How to Make Yourself Known as a Masonic Leader

The Masonic Fraternity with all its various organizations bestows a lot of titles. Most, who receive these titles, along with the fancy headgear, jewels, medals, and other emblems of rank that come with them, carry their titles with pride and have distinguished themselves as effective leaders.

Unfortunately, there are a few men who receive titles and believe that the title is all they need to be a leader. They don’t realize that the title is only the first step in becoming an effective leader.

Peter Drucker said, “Rank does not confer privilege or give power.  It imposes responsibility.”

Dr. John Maxwell says that the true measure of leadership is influence. The greater the positive influence a person has in an organization, the higher the level of his leadership and the more effective he is as a leader. To further define the levels of influence Dr. Maxwell devised the 5 Levels of Leadership. The first level which is called the Position Level. This is where everyone begins their leadership journey.

You are elected or appointed to a position in the lodge and receive a title. This title comes with certain rights and responsibilities and people follow you at this level because they have to. They are following you because your title signifies that you are in charge.

But this title doesn’t mean that you automatically have all the knowledge and skills to make you an effective leader. This title means initially that someone has recognized that you have leadership potential. So, receiving your title says to the rest of the lodge brothers “hey watch this guy, I think he may become a great leader.”

It is possible to become a great leader and never have a title. But the fact that you have one gives you a head start and some time for you to develop your leadership skills so you can grow into that great leader Masonry needs.

You shouldn’t view your title as permitting you to control others, that they are there to help you, or they should do what you say or else. This attitude will cause people not to want to be around you. You will be perceived as arrogant and people will give only the minimum effort and will not follow you very long.

You need to realize that people, not your title, is your most valuable asset.

Max DePree, retired CEO & Chairman of the Herman Miller Company, in his book “Leadership is an Art,” said this, “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.”

That is what you should do as a Level one or positional leader is to define reality by taking stock of yourself to understand your leadership strengths and weaknesses.

Why is knowing your strengths and weaknesses important? In his book “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership,” Dr. Maxwell starts with The Law of the Lid.” In this law, he explains that everyone has a “lid” on their leadership and that lid is determined by your leadership abilities.

So, you may want to be the best Master ever, lead your lodge to become the best and have other officers that are the best, but you will not be able to accomplish these things if you do not work to raise your leadership lid.

Your lodge’s success will not rise above your level of effectiveness as a leader. You will not attract other officers who have greater abilities than you. So it is extremely important that as a new positional leader you spend some time honestly determining what you are good at and what you are not.

To help you assess your “leadership reality,” we’re going to suggest you have a serious talk with yourself and answer some questions in two key areas; Leadership Attitude, and Leadership Qualities. Let’s start with your attitude.

Attitude: – Your attitude about your title and your leadership will determine if people will follow you. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Why do I want to be a leader? – What do I expect to accomplish? Am I doing it for the title and the recognition that comes with it, or do I believe I have abilities that will help improve my lodge? Write down five reasons you want to be a leader.
  2. Do I possess the desire to learn more about leadership and become a better leader? – Have I recognized that the title that was given to me doesn’t make me instantly smart? Am I willing to devise a plan that will help make me a better leader? Find five resources about leadership such as books, websites, DVDs, audio CDs, that you can use to begin to study leadership. Set aside a time each day, pick a spot where you won’t be distracted or disturbed and begin a routine of leadership study.
  3. Am I willing to be mentored? – Even the most successful leaders have mentors. Think of 5 Masonic leaders whom you admire, talk with them and ask one or even two to be your mentor.

Qualities – There are many qualities a leader should possess. Here are seven that are extremely important. Do you possess these qualities? Rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 just how well you display these characteristics as a leader.

  1. Character – your character determines who you are, how you act and a solid character builds trust with your followers. We are Masons, so as leaders our actions should reflect our Masonic values. Are all your actions as a leader consistent with our values?
  2. Self Discipline – You need to ask, “Am I first willing to lead myself by building a plan of leadership self-improvement and follow it.” Leaders are continual learners. If you do not have a plan for improvement as a leader, you probably will stay as a Level one leader.
  3. Commitment – People do not follow uncommitted leaders. Are you committed to carrying out the responsibilities that come with your title? If you are not, you probably won’t improve as a leader. Take a hard look at your responsibilities and ask yourself “Am I willing to make some sacrifices to carry out my responsibilities?”
  4. Servanthood – Leaders should first be servants. Do you love to serve others or do you expect to be served? Positional leaders think everyone is to serve them. Rate yourself by asking, “Am I willing to help my lodge and others succeed and not ask for or receive any credit?”
  5. Relationships – One of the most important tasks of a leader is to build positive relationships with his team members and followers. Relationships build trust and will increase your influence as a leader. You must love people to be a leader. Ask yourself, “Do I love people and am I building positive relationships?”
  6. Communication – Effective leaders are effective communicators. Assess your abilities of writing, speaking, and most importantly listening. Your ability to effectively communicate will help in building relationships with your officers and the members of the lodge. Rate your communication skills.
  7. Vision – The ability to cast and communicate a positive outlook for the future of your lodge will help create momentum and establish that you understand that a leader is more than a title. John Maxwell says, “A great leader’s courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position.” Ask yourself “Have I a vision for myself and my lodge and am I willing to pursue it with passion.” Give yourself a rating.

After you have answered the questions about your attitude and rated yourself on the qualities you possess, you will have a beginning point from which you can start to build your leadership abilities and continue to grow as a leader.

Remember these important points:

  1. Your title alone will not make you an effective leader. You will need much more than that.
  2. You need to assess your current leadership attitude and abilities. What is your leadership “reality?”
  3. The first person to lead is you. You need a plan to improve on your strengths and find others to support you in areas you are weak.
  4. Focusing on People and not Position will ultimately bring you success as a leader.

Making yourself known as a Masonic Leader goes well beyond your title and the awards on your chest.

Have a Great Masonic Day!

A Masonic Leadership Instructor’s Rant – What I have learned in 12 years of Masonic Leadership Development

 

 

I have spent a considerable amount of time, money and effort over the last 12 years to provide education and direction to leaders of the Masonic Fraternity. There is not a day goes by that I don’t think about some topic about effective leadership and wonder how it might help Masonic leaders.

I have written hundreds of articles, designed and delivered workshops, recorded teaching videos and presented various topics at lodges, shrine temples, and other places that wanted a message about leadership. I say this not to brag, but hopefully, to give you some sense of my credibility from all my experiences and preface what I’m about to say.

So here are some observations from my experiences I believe to be some truths about leadership development for the Masonic Fraternity.

  • Everyone wants better leaders but are afraid to do the hard things to get them. What are the hard things you ask?
    1. Defining the desirable leadership qualities and capabilities they seek and then make them a prerequisite to be elected or appointed an officer.
    2. After defining what type of leader is wanted, provide training for those who desire to be leaders and make the training mandatory before serving as an officer.
    3. Spend more time on those who want to improve themselves and their leadership abilities and not on those who are unwilling to learn or believe they already possess the knowledge to lead and are unwilling to learn more.
    4. Some type of leadership training should be provided for everyone at every level. A true leader recognizes he can never stop learning.
  • Everyone wants a quick fix and thinks having people attend a seminar or workshop will fix it.
    1. Leadership education is a process, not an event. You can’t create effective leaders in several hours or even at a one-day event.
    2. If you do hold a workshop, it must be structured in such a way that its intent is to change leadership behavior and participants are presented a method they can use to do that. Also, they must understand that the success of the organization is depended on this change, and the behaviors presented are expected if they are to assume an officer position.
    3. Leadership education should be an integrated system. For example, a grand lodge leadership education program should be the same everywhere in the state.
    4. There always should be a method for follow-up and accountability.
  • A moving officer line doesn’t work if there is no systematic training regimen required.
    1. Not everyone has the skills to be an effective leader and/or officer.
    2. Those willing to serve, who could be effective with the right training, aren’t trained. And those willing to serve, who have no potential to be effective leaders, are accepted because no one else wants the job.
    3. Changing leaders every year has created a mindset of “one-year planning.” The “my year” attitude continues and does nothing to raise the level of continuing effective leadership.
    4. The “my year” syndrome also prevents us from taking the long view and creating a plan, with a well thought out agreed-upon vision. Without this, each successive leader then has his own personal view of what should be done and why.
    5. If we find leaders that can lead effectively, they should be allowed to continue to lead. So, if you have a master, grand master or head of any other Masonic body who wants to continue to serve and knows what they’re doing, let’s not stop them.
  • Positive change is desired but attempted in the wrong way- it’s haphazard, by command, without a vision or goals, uncommunicated and year-to-year.
    1. There are too many opinions on what should be done and change efforts are begun without meaningful collaboration.
    2. We should begin by agreeing on what it is we are trying to accomplish, why are we doing it, who are we trying to benefit and what the fraternity will look like when we get there.
    3. We then should stop doing things that will not lead us to where we want to be.
  • We should develop a model of an effective leadership organization, implement it and be prepared to let leaders who can’t meet our requirements fail.
    1. We should put all our efforts in to developing leaders who have the desire and abilities to lead.
    2. We should start acting like what we are: a learning organization, one that values education, one that rewards those who seek to know more about themselves and share knowledge with others.

So there you have it. Some thoughts on my experiences and what I believe needs to happen to change the fraternity’s level of leadership. I know I might anger some, shock some and receive comments like “that can’t be done,” “you’re nuts,” but those who understand effective leadership and learning organizations will get it.

Where do we start? A few lodges, grand lodges, and other Masonic related organizations have. They began a dialogue with their members, they agreed upon what was important to them and why it was. They defined what they were trying to accomplish, what type of men and leaders do they need to accomplish this purpose and answered how they will train these men to lead. Then they acted, failed, learned, reflected, adjusted and acted again. We all should do the same.

Maybe it’s time for one courageous officer, a true leader, to say to his lodge, grand lodge, shrine, Scottish or York rite body, “this coming year we will not do a thing until we agree on who we are, what we do and for whom, and how we will perpetuate our organization to accomplish our vision to improve ourselves, our lives, our communities and Freemasonry.”

I, for one, would help a leader like this. Would you? Let me know your thoughts.

Have a Great Masonic Day!

Why You Should Always Remain an Entered Apprentice

In preparation for a MM degree I was rehearsing my small part which, in the lecture, explains the steps on the Master’s carpet.  I began to think about the line that explains in our youth we should “…occupy our minds in the attainment of useful knowledge.” The explanation then continues to direct us to use this knowledge when reaching manhood in practicing the tenets of Masonry, so that in age,  “…we may enjoy the happy reflection consequent on a well-spent life…”

On the surface, this divides our work as Masons into three distinct parts, and one could say, “OK, I learn as an Entered Apprentice, then use what I learned as a Fellowcraft and then when I’m a Master Mason I can sit back and enjoy myself.” This naïve reasoning ignores the concept Freemasony is a learning system of morality and behavior that contemplates a Mason must be a continual student.

So, if we are to be in a constant state of knowledge acquisition, then it should follow that our mindset should always be one of an Entered Apprentice – a learner.

There is a term in Zen Buddhism which means “beginner’s mind“. It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would.

The Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki, says the following about the beginner’s mind:

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”

As a Masonic leader, if you assume an attitude of a beginner and believe something can be learned from everyone you encounter, you begin to experience the power of other positive leadership qualities.

You will find yourself:

  1. Practicing Humility – My title means nothing and my Brothers are my equals
  2. Listening – I must listen to understand. If I am listening, I am learning
  3. Building Relationships – As I listen I begin to know more about my Brothers and how I can help them become better men
  4. Being a Servant – Your focus changes from looking inward to looking outward
  5. Remaining Teachable – You will look for ways to gather more and more knowledge

As an Entered Apprentice we were all placed in a particular location in the lodge room to begin our Masonic life. We must daily continue to build from there.

What will you learn today?

Have a Great Masonic Day!

A Challenge to All Brother Masons!

This Thursday, October 19th, is World Values Day.  What is it?

“World Values Day is an opportunity for us to think about our most deeply held values and to act on them. This year we are paying special attention to the values of groups and organisations, and how by truly putting those values into action we can help to change the world.”

Find out more on their website: www.worldvaluesday.com

As a member of the Masonic Fraternity, each of us should think about and practice our values daily so that we become models for our families, our communities, and the world.

Here is a special opportunity to showcase the values the Fraternity teaches and declare them to the world.

I challenge each Mason to be a part of this worldwide effort.

Here is how to do it: 

  • Choose a value that’s most important for you, the one that motivates you through life, guides you through big issues and difficult choices, describes who you really are. See the Values Guide for Individuals for top tips on how to do this.
  • Act on the value: Values are powerful when acted on! Do something NOW that brings your value passionately to life – something challenging, creative, fun. Decide that acting on your values is now part of your life. Do your bit to change the world. Use the Values Guide for ideas to get you started.
  • Share what you’ve done across the world with #worldvaluesday or send it to us on TwitterInstagramFacebook or by email. Take a selfie holding the template you can download below, showing what you value. Send a photo or a video clip, write a haiku, record a song – whatever works best for you.
  • Pass it on: Nominate at least one other person – family, friend or colleague – to do the same! Challenge them to choose their own important value, act on it, share it, and then pass the challenge on again to their friends. Let’s change the world together!

Let’s show the everyone that Freemasonry is an organization that teaches and practices values that can truly change the world.

Here is a special template with a Masonic logo. Complete it, take a selfie and post the picture to the Masons Lead Better Facebook page, your page, your Lodge’s page and any other social media site.

Have a Great Masonic Day!

I Remember the Year the Ceiling Collapsed in Lodge

If you visit any Masonic lodge you will find pictures of all the Past Masters prominently displayed in the anteroom. In my lodge, you will see pictures that date to the lodge’s beginning in 1803.

I’ve looked at them numerous times but it wasn’t until recently that I saw these pictures in a different light. In discussing a leader’s legacy in leadership class I suddenly wondered; “what legacy did each of those leaders leave?” Was there some extraordinary event or program that a particular Master initiated that still remains or caused something to happen that dramatically altered the lodge in some way?

 

In my lodge, it is easy to find those whose who can be connected to historic events in the history of the lodge. The first Master, the Master when the building was erected, the Masters who served the centennial and bi-centennial years and the Master who led when the lodge ownership was transferred to the grand lodge that ensured our financial well-being by eliminating the costs of building ownership.

But as I scanned the pictures and came to those Masters who served at the time of my becoming a Mason and on to the present time, my thoughts were not of historical events or programs but of my recollection of my relationship with them. When I look at their pictures my thoughts immediately go to the times we worked on lodge projects together, performed degree work together or just laughed together. I really can’t recall whether they were regarded as good leaders, I can only recall that I regarded them as good brothers and I truly enjoyed being around them.

So today I look at leadership legacy with an expanded perspective. These Masters I knew well left a lasting relationship legacy with me. For each of them, I can recall a conversation, a funny story or how they practiced Masonry. This is the legacy the matters the most to me.

So a big part of your leadership legacy will depend upon the relationships you build and nurture.  

The statement by Dr. John Maxwell “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you really care” is so true. My thoughts about the Past Masters of my lodge were not about their knowledge but about my good relationships with them and their caring attitude toward me and the other brothers.

So when some brother in the future looks at your picture on the wall what thoughts will go through his mind about you?  Will his first thoughts tie you to some event like “Mike was Master when the ceiling fell down in the lodge room,” or will it be “Mike was a really great guy and a great Mason.”

What will be your legacy? Think about it.

Have a great Masonic day!

Your Daily Masonic Eclipse

 

Today is what astronomers consider the grandest of cosmic spectacles – a solar eclipse. Adding to the excitement is this will be the first total eclipse to travel coast to coast in the US in 99 years.

We all have been cautioned to be very careful as we view the eclipse. Without the proper glasses with protective lenses, we will permanently damage our eyes.

 

 

Freemasons, only a daily basis, need to be aware of an eclipse that occurs that is just as dangerous – allowing the complexities of life to cast a shadow that obscures the light emanating from Masonry. This shadow comes in many forms.

The shadows may come as something as simple as a minor irritation caused by an unkind word or a discourteous act. Shadows may appear as we cut corners or perform our usual vocation in a manner less than we are capable. It may be a harsh word to a child or an argument with a partner or spouse.

The eclipse may grow to totality and darken the Masonic light because of encounters with bigotry, racism or religious intolerance. The shadow is so dark we could weaken and forget the lesson of the compasses.

What will shield us from permanent damage, just as with the solar eclipse, will be a filter – for Freemasons, a Masonic lens.

The Masonic lens cannot be purchased with money, but only acquired through careful study, intensive thought, and constant application. It will only be effective if it becomes a part of our world view. It will only shield us from the shadows if it is who we are, how we think and how we act. The lens will be applied all the time, not just when safely convenient or when dressed in Masonic regalia.

Ask yourself today – Are you shielded from a Masonic Eclipse?

Have a Great Masonic Day!

How To Start Leading Yourself

Nate Dana, PM New England Lodge #4

If we would survey the leaders in our various Masonic organizations and ask the question posed in the picture “Do you want to be a better leader?” I am going to assume that 100% of the men you ask would say “Sure, You Bet!” Although I guess there could be one or two who might say “Nah, I think I’m doing OK” but I’m going to put them in the category of what John Maxwell calls Phase One of leadership growth and this he describes as; “I don’t know what I don’t know.”

So if almost all leaders would like to improve their leadership skills why don’t they? What’s holding them back?

Professor Richard L. Daft of Vanderbilt University published a book entitled “The Executive and the Elephant,” in which he explains that each of us has two selves that he calls our “inner executive” and our “inner elephant.” The inner executive is the self that is thoughtful, circumspect and rational and the other self, the inner elephant, is habit bound, impulsive, and emotion driven.

His book offers practical ways that leaders can begin to achieve inner excellence by recognizing the power of the inner elephant and work to overcome it thus avoiding behaviors such as procrastination, confrontation, overreacting, and criticizing. There are exercises in the book that will help you start leading yourself which of course is the first person a leader needs to learn how to lead.

If you want to be a better leader, then you need to begin to lead yourself. In Professor Daft’s book, there is a chapter titled “How to Start Leading Yourself.” Here are the areas covered:

  1. Engage Your Intention – visualize and verbalize your intention

  2. Follow Through on Your Intentions – write them down, set deadlines and design tangible mechanisms to ensure your follow-through.

  3. Calm Down to Speed Up – get connected, be near others who are calm and focused, work with a partner.

  4. Slow Down to Stop Your Reactions – Stop and think, stop interrupting, detach from your emotions and impose self-punishments.

Leading yourself is not easy. Just ask anyone on a diet when someone walks into the room with two dozen doughnuts. The urge to cave in to short term pleasure is immediate and very strong. This is your inner elephant. Without a plan and mechanisms to keep you on the plan the inner elephant does take over. So as someone asked, “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer, of course, is, “One bite at a time.”

So if you do want to be a better leader, recognize that there are some things you will need to change.

Albert Einstein said this: I must be willing to give up what I am, in order to become what I will be.

Have a great Masonic Day!

Are You an Amateur Mason or a Professional?

 

 

A recent article on the website Farnam Street, made the distinction between those who seem to be hugely successful and suggest that all the rest, who are amateurs, struggle.

The blog post lists a number of differences and, as normal, I began to think if these differences apply to Masons. I think they do and I’ll highlight three.

  • Amateurs stop when they achieve something. Professionals understand that the initial achievement is just the beginning. 

Masons – When raised to a Master Mason, were you led to believe this achievement is the pinnacle of Masonry? Or did a lodge culture exist that stressed your Masonic journey had just begun?

  • Amateurs have a goal. Professionals have a process.

Masons – Was your goal when joining Masonry to begin an improvement process or was it just to become a Mason?

  • Amateurs show up to practice to have fun. Professionals realize that what happens in practice happens in games.

Masons – Do you attend lodge meetings just for the fellowship or are you there to absorb knowledge and understanding for the purpose of improving your life?

  • Amateurs show up inconsistently. Professionals show up every day.

Masons – Do you only think about and apply the tools and lessons of Masonry while in lodge or are do you strive to use them as you attend to your “normal vocation?”

If you would like to see the whole list here is the link: https://www.farnamstreetblog.com/2017/08/amateurs-professionals/

Are you an amateur or a professional Mason? Take some time and think about it.

Have a Great Masonic Day!

What Makes Lodge Meetings More Meaningful? – Maybe You Should Ask

Lodge leaders can sit around and come up with all kinds of ideas to make the lodge experience more interesting but if you don’t ask as many brothers as possible what they might like, you may not accomplish what you set out to do.

As part of our Lodge planning process we passed out note cards at one of our stated meetings and asked those in attendance the question:

“What can we do to make Lodge meetings more meaningful to you?”

We asked that they put some thoughts on the card and hand it in at the end of the meeting. Here are some of the thoughts and ideas we received.

  1. Planned training classes to learn lectures and degree work. I found one on one to be very helpful.
  2. I would like to hear someone who would make me stretch my mind! I would like to hear someone who is an expert in his field inform & inspire me with new ideas. How about having a philosopher lecture?
  3. A telephone committee to call brethren to attend Lodge. No more than 10 calls for brother caller. Each meeting should have a purpose. I like the fellowship.
  4. A meal before the meeting. Good education program. Service call to action at each meeting.
  5. Provide opportunities to participate in things other than ritual work.
  6. Rejuvenate the moral standards of the members of our communities.
  7. Devote a few minutes at some or all stated meetings to re-enact a portion of the various degree work & maybe have a discussion of the symbolic meaning. Encourage attendance of members at stated meetings that we can get better acquainted & inspire greater participation
  8. Improve ritual, adhere to lodge resolutions, advertise Freemasonry, communicate with members via telephone; not email. Email is not personal. Family nights – involve spouses, etc.
  9. A deeper meaning of why we are at NE #4.
  10. Dinners for members just for social time.
  11. Local speakers of note quarterly; Mayor, bank president, county commissioner, police chief, business leader.
  12. Get more of the new members to attend. Less time at stated meetings then more time can be spent having fellowship in dining facility.
  13. More fellowship. Get more members to attend; younger and older (car pool). Find out why they do not attend.
  14. Continue the increase of communication & information. The more our members know what is happening, the more they may attend. Lodge education and the new presenter at every meeting. Community events, other events at other lodges. People will feel more included. More information on website & phone recording.

What we discovered was that the main areas of emphasis we identified in our officer planning group and planned to improve on, closely aligned with the comments we received from our brothers. We had categorized our areas of emphasis into these; Leadership Development, Activities & Fellowship, Education, Communication, and Community Outreach.

We were pleased to see that we were on the right track and began for each category to set goals and create action plans to achieve the goals. Some of the ideas expressed were easily satisfied and we acted upon them immediately. For example:

  1. We asked our Lodge Education Officer to vary the type of programs presented and use various brothers as presenters. This allowed us to hear one brother, a military helicopter test pilot, talk about his job and allow us to try on his night vision helmet (way Cool!). Another program was presented by a new Master Mason who did a “walk around the Lodge” explaining the meaning of the various symbols.
  2. The Master streamlined the meeting agenda, charged the Stewards to improve the after meeting meal and we then had more time to just get to know each other and better food.
  3. We had a series of guest speakers from other community organizations describing what they do and how our Lodge could be involved.
  4. The communication comments were taken to heart and we created an active committee to assess how we can improve our various forms of communication with the brethren as well as the community.

It is amazing what you can find out if you just ask.

Not only do you find out what interests your brothers but you also may discover those who have a passion for a particular subject that will fill a need the Lodge may have. For example, through this process, we found a brother who loves to take photographs and design publications. Guess what? He was asked to design a new Lodge publication.

Leaders understand the need of asking their followers what is important to them.  Then they listen and use what they hear to initiate positive action. So when you do Lodge planning don’t forget to ask your brothers what is important to them or you may find yourself going in the wrong direction.

Have a Great Masonic Day!