It's Time to Set the Pace
THE WORSHIPFUL MASTER'S
Grand Lodge, F.A.A.M. of the
District of Columbia
A presentation of John R. Graham, 33ļ, consultant in
public relations and fund raising to the Northern Jurisdiction Scottish
Rite and other Masonic Bodies, at a 1993 Scottish Rite regional work
shops. The written word is not as effective as he, a former minister,
who really fires up an audience. You will like some parts and not like
other parts óbut pleaseó think about it. Reprinted from the Southern
California Research Lodge Papers, by Kena Computer Club, the home of
Hiramís Oasis, the Masonic Computerized Bulletin Board, 703-938-4990.
For further information write: Kena Computer Club, PO Box 456,
Merrifield, VA 22116.
More than anything else, this is a time for Freemasonry
to face reality and to be absolutely honest about the state of the
Fraternity. Weíve looked in the Ďrear-viewí mirror long enough. The glory
days are behind us -- and not even a miracle will return us to the 1950s
and 1960s when many Lodges were holding special meetings in order to
accommodate all the new initiates.
In all honesty, we must ask, "Why would a man want to
become a Mason today?" There were very good reasons to become a Mason 40
Being a Mason brought a man prestige in the community. It
set you apart. A member of the Masonic Fraternity was a member of an elite
group. This has all changed. Recently a Grand Master talked to two U.S.
Senators about becoming Masons. Both turned him down!
Whatís the popular view? Simple. People think weíre
either dead or dying. Or, worse yet, irrelevant. There was a time when
being a Mason put a man in touch with the right people. In many
communities, the Masonic Lodge was the key to rubbing shoulders with the
decision-makers, the movers and shakers-- the business and civic leaders.
Everyone was a Mason. Only in rare instances is this true today.
Forty years ago, being a Mason made a difference in your
career. We all remember the so-called "Masonic companies," firms that were
filled with Masons from bottom to top. If you wanted to get ahead, you
became a Mason.
The same was true if you were a local insurance agent or
real estate broker, a barber or a butcher. Being a Mason gave you a
network in the community. Thatís how your business grew and prospered. In
other words, there were power incentives for a man to become a Mason.
Masonry conferred upon its members status, prestige and influence.
This is not the way it is today -- at least our sons and
their friends are not impressed. When a friend of mine walked into my
office and saw Masonic mementos, he said, "Why in the world do you want to
be a Mason?"
In spite of the dramatic and far-reaching change in
Masonryís status in American society, there is no reason for despair.
Masonry still fits the times -- not withstanding the fact that we have
been horribly negligent in communicating the message. As much as in any
other period, Freemasonry has a powerful role to play.
Masonry sets forth the values that make life worthwhile.
It is clear that the 1990s are a period when there is public recognition
that traditional values make a difference. Having "discarded" the
importance of basic ethics for the past 25 years, there appears to be a
return to the bedrock beliefs that made this country great -- the family,
loyalty, hard work, honor and integrity. The basic -- and essential --
In his recent book, More Like Us, James Fallows
makes the issue crystal clear: "In the long run, a societyís strength
depends on the way ordinary people voluntarily behave."
This has been the message of Freemasonry for the past
three centuries! And it is just as true today as it was 40 or 200 years
Masonry gives a man a positive picture of what it means
to be a man. In a time when numbers are more important than a manís name,
this is a message that makes sense! No group or organization gives
recognition to the worth of a manís life as does Freemasonry. The Masonic
message is simple: "Youíre important." As Masons, we make one thing clear.
"As a man, you have tremendous potential and weíre going to show you how
to become the best." Masonry never looks down on a man. Masonry denies
that a man is basically "bad." Masonry sees the possibilities in a man and
gives him a way to reach for the stars.
Masonry separates a man from the crowd. The most
incredible fact about being a Mason is that you can never, never forget
that you are one. You can forget your wifeís birthday, but you canít ever
forget that you are a Mason. Show me a group that can make such an
indelible impact on a manís life?
As a Mason, I can never forget that I have a
responsibility to live and conduct my business according to the tenets of
Freemasonry. I can never be lost in the crowd. For a man to say, "Iím a
Mason" sets him apart from other men.
Why, then, with all that we have to offer are we, as a
Fraternity, slipping into the darkness of obscurity? Why are we not just
fading away, but actually disappearing in an ever increasing rate?
The problem is not Masonry. The problem is not our
beliefs or our ideals. The problem is one of leadership. Or, more to the
point, our total lack of leadership at every level! For the past several
decades, we have been in the midst of a leadership crisis -- and itís
Letís take a look at "Masonic leadership." The major
qualification for being a leader in our Fraternity is time. If you can
devote the time, you can get to the top. In the same way, leadership in
Masonry is viewed as a "reward for good behavior." If you do what youíre
told, attend a thousand meetings, and stay in line (in more than one way),
youíll get a jewel hung around your neck.
We even think that "going through the chairs" is
"training." As a matter of fact, it is training of sorts. But what does a
man learn? One thing thatís important, he learns how to play the game so
that by the time he gets to the top he has achieved total ineffectiveness.
He is completely useless as a leader!
If we take a closer look how we behave when it comes to
leadership, the picture becomes quite clear. To put the matter bluntly,
we are experts in putting the emphasis in all the wrong places. In other
words, we do it backwards.
Masonry suffers from what I call "The Mussolini
Syndrome." Benito Mussoliniís greatest achievement was making the trains
run on time in Italy. The nation was in total chaos, but the trains left
the station on time -- every time. This is the way we are as Masons. Here
are just a few examples.
We are experts in getting meeting notices out -- on time.
We meet every deadline. We take pride in such an accomplishment. The fact
that no one comes to the meetings because they are so dull and boring
doesnít seem to distress us. We are experts in keeping accurate records.
No one in the world can hold a candle to us when it comes to record
keeping! We are the best! The fact that the statistics are going down hill
at an ever increasing rate doesnít seem to bother us. The accuracy of the
figures is more important than their meaning.
We are experts in making reports. Our reports are always
in proper form. We always use just the right words and no oneís name is
ever left out. We take inordinate pride in our reports. The fact that 99%
of our reports are totally meaningless doesnít seem to faze us. We ignore
the fact that our reports are all form, totally lacking in meaningful
content. And then we have the audacity to repeat them year after year!
Only the names and dates are changed.
Weíre experts in holding ceremonies. Frankly, weíre good
at ceremonies. We practice and practice. We aim at perfection. I suppose
thatís a noble goal, in a way. What seems to escape us is that thereís no
one there to see them. The membership is disappearing and all weíre left
with is empty Temples. For some reason, this doesnít seem to disturb us
because we just keep on repeating the same old ceremonies -- all by
Weíre experts in taking care of our buildings. We are
proud of the way we respect our Masonic property. Certainly, taking care
of our buildings is better than to allow them to fall into disrepair. But,
once again, we always seem to miss the point. Buildings are for activity
-- and thereís nothing happening of any significance in our Temples 99% of
the time. Again, this doesnít bother us enough to demand action from our
Weíre expert at putting men on committees. Take a look at
the roster on any Masonic organization and youíd think that with so many
men involved, mountains could be moved, every name is there. All are
neatly printed. All are in proper order. Yet, it doesnít seem to bother us
that our committees are little more than empty shells. They lack talent,
skill and ability. For the most part, they have no power or authority.
They are to do as they are told. For the most part, they are to do
If we happen to find a man with talent, we toss a
cabletow around his neck to make sure he doesnít do anything new or
different! Or, as we say in the west, we hog tie him. We only want him to
repeat whatís been done the last 40 years.
With all this in mind, why doesnít Masonry get strong,
creative leaders -- men who are capable of taking our Fraternity into the
The answer is clear: We donít want strong leaders! We
donít want new ideas. We donít want interesting programs. We donít want
excitement. We donít want the boat rocked. Anyone who tries to be
"different" by being innovative or creative will have his wings clipped quickly by a group
of men with the term "Past" after their names. This is why we have the
type of leaders -- at every level -- we do today.
Letís face it. Our leaders clone themselves by bringing
in replacements who are like themselves. Over and over again it happens --
and nothing changes because nothing can change. This is our problem.
A competent man with real leadership potential may love
Freemasonry, but he is not going to spend his valuable time "doing what he
is told," knocking his head against a brick wall, or going through the
motions just to get to the top.
In effect, the Masonic leadership message is clear:
Behave yourself. Put in the time. Donít rock the boat. Do as youíre told.
Keep your mouth shut. If you speak, just echo what the "leader" has just
said. Donít come up with new ideas. Bow and scrape. Donít question
anything. And, if youíre a good fellow, youíll get the Masonic goodies. In
other words, we have exactly what we want and what we deserve: a
Fraternity of petty and pathetic bureaucrats -- and itís killing us.
If this is the current leadership situation, what needs
to change to meet the challenge of the decade ahead -- and beyond? We need
leaders with very specific qualities:
Our leaders must possess imagination. We need leadership
standards. We need job descriptions for leadership positions. We need to
get down on paper what we expect from those who guide us. What are their
goals and objectives? What do they want to accomplish while in office? The
membership has a right to know what our leaders are thinking. What are
their ideas? Are they just carbon copies of those who have gone before
them, or do they possess the abilities necessary to move our Fraternity
Our leaders must be able to bring a sense of excitement
to the Fraternity. Frankly, we should get down on our knees every day and
thank God for our members. No single group of men puts up with more dull
nonsense than do the Masons of America! And then they keep on paying their
dues year after year!
Leadership means being able to move menís hearts, to make
them proud of their Masonic membership. Leadership means being able to
motivate men to action. It means getting Masons to come out of the closet
and demonstrate their enthusiasm for the Fraternity.
Masonic leadership means a willingness to take bold
steps. The job today is one of getting Masonry on TV and in the
newspapers. Itís being out in front and highly visible. Yet, we seem to
think weíre doing something important if we have a booth at a county fair.
Thatís nothing. We need blimps! If we donít start thinking big, weíre
Our leaders must possess a new vision for our Fraternity.
Where do we want Freemasonry to be in the year 2000? How are we going to
get there? What must happen to get things moving? How are we going to
mobilize the resources so that we make a difference? This is the vision
that can put Masonry on the map -- where it belongs.
If a man does not have this kind of vision, if he does
not possess the skill to make things happen, then he should not be
elevated to a leadership position.
Masonry can once again provide men with status, prestige
Thatís possible because the times are right. But it will
only happen if we have leaders with courage and conviction.
So, whatís my advice? How do we get leaders who can make
a difference? Frankly, we need men who are willing to be daring. I
recommend this approach:
"If you have a good idea, go ahead and do it because it
is much easier to apologize than it is to ask permission."
I realize that such a strategy is subversive, but saving
our Fraternity makes it right for the times. In the same way, we must
start ignoring the past and start adoring the future. Weíve looked in the
Ďrear-viewí mirror long enough.
Finally, we must stop worrying about how important we are
and start thinking seriously about what itís going to take to save
Freemasonry. Thatís leadership. And thatís setting the pace.
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