THE CRITICAL CHALLENGES FACING MASONIC LEADERSHIP
by Bro. Edward A Rund
Grand Lodge of A.F. & A.M. of the State of Illinois April 27, 1996 (Revised
April 24, 2014)
Source: Midnight Freemason Blog
May 10, 2014
Bro. Edward A. Rund is
a life member of Wilmette Lodge # 931 in Illinois, where he has served as Master
in 1986, 1996 and 2006. He holds several honorary memberships of various “Blue”
lodges around the area. He has worked in several areas of the Grand Lodge of
Illinois including; District Deputy, Representative to the Grand lodge of
Minnesota, Committee member, Chairman and Director of Masonic Education and was
awarded the Grand Masters Award of Merit in 2011. Brother Rund is also a member
of the Scottish Rite Valley of Chicago, the York Rite bodies including; the AMD,
the Sovereign College, Knight Masons and the Red Cross of Constantine. He
belongs to the OES as well. Brother Rund served as the Worshipful Master of the
Illinois Lodge of Research in 2001 and is a member of numerous other Masonic
related clubs and societies.
The challenges facing leaders of
any organization today are particularly daunting and, given the scope and
accelerating pace of changes impacting everyone, these challenges are likely to
become even more demanding in the years ahead. And yet, both leaders and
organization theorists continue to struggle with issues such as:
What is leadership and how is it
to be distinguished from management?
How do we best define the
purposes of an organization?
What draws people to particular
products and services?
How is a good following to be
As I have grappled with these
questions over the years, both in theory and practice, I have come to develop an
image of what I believe to be the essence of good leader behavior. If you will
imagine a large sheet of plate glass floating horizontally before you, upon
which I toss a handful of iron filings, you can see how these filings would fall
upon the glass in every conceivable direction. This is similar to the manner in
which people work together in most organizations, each attempting to achieve his
or her own agenda. However, if we were to take a strong magnet and pass it under
the glass from one side to the other, we would observe how each of those
filings, polarized by the force of the magnet, would all orient in one direction
along the path of the magnet. To me, good leadership comprises those magnetic
attitudes and behaviors which cause followers to orient all of their efforts in
the chosen direction. Those combined energies then move the organization
progressively toward accomplishing its mission and goals.
But what leader practices will
accomplish such a feat? My research over the past few years suggests that it
must begin with the clarification of purpose or mission, and the creation of a
shared vision. A vision that stands clearly before all members of the
organization such that they are powerfully drawn toward it and are willing to
work diligently to bring it to fruition. Is it easy, certainly not or there
would be a lot more successful leaders. This is not easy, but it is do-able with
patience, persistence, and continuity over time.
As Burt Nanus states in his book
entitled, Visionary Leadership, “There is no more powerful engine driving an
organization toward excellence and long-range success than an attractive,
worthwhile, and achievable vision of the future, widely shared.”
Societal Forces and Change
Few aspects of modern society seem
more pervasive and persistent than change. It has been well documented that the
pace of change that we experience in both our personal and work lives is
accelerating. The scope and pace of this change, although progressing at
different degrees in both developed and developing nations around the globe, has
reached a level and an interconnectedness that can best be described as
turbulent. Formal organizations, such as ours in particular, are subject to the
effects of frequent changes in our environment, whether they appear as threats
or as opportunities. Almost everyone is affected by the changes occurring all
around him. Just consider the explosive energy released in the past few years
related to the Internet. All of a sudden people who would never have thought of
owning a home computer are clambering to figure out how many megs of this and
how many mega-hertz of that they will need.
Forces of change are often
perceived as coming from the job, the community, the market place or even the
government; however, many of these forces are societal or cultural in origin.
Emil Durkheim, a nineteenth century French sociologist was one of the first to
recognize, for example, that suicide which was always believed to be an
individually triggered response was in fact a societally determined behavior.
That's right; given a particular time period and nation, it was possible to
statistically estimate the number of suicides that would occur based upon the
turmoil faced by that nation. Closer to home, consider the effect that
demographics of our aging population is having on American society, or the
preoccupation we have all experienced with the entertainment revolution.
Whatever one's particular preference, it can become an addictive escape from
life's problems. Raised on video games, our young
find baseball and probably Freemasonry a bit too slow moving.
In response to this pervasive
change, businesses and service organizations, as well as associations are findin
g they must continually adapt to a multiplicity of the socio-technical,
economic, and political changes if they are to survive and thrive. As Richard
Beckhard suggests, "This 'white water' turbulence is forcing most leaders to
examine the very essence of their organizations. They must examine their basic
purposes, their identities, and their relationships with customers or members,
competitors, and communities.
The most prevalent way for
organizations to adapt is through a process of planned change. When that process
includes a time perspective of four to six years, and assesses both internal
strengths and weaknesses as well as external threats and opportunities, it is
called strategic planning.
Current Problems and Issues
In examining current problems and
issues, I thought it might be instructive to use a “force field analysis”
approach, whereby we determine some of the forces that are keeping men from
joining and other forces that are promoting their candidacy in our Fraternity.
As mentioned earlier, changing demographics in regard to age distribution; life
spans; gender ratios; milestone ages such as entering marriage, becoming a
parent, career moves, and retiring are having a powerful impact on American
society and the way we are evolving. Increasing ethnic and cultural diversity,
single person child rearing, as well as breakdowns in such developmental
institutions as schools and churches are generating significant changes in our
system of values. Many of these changes are producing forces which work against
becoming a Mason.
There is the growing pressure of
time-demands as seen in the following examples:
Two wage-earner families that
must share in housekeeping and child rearing
Pressure to become a careerist,
sacrificing many life activities for the job, and even returning to school for
advanced education in
order to achieve promotions
Increasing competition for a
coming from the need or interest in joining certain organizations, the drive
for personal fitness, or the allure of entertainment in its all forms.
All of these consume the limited
time available in our 24-hour days. Additionally, the cultural encouragements to
be self- centered and to push for immediate gratification tend to diminish the
perceived values found in "joining" others or undertaking longer term
development activities, especially of a moral nature. Finally,
as we have seen lately in
anti-masonic communications or news of abuses within other philanthropic
charities that clearly cast aspersions on organizations such as ours.
Should all this seem to make
growth in Masonic membership appear hopeless? Let's look at the forces
might, prompt a man to join our gentle Craft. Given the hectic pace and growing
pressures of modern life, many men are looking for a place of solace and relief
from interpersonal politics.
They are looking for the
missing meaning or purpose in their lives and a way to replace the values that
give guidance, values that our superficial, throw-away society didn't provide
them as they were growing up. In essence, whether verbalized or not, they are
searching for the means to construct a life philosophy. Surprisingly, many men
describe the need to be of service to someone or some group other than
themselves or their immediate family. We see this confirmed in the growing
number of volunteer activities across the United States.
Remember, humans are social beings
at the core of their nature. Men, especially, long for attachment and the
positive affirmation that comes with “safe and dependable fellowship”. They
enjoy being with like-minded
people, yet having the opportunity to experience new ways of seeing things.
Obviously we, as members,
have come to know that Freemasonry provides an environment and opportunity to
meet many of these deeper needs. As such, we can take advantage of these forces.
We can propel our association if only by increasing our effectiveness in
spreading the word.
Finally, given the above considerations,
it would be helpful to look
at just what men do with their time at difference ages and when they might be
most receptive to our message. The Masonic Renewal Committee has done a fine job
in identifying and presenting this data. The important point to consider is that
while we cannot eliminate the forces working against us, once they are
identified, we can work together to counteract them.
Freemasonry as a Partial, yet Viable Solution
Let us begin by reviewing the
purposes of Freemasonry. At the heart of our Craft is the drive for moral
development, i.e., building individual character. To this I would add functional
development. That is first,
the practice of lifelong learning, not just in Freemasonry, but across the arts
and sciences and beyond. Secondly, it includes the use of critical thinking, or
the capacity to regularly examine the assumptions underlying what we read and
hear and question the validity of these assumptions. The next level of purpose
relates to the practical methods of changing and improving behavior. This is
done through regular fellowship with brethren, observing their good deportment
and patterning ours thereafter. Lastly, are the purposes of applying Masonic
standards of behavior in the community, being a good citizen, and extending
charity and acts of kindness wherever possible.
Herein lies what I believe
to be one of the ultimate purposes of Freemasonry as it is practiced today: The
collective good will and exemplary behavior of more and more Masons in the
community, so as to raise the general level of
quality throughout the world, making it a better and better place through the
leadership and inspiration of a multitude of Masons.
If we now line up these principles
of behavior and the environment they create where Masons are
gathered, we will find they match fairly closely with the needs of the typical
fellow as outlined above. Some examples might be, when men meet on the level and
enjoy the benefits of brotherly love, they no longer need to spend time and
energy keeping up their protective defenses. They can relax, be themselves, and
enjoy true companionship and the solace they deeply seek. Also, they can immerse
themselves in a rich and meaningful life philosophy and are likely to plumb its
the remainder of their lives,
thereby sustaining that guidance before them. Such guidance will assist in
making so many of those life choices which we all must face.
Now, it is unrealistic to expect
that Masonry can meet most of a person's needs, but it certainly can meet many
of the deeper, more spiritual ones. And there is no reason why Freemasonry
cannot work alongside other institutions also providing moral development and
Strategic Management for Grand and Local Lodges
For Freemasonry to do its good
work on an ever-increasing scale, it must survive, thrive, and become more
consistently visible as a force for good. As we continue to struggle with the
overall size of our membership rolls, we often hear the debate about the
importance of numbers. It is quite true that we need active, committed, and
increasingly exemplary members in the Craft. Without
a turnaround in the number
of active Masons, we may survive, but we will
not thrive and will not become the positive force we need to be in the
communities of our troubled world. How can we begin to achieve this turn-around,
especially in light of the hindering
presented earlier? I think one answer must be the application of a process,
which has, in many ways, brought American business back to the forefront in a
world of global competition.
That process is strategic
management. A concept that is not difficult to define or explain, but can be a
successfully implement for organizations typically resistant to change.
If you have spent even one active
year in Masonry, you know we are not adverse to borrowing ideas from one another
nor from the world at large, so I suggest, "Why not explore the potential
benefits of strategic management at both the local and Grand Lodge levels?"
Regrettably, most of us are familiar with and quite comfortable with thinking at
the operational level. We plan our Lodge year or establish an annual budget, but
strategic thinking takes some added effort. We will only become comfortable with
it through practice.
process strategic? First, it often incorporates a time frame of four to six
years, a period even in our turbulent times that permits reasonable forecasts of
Secondly, and quite importantly,
it takes careful consideration of the forces and circumstances in the external
environment beyond the organization's boundaries.
Third, the process then
compares this condition with that which is internal to the organization,
its strengths and
weaknesses. Fourth, the process calls for the identification or refinement of
the mission and creation of a vision or a word pict ure of what the members
would like to see their organization become at the end of the time period. A
series of change strategies are then developed to move the current organization
toward its vision. This is often done by identifying strategies that will best
position the organization for the future, i.e., building on its strengths and
attempting to correct its shortcomings, in order to take advantage of external
opportunities or to avoid the effects of outside threats and to consistently
achieve its mission. Strategic management, which
combining this planning with implementation, is not a mystical rite, but simply
a series of practical steps.
When leaders permit their
organizations to languish and decline both in membership and effectiveness, they
can har dly be considered leaders. Unfortunately, this is the all too familiar
case at all levels in Masonry today. We are suffering from a critical lack of
creative and results achieving leadership. I fervently believe that if both
Grand Lodge and lodge- level officers diligently commit to a strategic
management philosophy and practice, we would see the improvement results we all
dream of. It will not be easy. Freemasonry is a volunteer organization
(difficult to manage for results and usually having limited resources) and
filled with apathetic and untrained leaders. Even more complicating, those
leaders have a year or possible two in the "sun"; the sun of ego-inflating pomp,
ceremony, and fawning flattery. But, with due diligence, it can be done. It can
be done through professional leadership such as the insertion of a trained
executive director for a Grand jurisdiction, or it can be done by committing
your lodge to the practice of training your upcoming leaders and requiring them
to carry out strategic practices.
How to get underway? Following the
analysis of the jurisdiction's or lodge's environment and the internal
strengths/weaknesses, it seems best to start by clarifying the mission. It
should be member oriented, feasible, motivating, and specific in terms of
answering such questions as:
For improving the image, functioning, and
well-being of the jurisdiction or lodge, an invigorating, achievable vision
needs to be created through the participative involvement of as many active
members as possible. In this way, the essential ingredients of commitment and
ownership are obtained from the outset.
As with so much of life in the market place today,
the jurisdiction's or lodge's orientation must be fully customer (member)
driven; satisfying their needs and exceeding their expectations. We must realize
we are competing for their time, dollars, attention, and commitment.
Will strategic management work for Masonry?
Believe me; we need to make it work. I think Charles Darwin put this message
most succinctly, “Those who adapted best, found they replaced the rest .”
back to top