Grand LEO – May 2023

Leadership in Masonry: The Importance of Travel

One of the great necessities of operational Masons was the need to travel.  This is a key piece of the origin story of our craft and translates into a great privilege that we enjoy today:  we enjoy the ability to visit other lodges.  I am sad to report it took me too long in my own Masonic journey to understand the importance of travel, or to capitalize and benefit from this great privilege.  It is my hope that I can help drive home what I see as its importance in this article.

Over the past months, WB Any has been sharing great thoughts on Leadership.  His articles do a good job at exploring key concepts needed to be an effective leader.  That said, the question might arise, “How does one become a leader?”  I remember a time when I was beginning to get more responsibilities and I found myself pondering this exact question.

Title might be a natural answer to that question, and as described in Maxwell’s book, “The Five Levels of Leadership”, it is an important one – but not enough to stand on its own.  The very first step is to decide to be a leader, and to spend the time to get to know those around you and best understand how to help them.  Being a leader means having people that want to follow you, and as Simon Sinek points out, that usually translates into creating an environment of safety and trust.  As the Worshipful Master of a lodge is installed, he is reminded of this – most especially with the words, “… and ever mindful, that though elevated for a time above his fellows, he is elevated by them, and should cultivate everywhere and at all times, the Golden Tenets of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.”

Expanding on that, one of my heroes Steven Covey points out that we are limited by a world where we are forced to see through our own eyes.  His famous book, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, is broken into 3 sections focusing on internal transformation, transformation based on relationships, and continuous improvement.  He attributed his principal-based approaches for personal improvement on the words and teachings of Brother Benjamin Franklin.

One might ask, “What does this have to do with travel?”  In response, I would remind us that we rely on our 5 senses to understand the world.  The world is a vast and diverse place.  Plato’s parable of “the Cave” shows us how senses alone might not be enough, and how we can misinterpret the input we receive by limited understanding or perspective.  We have a much better chance of getting closer to the truth with different perspectives and understandings.  In my mind, this means if we aspire to learn more about truth, a continual journey of learning and relationships is needed.  This cannot happen without travel.

Modern technology is a wonderful tool; but it has its limitations.  It does not enable all the senses.  Additionally, it holds the potential for adding a second veil to the truth:  a reality filtered by editing processes which hides elements deemed unimportant or unpleasant by those transmitting the information.   … But we live in a world where these unpleasantries exist, and one might argue that these are important factors to consider and discuss.  The jewels of the Fellowcraft are priceless, and the order in which they are presented is equally as profound.   They always remind me to think about the relationship between listening and speaking; I would propose that this is key to leadership as well.

In summary, to become a leader in anything requires a decision to invest in adventure, and in the people that are around you – for better and for worse.  It is a decision to gather and consider multiple perspectives.  The best way I have found to do this is to travel, and to continually grow my network.  This does not happen by staying at home.  In your adventures, you will no doubt find people you want to follow.  If you are mindful of those that are around you, you will also likely find people that want to follow you.   Perspective is everything.  We belong to a wonderful fraternity full of different perspectives and backgrounds that are bound by a great set of principles.

If we have not met yet, my name is Brad.  I am humbled by the Brothers that surround me every day.  I am passionate about learning, getting to know those who are around me, and hearing their stories and what they have learned.  I will work hard to share that passion.   I hope to get to know you and invite you to join me on the wonderful adventures that are ahead of us.   

Bradley N. Phelps
Grand Lodge Education Officer
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