Grand Lodge Education Officer
Leadership in Freemasonry: Lessons from Military Service
Just as our rituals, customs, and traditions have often borrowed from multiple other teachings, philosophies, and even religious beliefs, it bears fruit for Masonic leaders to look to other groups to learn from their leadership teachings. As any Brother or Sister who is still serving their nation or has earned the title “Veteran” can tell you, the military begins teaching lessons in leadership very early on during initial training. That education does not stop during the entire course of service.
It’s worthwhile, then, to look at a few of the very many lessons in leadership that military experience teaches and see how well they fit into the life of a Masonic leader.
- Have A Vision: Successful military units have a leadership cadre that knows what they want to achieve for that unit and then sets out to make that vision for success attainable. Likewise, the Worshipful Master’s Trestle Board is not just a calendar schedule; it can be the Master’s vision. It establishes the tempo of your Lodge life for their year in the East. One way a Lodge can be successful is for the Worshipful Master to envision the events of the year as part of a seamless continuity, all aimed at a singular goal that can be communicated to the Brethren. With their cooperation, that goal can be achieved.
- Constantly Communicating: Besides external communications, which are fundamental for achieving a larger goal or assignment, the military experience emphasizes internal communications within the unit. Working together towards common goals, be it mentoring new Brothers or Sisters, raising funds for a worthwhile charitable purpose, or even just making a family picnic happen, a fundamental key is a constant flow of communications about the event through multiple platforms. E-mails, phone calls, texts, or even social media are all considered effective forms of communication, above and beyond the face-to-face communications achieved in Lodge or during the periods before or after our Communications. The more members know what is going on in their Lodge life, the more enthusiastic they will be.
- Empowerment Is Key: A bedrock principle in modern Western militaries is the reliance of even the most junior-ranking and newest member of a unit, ship, or squadron to do tasks they have been assigned to do. Those tasks grow in size and complexity as the member advances in the Armed Forces. Similarly, we build our future Lodge leaders in a stepping-stone manner. One crucial way we do that is to begin assigning the newest members to tasks and ensure they know we trust them to do that task. We can ask that they join more experienced members in a small matter, with those experienced members helping to show them how to achieve completion of the task that needs to be done, be it helping the Stewards prepare a post-Communication snack or making sure the proper materials are available for mentoring a new Brother or Sister. Early responsibility leads to more complex and essential assignments until, should they so choose, one joins the Lodge Line.
- Trust. Going hand-in-hand with the above comes the more challenging task of carefully planning yet avoiding “checking in” too frequently with those who’ve been asked to achieve a part of your plan or Trestle Board. Few things will cause a member to stop volunteering faster than knowing that every decision they make will be second-guessed and criticized for not being “perfect enough.” While striving for perfection in ritual work, for example, is a most laudable goal, having a Deacon, Warden, or Past Master critique the choice of paper napkins for a picnic or demand last-moment changes in how a pancake breakfast food line is set up will send the message that the member’s efforts aren’t worthy. They’ll think again when we ask them to do more for the Lodge.
These are just a mere handful of the many lessons that our Veteran members bring to the broad tent of Masonry. Let us translate those lessons into effective leadership within our own organizations and gain and profit thereby.
Seek More Light, Quarite plus lucem
WB Andrew Niemyer
Grand Lodge Education Officer
PM Ionic Lodge 186