Training the Leadership Workshops
It’s Leadership Training Workshop season in Pennsylvania, and with that, all Worshipful Masters, Wardens and perspective lodge leaders flock to a central meeting place within their Region to learn how to navigate the trials and tribulations that come with assuming an elective office within their lodge. It’s a yearly obligation that Masters and Wardens must tend to, and attendance is typically mandatory for advancement through the chairs. The topics vary slightly from year to year, but normally include the roles of the Wardens and the Worshipful Masters within the leadership hierarchy, meeting program ideas, what the lodge should be accomplishing each year, protocol for a Grand Master visit, Blood and Organ Donor Club information, and information on the Pennsylvania Masonic Villages & Outreach Committee which offers aid and assistance to brethren and their families. These topics are usually covered in this order during the workshops, and, as you can see, they become less about true leadership training and more about what your lodge should be doing in the eyes of the Grand Lodge as the day goes on.
As with any yearly training seminar, a significant portion of the day is consumed with situation specific questions that should be directed to the District Deputy Grand Masters upon the situation arising, which is usually the final solution offered during discussions that end up consuming too much time. More chunks of time are dedicated to Grand Lodge programs that have literature readily available on a multitude of websites. At one point, the Worshipful Masters and non-Wardens broke off into a separate discussion group, a fantastic and fresh approach to these workshops. With that many lodge leaders in one room, one would expect a lively discussion on how to best lead and manage a lodge – similar to many discussions found on the Worshipful Masters – Class of 2017 Facebook page (shameless plug). Instead, and unfortunately, 100% of the time was devoted to how to interpret and act upon the Lodge Almoner’s Fund, a recent creation of the Grand Lodge for the betterment of membership assistance.
In staying with the operative word in the title of these workshops, “Leadership”, few moments are dedicated during these events to the qualitative aspects that make good men into great leaders. A website I frequent runs many articles that parallel the things we are trying to accomplish in our Craft, mainly improving as men, The Art of Manliness. One article on leadership recently stood out to me, especially as a sitting Worshipful Master, 5 Traits of True Leadership.
To summarize, the five traits of true leadership, redirected with respect to Freemasonry and lodge leadership, include:
1. Quiet resolution – Facing tough times with the fortitude to see them through to the end with a calm disposition. Planning weighs in heavily on this topic, as it’s much easier to stave off panic when the mission is clear and it is being followed. The most vulnerable you will ever be as a leader within your lodge is during the stated meetings, where you’re in the spotlight and are expected to answer questions distinctly and effectively. Formulating a plan, knowing the plan, and acting on the plan will allow you to maneuver any unexpected questions that may be put to you.
2. The hardihood to take risks – This does not mean investing every cent of your lodge into high risk/high reward investments and letting the chips fall where they may. Your lodges survival depends on you during your year as Worshipful Master, but so does its ability to thrive. One thing I started doing when prepping for my year in the East was to immediately act on ideas I felt would benefit my lodge and the Craft. I wanted to contact every member of my lodge at least once throughout the year. Instead of dwelling on how daunting a task that would be, I took the risk. I ordered custom made postcards and started handwriting notes on each one to be mailed to the brethren on their masonic birthdays. Each month I write between 30-40 postcards. Each month I ask myself if carpal tunnel at age 26 is really worth writing for 2 hours straight. Each month, when I drop those postcards in the mail I answer “yes”.
3. The readiness to share in rewards with subordinates – Did you have the courage to execute one of your risky ideas? Surely you didn’t accomplish it alone (appropriate delegation of tasks being essential to quality leadership). Acknowledge the brethren who ventured out on the limb with you and came back with success. Every. Single. Time. Nothing can be more disheartening to a brother on the sidelines than to see his involvement go without recognition, even if he is the most humble of Freemasons.
4. An equal readiness to take the blame when things go adversely – On the flip side of coin, the Worshipful Master is where the buck stops when things go wrong. No success without praise, no failure without responsibility. The absolute last thing a Worshipful Master should do is publicly blame another brother for the failure of the lodge to accomplish something. We all win and lose as a team, and the Worshipful Master is the leader. If you’re willing to accept accolades, you must also be ready to gracefully accept criticism.
5. The nerve to survive storm and disappointment and to face each new day with the score sheet wiped clean; neither dwelling on one’s successes, nor accepting discouragement from one’s failures – Most times, when we interact with leadership, it’s through our jobs. We deal with good and bad leaders every day. A positive to having only one or two meetings a month is that it gives you plenty of time to regroup, re-coordinate, and re-motivate your efforts. If you’re riding a wave of success, the time between meetings will give you a chance to plan to build upon what you’ve already done. If you’ve just walked out of the roughest meeting of the year, you have an entire month to get back on track before you run another meeting. Learn from both successes and failures. Plan for the future, live in the present, and leave the past behind you. “Always stay humble and hungry”.
There are many articles, books and websites that will help you become a better leader. The plethora of information is staggering, simply type “leadership” into Google and scroll the first three pages if you don’t know where to start. While all this outside information is fantastic, it all comes down to what type of leader you want to be and what type of leader your lodge needs. Introspection and self-evaluation of your leadership qualities and capabilities is an honest place to start.
I wish all the lodge leadership, be it Worshipful Masters, Wardens, or the newest Master Mason who was appointed the chair of a committee, the best of luck for this year and prosperity in the years to come.
Bro. Hughes is the current Worshipful Master of Armstrong Lodge #239 in Freeport, PA. He is King of Orient Holy Royal Arch Chapter #247, a member of Kittanning Council #52 and a member of Holyrood Commandery #100, all in Kittanning, PA. He is also a member of the Pennsylvania Lodge of Research and the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania’s Academy of Masonic Knowledge where he is a Level 1 Master Masonic Scholar. Bro. R. J. can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org