How to Lead with Masonic Values: Brotherly Love

I was thinking one day that during my years of service in Masonic organizations I have observed first hand and also heard about some behavior by leaders that made me think at the time that they had forgotten some things they were taught in the Masonic degrees. I have always believed that an essential part of leadership is a correct attitude and what better attitude to assume as a leader than that of one resulting from practicing the three great tenets of Masonry; Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth.

 This thought took me back to the EA degree and how we can use its teachings about the three great tenets of Masonry in conjunction with Dr. John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership to improve our Masonic leadership behavior.

Let’s first look at Brotherly love. We find in the EA degree that we first are taught as Masons “to regard the whole human species as one family”… we are then taught “to aid, support, and protect each other.” This part of the ritual then goes on to say; “It is on this principle that Freemasonry unites men of every country, sect, and opinion, and conciliates true friendship among those who might otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance.”

A Masonic education course I recently found describes Brotherly Love this way:

“It means that we place on another man the highest possible valuation as a friend, a companion, an associate, a neighbor, a fellow. Merely to be with him, merely to spend hours in his company, to have the privilege of working at his side, is all we ask. We do not ask that from our relationship we make money, or further our business interests, or achieve some other form of selfish gain. Freemasonry takes brotherly love for granted, provides opportunities for us to have fellowship, and encourages us to understand and to practice it, and to make it one of the laws of our existence.”

So how does Brotherly Love relate to leadership?

As you read and begin to understand more fully John Maxwell’s approach to leadership, you will find it is built around relationships. He says your best chance for leadership depends upon connecting with those on your team.

He tells us we should look for the following five characteristics in our relationships:

  •  Trust – Maxwell says when you respect people and you spend enough time with them to develop shared experiences, you are in a position to develop trust. However, as Masons, we were taught to trust one another without question. As you recall your condition when you first entered a lodge of EAs, you will also remember that you were told that since you were in no condition to foresee or avoid danger that you were in the hands of a true and trusty friend, in whose fidelity you might safely confide. Masonry is trust and trust is Masonry; When you lead with trust, you lead with Masonry.
  • Respect – you should show it to others even before they have done anything to warrant it simply because they are human beings. Our ritual says it this way: “to regard the whole human species as one family,” So as Masonic leaders leading other Masons, we should lead with respect because following Masonic values, those we lead are the same as we are.
  • Shared experiences – Maxwell says that you can’t rely on respect alone to develop strong relationships; you must have shared experiences over time. The Masonic education course I talked about said that Brotherly Love allows us to spend time with our fellow Masons, gives us the privilege to work by their side, and grants us opportunities in a position to develop trust.
  • Reciprocity – team relationships only survive when there is give and take so that everyone benefits as well as gives. As Masons, we are taught to “be ready to give as well as receive good counsel from a brother.” As a leader, we must remember that our positional title does not excuse us from this basic element of Masonry. So when Dr. Maxwell speaks of reciprocity as an element of good relationships, we should already understand this.
  • Mutual enjoyment– When relationships grow, the people involved begin to enjoy one another’s company. The Masonic concept of Brotherly love contemplates mutual enjoyment. So to lead with Masonic values, we should lead in a way to establish and maintain mutual enjoyment.

So, Leading with Masonic values first starts with refreshing our minds and assuming an attitude of Brotherly Love, one of our basic Masonic tenets. I’m sure after thinking through what you have just read,  you can recall some difficult times as a leader that would not have been so difficult and problems much more quickly resolved if everyone had approached it with the attitude of Brotherly Love.

I know I can recall some leadership situations that would have been much better had I remembered to Lead with Brotherly Love.

Have a Great Masonic Day!

Jack Experiences The Entered Apprentice Degree – Again

Jack was a little apprehensive as he approached the restaurant on Tuesday. He was not sure what to expect and was worried because he wouldn’t know anyone. When he pulled into the parking lot he felt a little relieved because there was John standing at the entrance waiting on him.

As John and Jack shook hands John said, “Well Jack are you ready for some more Masonic education?”

Jack thought he was referring to the degree work until John continued.

“This gathering before Lodge is just as much a part of the Masonic experience as the degree work. You may not remember, but there was a recitation going on as you were conducted around the Lodge for the first time. It began, Behold! How good and pleasant it is for Brethren to dwell together in unity. This is to remind us that we should always find opportunity to gather with our Brothers. The more often we get together the better we know one another and it also becomes a time that we may share knowledge, offer aid and support to our Brothers and their families and most importantly; just enjoy each other’s company.”

They entered the dining room and the room was full of men talking, laughing and just generally having a good time. They had not been in the room very long when a Brother with a big smile began walking toward them. He went right by John and grabbed Jack’s hand.

“You must be Jack; I’m Carl Sanders Master of the Lodge. John called me and said you would be joining us, thanks so much John for bringing our newest Brother. Come with me Jack, I would like to introduce you to some of your Brothers.”

Carl proceeded to introduce Jack to as many as possible as John tagged along. The Master of Ceremonies stepped up front and asked the Brethren to take their seats. Carl, Jack and John found seats, the dinner preceded, as well as the lively conversations. Jack enjoyed the dinner immensely and wondered why his Lodge didn’t have one.

As Jack and John walked the two blocks to the Lodge building, John began to prepare Jack for the experience of the degree.

“Jack, the EA degree should be still fresh in your mind so as you watch try to remember what you were feeling and thinking during the degree. The lessons conveyed are only useful if you determine their meaning to you and your life. So many times Brothers just “watch” the degree and make no attempt to translate what they see into meaningful thought. The questions on the sheet I gave you last week are designed to help you to do just that.”

They were almost to the door of the Lodge as John continued. “When we get inside we will gather in the anteroom and put on our aprons and white gloves. We go into the Lodge in a procession; Brothers first led by the Stewards, followed by the officers. Once the procession begins no one is to speak. The Lodge room will be dimly lit and there will be soft music playing.”

“Why wasn’t this done at my Lodge?” Jack asked.

“All Lodges in our state use the same ritual to confer the degrees but the “atmosphere” a Lodge may wish to create is their choice. Our Lodge wants to convey to the Brothers that attending Lodge is a unique experience. To us, entering Lodge is symbolic. We are leaving everything else in our lives behind and entering a special place that allows a free exchange of thoughts and ideas without fear of petty arguments or bickering. We want our Lodge room to be a sanctuary of peace, harmony and accord. Entering in silence allows each Brother time to his own thoughts, to think about Masonry and its value and meaning to him.”

Jack thought about what John had just said. He had been to meetings at other organizations and they all started about the same. People wandered into the room, talked, laughed and usually the person in charge had to ask several times for people to settle down so the meeting could be started. Masonry is special so it makes sense that the manner in which a meeting is started should be special. Otherwise, Masonry would be like any other organization.

As Jack entered the Lodge room his first thought was that this did feel very special. The soft lights and the classical music just made you feel that something, maybe magical, was about to happen.  Jack then thought about his father who died last year at the age of 48. He had been a Mason and although he really never discussed Masonry, Jack started to think maybe he didn’t have to.

Jack learned some great lessons from his father just by watching him, being around his father’s friends and his father allowing Jack to think and even fail on his own. Jack smiled as he thought about the time his father came home from work and Jack, at age 10, had taken the lawn mower apart. Rather than scold Jack he put down his briefcase, took off his tie and taught Jack how to put it back together. All the while asking Jack about what he had learned at school, what interested him the most or just laughing and having a good time. Anytime Jack did something he shouldn’t, his father would calmly talk to him about it rather than yelling at him. He was such a calm man, Jack wondered if being a Mason had something to do with that. He would ask John.

Jack and John reached their seats and the Master proceeded to open Lodge in a very solemn manner. Jack listened intently to the words and right from the beginning he heard something he wasn’t sure what it meant. When the Master asked the Senior Warden, “whence came you,” he replied, “from the Holy Saints John of Jerusalem.” Then Jack remembered seeing these phrases on the sheet John had given his last week. He would find out their meaning when they discussed them later.

As the degree began Jack continued to be awed at the silence in the room. Glancing around at the Brothers he noted how intently each seemed to be watching what was occurring. By the age of some of them he knew that a great number of them had seen this degree many, many times. Yet they each seemed to be watching as if this was their very first time. It was as if they were making sure they hadn’t missed something or maybe it was just to reaffirm what they already knew. John had said that Masons are always learning, evaluating and striving for improvement; that was sure being demonstrated here.

Jack continued to watch and listen intently as the degree progressed knowing that John would be asking him later what he had learned. John wished he could pull out his phone and make notes in his Masonry folder, but knew that would not be the thing to do. He knew he would have to rely on his memory so he decided once he reached home he would put his thoughts to paper while they were still fresh in his mind.

At the conclusion of the degree, after the Master had congratulated the new Brother, the Lodge Education Officer made a presentation to him while he was still at the altar. He first went through some procedural items such as the raps of the gavel and the ballot box. But then he summarized the lessons in the degree and then introduced him to his mentor. Jack thought about how grateful he was that John had volunteered to be his mentor.

As John and Jack left the Lodge room John asked, “Well, what did you think?”

“Wow”, exclaimed Jack, “I’m not sure what to say. I do know this; tonight had a whole different feel to it than when I received the EA degree in my Lodge.”

“How so?”

“Well, to begin with, I enjoyed the dinner before the meeting and the chance to meet many of my Brother Masons. The way your Lodge enters the Lodge room was something that was very special to me. I thought about my father and how he treated and raised me. I was thinking it was probably because he was Mason.”

“Jack, I can tell you most certainly it was. He not only practiced Masonry in the Lodge room but Masonry became who he was. Remember me telling you that my job as your mentor was to help you become Masonry?”

“Sure I do, but I’m still not entirely sure what that means.”

“Your father began helping you “become Masonry” way before you were old enough to petition Lodge. By the manner in which he conducted himself and how he raised you, he was demonstrating how Masons act. He displayed to you the love and devotion a Mason has for his family and by doing so prepared you to become a Mason. Even though he couldn’t be with you when you received your first degree, he was the one responsible for you being there.”

John could see that Jack’s eyes were welling up so he waited a few moments before he continued.

“Jack, when does your Lodge meet next?” Jack told him their stated meeting was in two weeks. His Uncle Ted had already told him that the meeting would be opened in the Entered Apprentice degree so he could participate.

“If it’s OK with you let’s meet there about 45 minutes before the meeting. Make sure you bring your EA ritual book. I want to get you started on learning the EA exam. Also, think about the questions I gave you at our last meeting and we’ll start a dialogue on those.”

When Jack got home he knew it would be a while before he settled down. The thoughts and discussion about his father were still on his mind as well as the rest of the evening. He grabbed his laptop and began to write about the whole experience that evening. When he finally looked at the clock he had been writing for over an hour. He realized he was exhausted but he felt good. He promised himself he would begin to write every day, not just about Masonry, but about what he was thinking. John told him that Masons should find time to reflect and think. Jack put a daily reminder on his phone so it would become a normal part of his day.

Next: Jack encounters some questions about Masonry.

Have a Great Masonic Day!

John attends “The Perfect Lodge Meeting”

John Grogan chuckled at the comments he received when he came to work wearing a suit and tie. The IT company where he worked had long ago adopted a casual dress code so anyone wearing clothes that gave the appearance of “dressing up” brought good-natured kidding.

John didn’t care because tonight was his Masonic Lodge meeting and his dress was very appropriate for the affair. There wasn’t  time to dress one way for work, get home, change and then make it to the restaurant in time for the beginning of the meeting. And besides, the suit made him feel special and he actually found that on Lodge meeting days his attitude improved just because he looked, well…, gentlemanly.

John’s Lodge began their meeting at a local restaurant. They had long ago decided that a well-planned “Festive Board” created the atmosphere of Brotherly Love that was so essential to a successful Lodge. Besides the great food it allowed planned time for the Brethren to get to know each other, learn from each other and most importantly, laugh with each other.

It took several minutes for JT, the Master of Ceremonies, to get the Brethren calmed down so he could welcome everyone to the meeting. JT, a relatively new Mason, was appointed the MC after it was discovered that he a great talent for entertaining. His winning smile and jokes that sometime made everyone groan, left everyone laughing and wondering what he would come up with at the next meeting.

Tonight was no exception as he opened with the question; “How many Masons does it take to screw in a light bulb?” He had perfect timing as a comedian and his answer came before anyone could open their mouth’ “Twenty five; twenty four to serve on the committee to decide whether it should be changed, and one to actually change it.” The groans were loud and long but the effect was achieved; this was an enjoyable place to be.

As everyone was finishing their dinner and drinks, JT rose, thanked everyone for coming and announced that Lodge would opened in approximately ½ hour.  The educational topic would be a paper presented by Brother Sanders entitled “Using Masonry for Personal Improvement” followed by open dialogue.

The opening of Lodge was as elegant as it was simple. The officers assumed their stations with a solemn procession in a silent, candle-lit lodge room with soft, inspiring music playing. Once the officers reached their stations the period of reflection began. Each Brother was left to his own thoughts as the music continued, ended and then a short period of complete silence was observed.

The Master then opened lodge with each officer responding in a clear and serious manner, loud enough for everyone to hear but in a tone that conveyed the meaning and importance of the Masonic experience to come. The Brethren on the sidelines listened knowing silence and circumspection is an important part of Masonry.

The business matters necessary for the operation of lodge had been included in a “consent agenda” which was previously distributed to all members. This allows the Lodge to approve all items on this agenda with one motion unless a Brother requests that a particular item be presented, discussed and voted on separately. All matters regarding petitions and reports on petitions were handled individually. This particular evening there were no petitions or separate items so the consent agenda was improved and the business of the Lodge was handled in less than five minutes.

John and the Brethren listened intently as Brother Sanders presented his paper on personal improvement. Brother Sanders had recently received his Entered Apprentice degree and his paper was a required topic for every EA. The open dialogue that followed produced several useful techniques for preparing, executing and continuing a plan of personal improvement. John made note of several things he needed to review or add to his own plan. Every member has a plan; it was a requirement of the Lodge.

Each Lodge member devised a plan for personal improvement, maintained it and periodically reported their progress. The Lodge had written a template for use to devise the plan and had appointed several knowledgeable Brothers whose responsibility it was to assist each new EA. Through the degrees these Brothers would support, encourage and help after each degree to add items to your plan. After you were raised a Master Mason your plan would be finalized and you began full implementation by using the lessons of the degrees in support of your life goals, objectives and action plans.

Master Masons were then asked to become mentors for new EAs. Which, as John knew, kept each Brother accountable to his own plan as well as ensuring those men, who sought to improve their lives by Masonry, were given the proper tools.

Seeing the time for closing the Lodge approaching the Master concluded the paper presentation by congratulating Brother Sanders and thanking all Brothers for their input.

As was tradition in John’s Lodge, the Master called on one Brother at random prior to closing and asked him one question; “Brother, why are you a Mason?” In answering the question a Brother was to stand and give his Masonic Purpose Statement which he had developed as part of his personal improvement program.

“Brother Grogan,” said the Master, “Why are you a Mason?” John rose, saluted the Master and the words he had written thirty years ago flowed easily;

“I am a Mason because I recognize that no man should live his life in a random manner. He should be guided by a plan that honors his God, supports his neighbor and provides improvement for him daily. Masonry has provided this plan for me and I will live in pursuit of knowledge and understanding for the purpose of providing for my family, supporting my Masonic Brethren, and improving my community. My continued hope is that I live respected and die regretted.”

The Lodge was closed with the same elegance and dignity with which it began.

As John drove home he was elated, inspired, refreshed and truly thankful he had become a Mason. He was so grateful he belonged to a Lodge that practiced Masonry.

Have a Great Masonic Day!

How to discover WHY you are a Mason

Has anyone every asked you “What is a Mason?” and then asked why you became a Mason? More importantly, have you ever asked yourself these same questions and deeply thought about them?

Up until several months ago I really never gave it deep thought. I was, when asked these questions by non-Masons, able to give some type of an answer but it didn’t come from any intense soul-searching. My discovery began when I became aware of a book by Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

The premise Simon Sinek outlines in his book uses a concept he calls the Golden Circle as depicted in the graphic on the left. The outside circle he labels “what. Moving inward he labels the next circle “how.” And finally the innermost circle he labels “why.” Here are his definitions of the what, how and why.

  • What – every business, organization, and person in these organizations can explain what they do. They can describe their product or their service.
  • How – most every organization can also tell you how they do it.
  • Why – very few organizations can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do.

He explains that most normally when someone is asked about their organization they respond by explaining WHAT they do. They also may throw in HOW they do it. But in most cases leave out WHY they do it. This approach he contends is not inspiring and does nothing to build a following.

Mr. Sinek then gives examples in the book of how great organizations and great leaders don’t start from the outside circle and go in, they inspire and build great organizations because they have thought about and communicated to everyone in their organizations “why” they do what they do. They then use the “reason why” to build a following. He says,

“Most people don’t buy WHAT you do, but WHY you do it.” – Simon Sinek

This concept when applied to Masonry really lit up light bulbs in my head. It caused me to ask the question “Can I explain my WHY when it relates to being a Mason?” Am I able to use my WHY to inspire other men to join? Since I clearly had never thought about it in this context I had to start understanding my WHY.

I realized that discovering my WHY began a number of years ago. I had begun to write and present leadership development programs for the Masonic Fraternity and felt that they needed to tie directly into the beliefs and values taught in the three degrees. I read the ritual of all the degrees to better understand the duties I was asked to assume and the values that are the essence of Masonry.

I didn’t start a journey of deep esoteric inquiry to understand what others thought about Masonry but concentrated on WHY the beliefs and values of Masonry were important to me. HOW was I going to use them in my life?; my life right now.

Each of us may have some simple statements that explain what Masons are or why we joined Masonry. “Masons make good men better,” or “My father or grandfather was a Mason;” or something else along these lines. I as well had a simple reason for joining; my father-in-law was an active Mason and Shriner and he suggested that I should be as well. But these statements do very little to inspire other men to belong.

I suggest that finding your WHY in Masonry is an on-going process. One tied to understanding yourself, the ritual, the lessons and values presented in the degrees and using them to continually educate yourself as you live your life according to Masonic principles.

Here are some steps to follow to help you find your Masonic WHY:

  1. Write your eulogy. Imagined you have died and your family and friends have gathered for your funeral. Who will be there? What would you like them to say about you? By writing your eulogy you will discover the values and behaviors you want to define you.
  2. List the values and behaviors from your eulogy and write a short paragraph explaining what each means to you.
  3. Write a paragraph about Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. What do these basic tenets mean to you? How has your life changed because Masonry taught you about these things?
  4. Using what you discovered about yourself and your meanings of the tenets of Masonry write a short paragraph you will use when asked “What is a Mason?” or “Why are you a Mason?”

Here is my WHY statement:

“You know I enjoy being around people who have the same values and beliefs I do. I joined the Masons because they are a group of men who have a belief in a supreme being, practice values such as brotherly love, respect, truth, and are dedicated to improving themselves and their communities. We are not concerned about each other’s station in life but what we may learn from each other.  Masonry has allowed me to give deeper meaning to my life by presenting moral lessons for me to learn and live by. It has made me a better child of god, a better neighbor and a better person. Masons are the type of men I want my family to be around.”

What’s yours?

Have a Great Masonic Day!

How to not get hit by a falling satellite or falling leadership

NASA was trying to guess when and where the 6-ton Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite will hit the earth. They said it may occur any time between Thursday September 22nd and Sunday September 25th and could land as far north as Alberta, Canada or as far south as the southernmost tip of South America.

A family in Okotoks, Alberta–a suburb of Calgary–believes they caught footage of the fiery death spasms of NASA’s UARS satellite, parts of which returned to earth early last Saturday morning after two decades in orbit. http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-20111230-93/nasas-falling-satellite-caught-on-video/

In any event it fell, and they had estimated any one person’s odds of being hit by a piece of it were 1 in 21 trillion. So there was no need to wear a helmet unless your luck had gotten you hit by lightning several times and wanted to err on the side of caution.

In stark contrast we all get “hit” every day by falling leadership. The effects are easily observed and can cause serious problems if we do not know how to protect ourselves from the frustration of being around ineffective leaders. The best way to deal with ineffective leaders is to help them. Dr. John Maxwell’s book “The 360° Leader” presents 6 ways to avoid frustration when following an ineffective leader.

  • Develop a solid relationship – instead of trying to stay away from them, get to know them, find common ground on which you can work with them
  • Identify & appreciate your leader’s strengths – even an ineffective leader has strengths; find them and think about how they may be of value to the organization.
  • Commit to adding value to your leader’s strengths – help leverage the leader’s strengths to be of value
  • Get permission to help complement your leader’s weaknesses – once the leader admits their weaknesses find others who can help in the areas the leader is weak
  • Expose your leader to good leadership resources – share material that has helped you
  • Publicly say positive things about the leader – help make the leader’s strengths known which will help build the leader’s confidence.

So instead of trying to avoid the falling debris from an ineffective leader, be a leader yourself and do everything possible to aid, support and show brotherly love. The end result; you get a better leader and you’re a better Mason.

Have a Great Masonic Day!