By Charles M. Harper
Illinois Master Mason
“Do you demonstrate moral leadership?” This was the title of an article written by Edward Platt in the June 6, 2012 business commentary section of The Daily Journal newspaper. The paper states that Dr. Piatt, Ed. D, is a manager with the State of Illinois with 27 years experience and is an adjunct professor of business in the MBA andMOL programs at Olivet Nazarene University. It also states he lectures frequently on emotional intelligence, organizational culture and leadership.
In the article, he references a statement from a leadership author, Mike King. Mr. King states, “As you know, leadership is about leading others and influencing them to behave a particular way. Moral leadership requires you to always look at what is right and lead others to the purpose. Moral choices come from a person’s character as well; they do not always come from rational thinking.”
Let us look at this statement in particular “Moral choices come from a person’s character as well.” At this point in the article, I have to wonder, how do you develop the character in the person to derive good moral to effectively lead? Is a person’s character taught? Can it be developed from its current state to a more evolved state?
The answer to these particular questions is yes and can be found within the wealth of knowledge contained in the teachings of our Masonic Institution. “We take good men and make them better” is the motto most heard to explain the purpose of our institution. More specifically, through the use of allegories, or codes, symbols and memorization of material in a specific manner, contained within our rituals, based on a belief in Deity, and a desire to understand the philosophic, social, spiritual and psychological way we reflect on our state of being, we can create a plan of growth that betters our character.
This better character is exhibited by our actions, which is illuminated from us, to our society. “Better men do make a better world.”
A Master Mason and Lodge Brother of mine was recently placed in a position of trainer of a new co-worker, for the instruction of the work procedures at his place of employment. The new co-worker was still on his probationary period. The behavior of this gentleman was off-putting to many of his co-workers and those in management that he could very easy be laid-off once the probation period passed.
My good Brother, also bothered by the gentleman’s behavior, sat him down, and in a friendly manner explained how his negative attitude and comments have been noticed by those around him and the negative effect it was having on future employment. Though only being a Master Mason for a year, he had put in a lot of time studying our lectures and discussing the philosophies with many other Brethren. This reflection of our studies paid off in how he related to the new co-worker. The co-worker did a 180° with his behavior. And, through the consistency of his newly adopted attitude, and by understanding the effect it was having on those around him, he has been able to sustain his employment.
The Brother called me while on his lunch break that day with a question. He asked, “When we are taught to circumscribe our actions and keep us within due bounds, that doesn’t just include Masons, does it?” “No” I said. “We must reflect on our character in relation to all mankind.” He then asked, “If we discover a person who in need of assistance, we must extend our hand, if we think we can be of assistance to them, right?” “Yes” I said. “Our ability to extend our hand is not limited to Masons alone, it is to all mankind.”
“I got it!” he exclaimed. “I really am starting to understand what it is to first be a Mason, then apply the teachings of “How” to become better by subduing my passions and carving away my superfluities and vices, and applying this knowledge in various situations in my everyday life!” Charity is not limited to financial giving, but the giving of assistance in the proper manner that enables another to become a better person as well. This Masonic Brother demonstrated Moral Leadership and it was made possible by the consistent display of good character.
But, exactly HOW is this feat of bettering a man’s character accomplished in the Fraternity of Freemasons? The answer is simple. The application of the answer takes each individual man a lifetime to accomplish.
If a man can identify where he stands in relation to his book of moral law, the Volume of the Sacred Law of his particular Faith, he can locate a point to begin the task of rectifying his behavior. One only needs to ask themselves, are they in accordance with the divine moral laws of his Faith? Once this task has been accomplished, the true work of improving character can begin. As my friend Dr. John S. Nagy, Master Mason and Masonic Author often says, “Now that you have crossed the bourn between knowing where your behavior was and where it needs to be improved, it is now time to put in the work. At this point, you can no longer behave as if you don’t know where your self-improvement begins.”
A man must then study the Masonic Rituals and Lectures. I mean, really study them. Dissect them, if you will. He must ask what they are saying, and more importantly, what they mean to him. The lectures are filled with timeless philosophy from the ancient Greek philosophers. It encompasses in its teachings historic lessons from various faiths. The symbolism is derived from various sources, in particular, ancient Egypt and Mayan civilizations. A man must consistently ask the question, “Why” and then seek the answers, using the road map located in Masonic symbolism and allegories.
Now that we have looked at the character, let us look at leadership. Let’s return to the aforementioned article. Piatt introduces power as it relates to leadership. He states, “All forms of leadership utilize the components of power; however, power does not need to be coercive, dictatorial or punitive to be effective within the organization. Power in the moral leadership model should be used in non-coercive manner to choreograph, mobilize, direct and guide your members to pursue the goals and objectives of the organization in an ethical manner.”
Piatt also goes on to state, “Power always acts within and is responsible to a field of responsibilities and tasks.” He notes a quote from leadership expert James MacGregor Burns, “Leadership must engage its followers, and not just merely direct them. Leaders must serve as models, not martinets.”
I recently attended the Grand Master’s Town Hall meeting of the Grand Lodge of Illinois in Champaign, Illinois. Along with many matters concerning the direction of our Grand Lodge, a focus presented that I feel is important is leadership training. The success of a Lodge is dependent strongly on the ability of the leader to motivate the Craft in a positive and fruitful direction.
Albert Pike, in the first chapter and first page of his book “Morals and Dogma” stated, “The blind force of the people is a force that must be economized, and also managed, as the blind force of steam, lifting the ponderous iron arms and turning the large wheels, is made to bore and rifle the cannon and to weave the most delicate lace. It must be regulated by Intellect. Intellect is to the people and the people’s force, what the slender needle of the compass is to the ship-its soul, always counseling the huge mass of wood and iron, and always pointing north.”
What this means is that leadership is power. However, that power must be controlled by intellect. This intellect, in relation to Freemasonry, is an understanding of our tenets, obligations and rules and an effective demonstration of them in practice, and not just lip service. The leadership of a lodge, is highly dependent on the understanding of the will of the Craft, the abilities of the Craft and the insight of the Worshipful Master to assemble his plans within due bounds of its Lodge members.
Our Masonic Lodges are composed of many brilliant men, both blue collar and white collar individuals. Each man brings a certain ability and talent to the Lodge. They also bring different opinions and levels of dedication. The leadership of the Lodge must effectively employ each Mason in relation to his talent for his best chance of success. It is like a puzzle. Each member is a piece that will fit together with the others. If the pieces are assembled in the right order, the picture, or goal of the Lodge for example, will show its true beauty when displayed in its entirety.
Deputy Grand Master Barry Weer stated at the Town Hall Meeting that we must practice leadership by succession if we are to have longevity in the positive forward direction of our Craft. In the same article from the Daily Journal I have earlier referenced there is a statement that supports Brother Weer’s statement. Leadership author Abraham Zaleznik states, “Leadership is based on a compact that binds those who lead with those who follow into the same moral, intellectual and emotional commitment.” Meaning, if I am the Junior Warden, it is not only my duty to support and learn from the Senior Warden and Worshipful Master, but I must also instruct the Senior Deacon on the performance and expectation of my office, which he is to next occupy.
One Brother should constantly be helping another Brother. Freemasonry is an unselfish institution. The partnership we enter into when we are advancing through the chairs is to support the officer in front of us and assist the officer following us. This partnership is not limited to the officers, but it must exemplified by the officers to the entire membership of the Craft. One cannot expect to lead with the respect of his Brethren if he has not exhibited the same humbleness of supporting the officer he has followed in his line of advancement to the Oriental Chair.
Piatt provides sound suggestions for effective leadership. He states:
· The leader must create and communicate a clear vision of what they and the organization stand for.
· The leader must try to make their fellow constituents aware that they are all stake-holders in a communal partnership that cannot succeed without their involvement and commitment.
· Leaders must advocate and demonstrate trust, which allows those relevant stakeholders in the organization to be treated and respond like adults.
· Leaders must allow those with whom they lead to make mistakes. This gives the followers the hope that they dare to succeed by learning from those mistakes, and therefore, not be afraid to take risks.
· And finally, as Burns stated, “leadership is grounded in conscious choices among real alternatives.”
Piatt closes his article with this statement, “The ultimate outcome is to lead with a moral compass and inspire others to follow that compass.”
We, as a Fraternity, are taught how to be good moral men. We are charged with exhibiting this as an example to society of how men should conduct themselves. We derive our moral compass by the Volume of Sacred Law. We enact the restraint of our passions through Masonic education and understanding through discussions, therefore increasing the goodness of the quality of our character. With this ever evolving good character, we are employed in our lodges with tasks that promote leadership qualities, such as serving on committee’s as chairmen, and/or working our way through the chairs as a Lodge Officer to one day being elected as a Worshipful Master of a Lodge.
In the book by J.G. Clawson entitled, “Level three leadership: Getting below the surface” Clawson wrote that the industrial Revolution shifted America’s economy from an agriculture base to an industrial one and, thereby, ushered in a change in how leaders would treat their followers. The Industrial Revolution created a paradigm shift to a new theory of leadership in which “common” people gained power by virtue of their skills.
Moral leadership is a steady evolving trait that is learned. The process of this learning is made available to every Mason starting from the Entered Apprentice Degree, through that of a Master Mason and beyond in his career in the Masonic Institution. The information for this learning is not new for Masons. It has been taught and practiced since time immemorial in every regular Masonic Lodge. As it seems society has just starting to see the benefit of moral leadership in business at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. All one needed to do was look at the Masonic Institution for guidance. We have been here teaching it the whole time.
I close with one of my favorite quotes about Freemasonry.
“Freemasonry embraces the highest moral laws and will bear the test of any system of ethics of philosophy ever promulgated for the uplift of man”
General US Army
Brother Charles M. Harper Sr
Illinois Master Mason