Leadership in the Lodge
David Browning, PM, DDGL
In our Masonic Lodges we have a progressive line. This means that if you do your duty once you enter the line there is a high likelihood that you will progress through the line and in due time ultimately be elected the Master of the Lodge. There are appointed and elected officers. The appointed officers in the progressive line are the Junior Steward, Senior Steward, Junior Deacon, and Senior Deacon. The elected officers in the progressive line are the Junior Warden, Senior Warden, and the Master of the Lodge. The other appointed officers who do not progress through the line are the Tyler and Chaplain. The other elected officers who do not progress through the line are the Treasurer and Secretary. In fact, the Treasurer and Secretary officers are often filled by the same person for many consecutive years. In addition to those listed here, some jurisdictions may have additional officers that are not listed above.
The beauty of the progressive line is that it ensures that everyone with a desire is afforded the opportunity to rule and govern his lodge in due time. This opportunity is afforded to every Brother regardless of his social status, occupation, or education. This serves to eliminate or at least minimize the politics in play in the Lodge as well as reemphasize what we leanr upon entering the fraternity, that "it is the internal and not the external qualifications of a man that should recommend him to be made a Mason."
Serving the Lodge as the Master can be a real challenge for the Brother who has progressed through the line without fully learning the lessons of the proceeding stations and places due to a lack of interest or even worse, a complete lack of effort on his part. When this happens, it most likely will not only be a rough year for the elected Master, but it also has the potential to negatively affect the morale and well-being of the Lodge. This situation can be avoided if leadership is learned and practiced by each brother during their Masonic career in his journey to the East and by effectively seeking the good counsel of the Lodge's most valuabel resource, the Past Masters.
I would venture to say that leadership starts the day that we enter the Lodge and will continue until the day that we are called away to meet the Supreme Architect of the Universe. As newly made Masons we start to learn our catechisms, signs, due guards, tokens, and words, completely unaware that we are taking the first steps that will allow us to someday sit in the East as the Master of the lodge. How our coaches and mentors work with us is the first lesson that we are taught in leadership and will hopefully be a good lesson of how we will learn to lead and teach others. Thus, it is incumbent on the Lodge leaderhip, coaches, and mentors to lead by example and ensure that a new brother is learning not only those things that they must learn, such as the catechisms, but also the ins and outs of how the lodge operates.
In general, people have high expectations of leaders and it si proven that people will go out of their way for leaders with a proven track record and for those that are not afraid of rolling up their sleeves and getting things done. I believe the same to be true of us as Masons. We want our Master to show us that he really wants to be our Master not only during his time in teh East but during those years leading up to the East. There are several ways to demonstrate this desire to lead while progressing through the line. A few that quickly come to mind is to be active in Lodge fund raisers, planning dinners, performing degree work, visitation of other lodges, funerals for departed brethren, and other activities of the Lodge.
It is the duty of all officers, both appointed and elected, to have a firm grasp of their duties. This includes their parts in opening and closing the Lodge as well as knowing their parts in any degree work. Whether it is fair or not, a visitor often makes quick judgment on quality of the leadership in the Lodge based on how crisp the opening and closing of the lodge is and whether or not the officers are profession in the performance of their duties for any degree work. That is why it is imperative that every officer know their part and know it well.
At a minimum each officer should know not only his parts in any ritual, including opening and closing the Lodge, but also those of the officer above and below their current position. Staying current on teh parts of the officers that are coming through the line behind them will allow them to assist them as they need coaching and mentoring. Knowing the parts of the officers in line ahead of you will allow you to move up if there should be a void to fill which often happens due to unforeseen circumstances.
Another element that should not be overlooked is the valuable resource that Past Masters are to the Lodge, the elected and appointed officers, and more importantly to the Master of the Lodge. These experienced Brethren have a wealth of experience that they can share and they can help the Master effectively navigate challenges and obstacles. In addition, the Past Masters can offer different perspectives on issues that those who are new to Masonry may not have at this point in their Masonic careers. Overlooking or not utilizing these extremely valuable resources will only make a year in the East more difficult than it has to be.
[David Browning is the District Deputy Grand Lecturer for the 16th Masonic District of North Carolina.]