it's our choice in how these values are shared and interpreted. Our decisions put us back in charge of making sure that values are at the forefront of the work we do. Especially as educators working with fraternity and sorority leaders, we need to demonstrate that we can help and support them as they explore how to share their own personal fraternal values — or not.

As educators, we can attest to how values should be explicit and consistently practiced — congruence with our values is important because people see what we do and look to see if we’re being hypocritical. We can’t say we believe something if our actions say otherwise.

And finally, we need to help our students find balance in what is important for themselves and for others. This circles back to the relationship inherent in leadership — we need to look at what we need, what you need, what I need, and find a balance among all of these areas of interest.

Why Should Greek Advisors Care?

So then why is it critical for Greek Life professionals to educate students about values congruence? In our advising capacity, we help members understand the importance of relationships every day. We must begin to connect the power of values in sustaining these relationships, with alumni, new members, prospective members and any other member of the community. It is through these values that student leaders can begin to make lasting impacts in their community, in and out of school.

“It is evident that although chapters build community and friendships through their activities, they still foster destructive values like alcohol abuse, homogeneity, and poor cognitive development…. Professionals, both campus-based and organizational, should capitalize on opportunities to address in-congruence. By knowing what fraternity and sorority members value, one can move past conversations confined to organizational creeds into an action-based approach by helping develop programs, activities, and behaviors that connect the enacted and espoused values

(Matthews et al., 2009).

I believe that If we talk to our students about how their values impact their leadership, we help them use their influence to positively impact their peers. They also learn to avoid these destructive behaviors.

By talking about shared values — and the power of congruence to the values — we help students look at their personal choices rather than external motivators, like policies and rules, to govern behaviors.

The Social Change Model of Leadership

Knowing that values-based leadership can have an impact on the lives of college students, it’s important to look at models that support the development of this style of leadership. The Social Change Model, established by the Higher Education Research Institute in 1994, is a truly student-development-centered model that has been tested for internal and external validity. It was created by a collaboration of higher education and student affairs leaders and professors. The model is built on a few assumptions. What’s important is to remember these assumptions. Leadership situations that don’t follow these assumptions probably call for a different style of leadership development and training.

One thing to remember is that this is called the Social Change Model. The concept of change is an important factor to consider in this model. What does the group — or the social part of the social change model — need to change?

Congruence is one of the 7 concepts of the model. Congruence refers to “thinking, feeling, and behaving with consistency, genuineness, authenticity, and honesty towards others. Congruent persons are those whose actions are consistent with their most deeply-held beliefs and convictions (HERI, 1996).” Congruence is about just about walking the talk — it’s also about authenticity and honesty. We may be told our values and have followed them because it’s what others say we need to do. But without authenticity and honesty, we won’t able to make our values match our actions. In short, in groups, this becomes important when shared values determine behavior that reflects the group — like in a fraternity or sorority.

Integrating Values Exploration and Congruence into Leadership Training

Congruence begins with refining values and determining the actions and behaviors that reflect these values. In leadership training or even new member education, this could take place in a couple of different ways. Below I am highlighting two methods that have worked over the years:

  1. New Council Officer Training: Setting Group Expectations — In small groups, officers discuss what their shared values of congruence looks like/sounds like (what does on-time mean? how is conflict resolved? what does respect sound like?). Expectations for behaviors of the officers are shared and reviewed.
  2. New Member Education Training: Greek Membership Expectations — By chapter, new members discuss what their shared values and congruence looks like/sounds like. Expectations are shared on how values should be lived daily to reflect their personal values and the values of their new chapter affiliation. Discuss the stereotypes of Fraternity/Sorority members and the connection to incongruent values.

By specifically drawing attention to the importance of congruence to values, which often differ from person to person, chapters and councils can set clear expectations against which people can be held accountable or counseled. Congruence is how to start conversations with accountability, as they serve to remind students that we can only measure people against the things they do and say. I have found that the best way to counsel students is to point out incongruities. Then I help create a plan that allows the student to move forward with a better plan to become more congruent with shared values. Or even move on to new opportunities.

Additional blogs will detail how other parts of the Social Change Model can help improve your leadership development toolbox and infuse more values-based leadership into your practice!


Higher Education Research Institute [HERI]. 1996. A social change model of leadership development (Version 3). Los Angeles: University of California Los Angeles, Higher Education Research Institute.

A Social Change Model of Leadership Development

Matthews et al (2009). Oracle: The Research Journal of the Association of Fraternity Advisors, Vol. 4, Iss. 1, February 2009.

Additional Resources

Leadership for a Better World: Understanding the Social Change Model of Leadership Development — Instructor’s Manual: http://www.nclp.umd.edu/include/pdfs/publications/leadership_for_a_better_world.pdf

A Social Change Model of Leadership Development Guidebook: http://socialchangemodel.ning.com/page/books-and-publications



“How Come No One Ever Told Me” is about lessons learned in life that no one ever told me but need to be shared.

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Joseph Rios EdD

I believe leadership is the expression of values. Career Coach | Educator | Writer | Social Justice Advocate | Trainer. leadershipandvaluesinaction.com