JULY 18, 2017
by R.W. Bro. Charles A. Woods
LAO TZU – LEADERSHIP HAS BEEN DEFINED AS THE ABILITY TO HIDE YOUR PANIC FROM OTHERS
Leadership is one of the most important and intrinsic values of Freemasonry and our Craft which is the oldest adult learning institution in the world. It is imbued in the fabric of our ritual, in our ceremonies, our Lodge governance and in the history of our Grand Lodge. Why is leadership so essential to Masonry? Well, can you imagine our Province, our country, our cities and towns without leaders, even bad ones?? Then how could we expect Masonry to work either, without leaders??
Historically, Masonic leaders have been heroes, Kings, Generals, Presidents, men who had the courage, the commitment and the vision to command – to “lead” the way forward or out of a precarious situation. And then there is, of course, Kim Jong-un and recent others!!! No, they are not masons and that explains everything!! OK we won’t go there!!
EISENHOWER – LEADERSHIP IS THE ART OF GETTING SOMEONE ELSE TO DO WHAT YOU WANT DONE, BECAUSE HE WANTS TO DO It
Good leaders are “doers”, not “watchers” and they lead with awareness, passion, understanding, intelligence, and especially, by participating.
Leadership development in Masonry starts at the very beginning, at initiation when the candidate is “overwhelmed” by a lot of impactful words given from memory by Masons who “lead” him through those life changing and somewhat confusing few hours.
It then continues through progression in the chairs, incrementally gaining more knowledge and learning responsibility, all the way to becoming Worshipful Master, District Deputy Grand Master or a Grand Lodge Officer.
“Leadership and Learning are indispensable to each other” – John F. Kennedy
In most cases, this model has worked relatively well for years– but could it work even better?
However, does accepting more responsibility in Officer Progression, automatically ensure leadership abilities? I believe this has become a crucial “fail” in Masonry today because many Officers are not mentored in a coordinated and comprehensive manner and then don’t put in the time to prepare properly for their duties. Far too many then bail out at the Junior Warden’s chair because they begin to realize their limitations and just trying to “get by” becomes too uncomfortable! Whew!!
We expect sponsors and mentors to consistently encourage and admonish their charges but we know that this is not really a “given” any more. It has all but become a Masonic myth – the Master and the Apprentice!! Beautiful in a nostalgic sense, but not in reality.
But, where does this leave us, or more importantly “lead” us?
First, let us step back a moment and review our very core values in Masonry - what we profess to be when we show ourselves to the public.
In the Ceremony of Installation, the Master-Elect is described “to be of good report, true and trusty and held in high esteem by his brethren and fellows”. “Exemplary of conduct, courteous in manner, easy in address, but steady and firm in principle, able and willing to undertake the management of the work and be well-skilled in the ancient charges, regulations and landmarks”.
In the Ancient Charges, “to work diligently, live creditably and act honourably by all men – to hold in veneration the original rulers – to avoid private piques and quarrels and to guard against intemperance and excess. To be cautious in your carriage and behaviour, courteous to your Brethren – to respect genuine and true Brethren – to promote the general good of society, and to cultivate social virtues”.
And in the Charge to the Entered Apprentice: “honourable because by a natural tendency it conduces to make all those honourable who are strictly obedient to its precepts – the practice of social and moral virtues – to your neighbour by acting with him on the square, by rendering to him every kind office which justice or mercy may require, by relieving his distresses, by soothing his afflictions and by doing to him as in similar cases you would wish he should do unto you” .... etc., etc.
So what is happening to our core values in Freemasonry? Are they just eroding due to lack of attention or are some new elements, joining the Craft, not paying due obedience to them, or are we, the supposed sponsors and mentors not “guarding the West Gate” and acting as Stewards of what we hold so dear and the very reasons that WE joined Masonry??
“Values alignment between leadership and followership is one of the biggest predictors of organizational success”
– andrea lehman
Are you also observing/enduring way too much bad and rude behaviour among Masons – even senior Masons? While in the Lodge, during meetings, in your District? Are there indeed politics in Masonry??
As I asked before - “Where does this lead us – or rather – leave us?”
It leaves us with a bad taste in our mouths and, unfortunately, a disconnect with our core beliefs in our noble and beloved Craft. It leaves those non-Masons, who understood that Masons behave as gentlemen and loving Brethren to one another, puzzled and put off.
It causes younger and newer Brethren to proclaim, “this is NOT what I signed up for!” and they leave. But these Brethren don’t just leave the Craft, they leave, disenchanted, and become the worst advertisement for Freemasonry!
Yes, Brethren, and we are left with conflict, which we all too often, “sweep under the rug” with the quaint milquetoast and non-impactful phrase “private piques and quarrels” – when it is really a serious breakdown of the Masonic Team which then, inevitably, leads to more conflict.
When our Leadership Development team have done seminar surveys, the number one request for seminar topics has been “Conflict Resolution”. What are our Masons trying to tell us??
Masonry is made up of teams – Lodge teams, District Teams, Committees, and Grand Lodge teams.
Patrick Lencione in 2005 wrote a book “Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team”. I feel that this is very pertinent to Freemasonry today. He states that building an effective, cohesive team is extremely hard but it is also simple and it comes down to persistence and courage.
Teamwork is almost always lacking within organizations that fail and is often present within those that succeed.
Teamwork remains the one sustainable competitive advantage that has been largely untapped.
Teamwork cannot be bought – it requires levels of courage, discipline and emotional energy.
These principles eliminate politics and confusion and provide fulfilment, a sense of connection and belonging, thereby creating better friends, partners, neighbours and Brethren.
Lencione describes the Five Dysfunctions of a Team in a pyramid, the base of which is
Dysfunction #1 – Absence of Trust:
Members of great teams trust one another on a fundamentally emotional level – they are comfortable being vulnerable with each other about their weaknesses, mistakes, fears and behaviours – completely open without any filters. This is essential because.......
Dysfunction #2 – Fear of Conflict:
Teams that trust one another are not afraid to engage in passionate dialogue around issues and decisions key to the organization’s success. They do not hesitate to disagree with, challenge, and question one another - all in the spirit of finding the best answers, discovering the truth and making great decisions in the best interest of the organization. This is important because......
Dysfunction #3 – Lack of Commitment:
Teams that engage in unfiltered conflict are able to achieve genuine buy-in around important decisions, even when various members of the team initially disagree. That’s because they ensure that all opinions and ideas are put on the table and considered, giving confidence to team members that no stone has been left unturned. This is critical because......
Dysfunction #4 – Avoidance of Accountability:
Teams that commit to decisions and standards of performance do not hesitate to hold one another accountable for adhering to those decisions and standards. What is more, they don’t rely on the team leader as the primary source of accountability, they go directly to their peers. This matters because......
Dysfunction #5 – Inattention to Results:
Teams that trust one another, engage in conflict, commit to decisions, and hold one another accountable, are very likely to set aside their individual needs and agendas and focus almost exclusively on what is best for the team and the organization. They do not give in to the temptation to place their future, their career aspirations, or their egos ahead of the collective results that define team success.
These dysfunctions certainly apply to all teams in Masonry, no matter at what level or rank.
Lencione then describes how to overcome each of the five dysfunctions in great detail with various tools and exercises (which I will not go into at this point due to today’s time constrictions but are extremely worthwhile).
Another important ingredient in the leadership development recipe is Emotional Intelligence, defined as:
“The capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships”, (Daniel Goleman)
Professor Nancy Lucas, an expert in Emotional Intelligence, spoke to us during our Ontario Masonic Education Conference in 2016 about the ground breaking 1995 book “Emotional Intelligence” by Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis. In her presentation, she used their work in an Emotional Intelligence frame work.
The first part is Self Awareness of your own triggers and reactions to others – your emotional control. This does not mean suppressing your emotions – it is all about how you manage them and how you assess yourself and your self confidence.
The second part is Social Awareness – having empathy for others that you are dealing with and their feelings, i.e. organizational awareness.
The third part is Self Management – your emotional self control, transparency, adaptability, initiative, optimism.
The fourth part is Relationship Management – using all of the above to deal with conflict resolution, developing others, inspiring, influencing and creating team work and productive collaboration.
In his book “Learning in Relationships” - 1998, Ronald Short stated
“To own that YOU create the impact OTHERS have on YOU is, without a doubt, the MOST DIFFICULT and MOST IMPORTANT lesson to learn”
“Herein lies the rub” – even though we are proud men and Masons; therefore, strong and considerate, gentlemanly, we are still sensitive creatures. We do not take well to being slighted, to be perceived or treated, as less than we are.
We work hard on committees to do good for the Craft and our pay, if we’re lucky, is a “pat on the back”, a word of encouragement – “good job”. I am not so sure that we always do take the time to appreciate another brother’s time and effort. Even worse still, if a brother doesn’t happen to agree with us, do we react by saying, “OK, then let’s try and work this out another way for the sake of everyone in the Lodge – let’s find an answer, a reasonable consensus that we can all live with”?
No! More often than not, there is immediate affront, indignation, hurt and anger – “He’s an idiot!” “Why can’t he see what needs to be done here?!!”
Then conversation stops – sides are taken, the trenches are dug and everyone settles in for a long, tense “fight for right”! I am led to believe that this is happening more and more often in our Lodges and Districts throughout our Jurisdiction. I ask how many of you honestly are aware of these occurences in some form or another??
NEARLY ALL MEN CAN STAND ADVERSITY BUT, IF YOU WANT TO TEST A MAN’S CHARACTER, GIVE HIM POWER – ABRAHAM LINCOLN
How many of you in this room today are leaders?? Indeed, all of you are, because you took the time to be here today– to hopefully learn something about Leadership and development – for yourselves, personally, and for the Craft.
We men – we Masons – we who should be proud of who we are, proud of what we do and proud to be Masons, as our Grand Master exhorts us, should pause when conflict arises, take a deep breath and make the effort, no matter how difficult, to take the high road and “pour oil on the waters” so to speak. We should take the leadership role and endeavour to find a middle ground – this goes for the most picayune things as well as the most serious matters! Because picayune irritations can easily become monumental challenges.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place” – George Bernard Shaw
Conflict will always exist but that is not the problem. It is how we deal with conflict that is important. It’s so easy to fly off the handle and “ratchet up the rhetoric”, but – again – as I asked in the beginning, “Where does that leave us?”
“Peace comes not from the absence of conflict – Peace comes from the ability to deal with the conflict.” - ANONYMOUS
Conflict may indeed always exist, but it does NOT belong within the tyled doors of our sacred refuge – our Masonic temple.
A Native American elder once described his inner conflict like this:
“Inside me are two dogs. One dog is mean and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog all the time.” When someone asked him which dog usually wins, he reflected for a moment and replied, “The one I feed the most”!
My Professor at McGill, Dr. John Stamm, defined #14 - a “professional” as “one who controls the tools of his trade and performs excellent work, even when no one is watching over his shoulder”.
Shouldn’t we, as Masonic “professionals”, perform in the same manner and use our moral code, our symbolic working tools, and our ancient charges to CREATE harmony rather than desecrate it? We should behave and perform our best ritual as if the Grand Master himself were present in the Lodge.
In my personal Masonic journey and, especially since being Team Leader of the Leadership Development Committee, I have come to appreciate the incredible power and importance of leadership in our noble Craft and recognize it as our core Masonic product as well as being our greatest challenge in looking forward to OUR vision of OUR Masonry.
In Brother Benjamin Franklin’s immortal words, “Masonic labour is purely a labour of love. He who seeks to draw wages in gold or silver will be disappointed. The wages of a Mason are earned and paid for in their dealings with one another, sympathy begets sympathy, kindness begets kindness, helpfulness begets helpfulness – and these are indeed the wages of a Mason.
my brethren, my fellow masons
DO NOT follow where the path may lead. go instead where there is no path and leave a trail for others to follow
– Harold Mcalindon
R. W. Bro. Charles A. Woods