One of the most irritating and disconcerting things during any
Masonic meeting is when two or more Brethren on the sidelines get
into a sotto voce discussion. It's even worse when one of them is
hard of hearing. When this happens during degree work, it can throw
off even the best of ritualists. We've all seen--and heard--it
It is a distraction from the solemnity of the ritual. It's
discourteous to the degree team; it's robbing the candidate of the
benefit of what should be a meaningful experience; and it is
insulting to the Brethren who are trying to hear.
Unfortunately, the offending offensive Brethren don't seem to realize
that they are disturbing their colleagues. They don't realize that
they can be heard ..or, possibly they don't care.
How to overcome situations like this is a leadership problem which
faces many Masters. Should he rap the gavel and ask for quiet? Should
he have someone go over to the offending Brethren and ask them to be
quiet? Should he ask them to leave the lodge room? Or should he
The answers to these questions will depend on many factors. The
mantle of leadership comes in many guises. The personality of the
Master will to a large degree, dictate the manner in which he can
best cope with the situation. There are some with strong
authoritative images, who can maintain order merely by a meaningful
glance; while others must resort to persuasion, reasoning or other
We recognize that the Worshipful Master has the authority to take
strong action. His word is LAW. However, in the interest of "peace
and harmony" he will--if he is a good leader -- use only the "force"
necessary to overcome an infraction. Gentle persuasion is probably
the best tool he has. By "whispering wise words of counsel in the ear
of an erring Brother" or having it done, will usually secure the
We heard of one Grand Master who was speaking at a lodge in his own
Jurisdiction which had a reputation of sideline chatter. Even as he
was speaking, the lodge Secretary and the lodge Treasurer became
involved in a heated, whispered argument, which proved most
distracting. In fact, it became so disconcerting that the Grand
Master lost his train of thought. Rapping the gavel, he addressed the
talkative Brothers and sternly told them that he had been invited to
speak; that he intended to speak, but that he was not going to have
any competition. Upon resuming his prepared remarks, you could have
heard a pin drop, it was so quiet. In fact, the remainder of the
evening, the lodge maintained a subdued attitude. Everything was
As he left the temple, he said to himself that that was probably the
last time he would be invited to that lodge. How wrong he was. He
later learned that at the next meeting of the lodge, the Secretary
apologized to the Master and to the lodge for the embarrassment they
had caused and moved that the Grand Master be elected an Honorary
Member of the lodge. The Treasurer seconded the motion, which was
unanimously carried. He is the only Past Grand Master holding
Honorary Membership in that lodge.
In recounting that story, the Grand Master, now Past Grand Master,
uses it to illustrate several valid points of leadership. (I) Leaders
MUST lead! (2) When you are in the "right," you have nothing to fear.
(3) Leadership is expected and respected. (4) Harmony must prevail .
Courtesy - common courtesy - is a trait of mankind. It is a two-way
street. It is a hallmark
of a Mason.
We frequently see Masters who try too hard to be a "good old boy."
They joke too much, and in doing so, invite a great deal of sideline
chatter. Their meetings become .so informal that the lodge is
subjected to ridicule. Their lack of leadership is counter-
productive. Instead of creating an atmosphere of dignity and decorum,
they produce a comedy of contagious errors, which reflect upon the
character of the lodge, and frequently drives the Brethren away from
the lodge in droves.
Even worse, however, is the silver-tongued Master who is a born
ritualist. His intonations,
expression and sincerity are superb when he delivers the ritual. BUT,
as soon as the lodge is closed, he becomes a loud-mouthed, foul-
mouthed, woman-chasing rogue. He completely ignores his own beautiful
rendition of the charge "to put into practice outside the lodge,
those principles which are inculcated therein." This "Frankenstein
Monster" has the leadership potential of an "off mule."
Everyone in leadership positions in any field of endeavor, either
consciously or subconsciouly, develops a style of leadership
techniques which fit their personality. What is effective for one
might be an absolute flop for another. Some of the leadership
techniques could easily be described as gimmicks.
On the night of his installation, one Master announced that he was
assigning a specific task to each of the 200 members of the lodge,
which he would like to have completed within three months. What he
had done involved a great deal of planning which is an essential in
leadership. Over a period of months, he had developed a list of
things which needed to be done around the lodge. He charged one
member to see that each task was accomplished.
No one job involved much time or effort, but it did involve everyone.
Tacking down a piece of
upholstery on the Junior Warden's station; scrubbing the lavatory;
painting the stair rail; repairing strings on aprons; cleaning the
glass on the Past Master's pictures; replacing a frayed cord on the
Secretary's desk lamp; oiling the hinges on the Preparation Room
door; replacing a tile in the kitchen floor; having the window
curtains dry cleaned; helping the Secretary address envelopes;
preparing a telephone roster; refinishing the Stewards' and Deacons'
rods; developing a roster of Widows-and the list went on and on. Each
task was matched with a member's name, one who had the time and
ability to do it.
To coordinate and supervise the execution of the assignments, the
Master assigned his officers. This, too, is an important element of
In the following weeks, the lodge building was a hub-bub of activity,
as the members gathered to carry out their respective
responsibilities. Some came during the lunch hour, others in the
afternoon and some in the evening. Fellowship reigned as one Brother
helped the other. Wives frequently came along to help out, and often
brought along refreshments. Even after a job had been finished, many
came back to see what else was being done. A coffee-klatch developed.
Cribbage and pinochle games often started after the work was done.
The exciting thing that happened though, was the dramatic increase of
attendance at even the Stated Meetings. And, at these, the Master was
careful to exercise another trait of leadership by recognizing the
accomplishments of each member and showing appreciation. Not only did
the lodge building sparkle with its improvements, the members had
become Masons in the true sense of the word, with a genuine concern
for one another.
Just as the "spin-offs" of the Space Program have produced many
improvements in our daily lives, the "spin-offs" of this Master's
leadership have had a lasting effect upon the lodge and upon the
community. A Master is expected to show leadership. He did. And his
leadership is respected. However, his brand of leadership might not
The first impression many visiting Brethren get of a lodge is their
reception by the Tiler (or, if you prefer-Tyler). How meticulous is
he in checking your dues card; having you sign the register; seeing
if you can be avouched for or if you need the "dreaded Committee;"
providing an apron or in taking up "the word" can either "turn you
on" or "turn you off." His is a thankless-yet important-job, yet it
is somehow often ignored.
One Tiler in a small town lodge was getting more than his share of
harassment from one of the members one night. Finally, after about
five minutes of constant harangue, the Tiler became fed up. Picking
up the "implement of his office," he said,, "My job is to keep off
cowans and eavesdroppers. I wish to H------it was to keep off horses-
asses." It was crude. Yet it was forceful. It accomplished its
purpose. It was a form of leadership.
Much has been said and written about Masonic Leadership. (See Short
Talk Bulletins: 1-70, Lodge Leadership; 4-52, Masonic Man- ners; 2-
41, Master; 10-39, Art of Presiding; 2-48, Parliamentary Law in
Freemasonry; 10-74, Powers of the Worshipful Master.) (See Masonic
Digests: Leadership - how to Develop It; Leadership Training; Think
Tank for Junior Wardens.) There are no hard and fast rules.
Leadership is a matter of interest for every Mason. Leadership is
common courtesy. Leadership is a two-way street. Leadership is
We show our leadership by the way we act toward others. It's as
simple as setting the example by the way we conduct ourselves on the
sidelines, or as complicated as controlling the discussions on an
Each of us has some leadership potential or ability. It's a trait
worth developing and practicing. Just as a pair of pants won't fit
everyone, we must tailor our leadership abilities to fit our own
personalities.LONG ISLAND MASONS