Leadership in Freemasonry compared to business

How does leadership differ between Freemasonry and business? First we should discuss leadership in general; what are the qualities required for great leadership? Much has been written on the subject of business leadership, the following is a list of 10  leadership qualities (but note the very first and last quality):

  1. Honesty & Integrity
  2. Confidence
  3. Inspire Others
  4. Commitment & Passion
  5. Good Communicator
  6. Decision Making Capabilities
  7. Accountability
  8. Delegation & Empowerment
  9. Creativity and Innovation
  10. Empathy

Just to reiterate number 1, Integrity & Honesty, and 10, Empathy

Often a Master in Business Administration (MBA) is one of the first qualifications of business management that is considered a necessity. Of course, it is useful, but is far from being essential as the subjects covered can be delegated to others in your business. An MBA covers most of the aspects required to run a good business, leadership is covered in each of the many phases (or subjects covered). The following is a list, similar to the above, but this list is for the qualities required of an MBA student:

  1. Commitment & Focus
  2. Communicative skills
  3. Creativity
  4. Decision Making Skills
  5. Discipline
  6. Entrepreneurship
  7. Ethics
  8. Leadership
  9. Logical Analysis
  10. Team-Oriented

So, does an MBA degree teach you to be a good Leader? It is the opinion of the writer that good leaders are born, but with MBA training they can become more focused. 

To run a successful business do you really need to understand just about every aspect covered in an MBA (for example: economics, law, business ethics, investment techniques, etc., the list is quite exhaustive). Indeed it is useful to understand their need within your business, and many of these qualities will be needed at the very top level of management, and is useful at the top of a Grand Lodge too, but an MBA qualification is not a requirement for a Grand Master, but many subjects will be required in both business and Freemasons’ leadership teams alike.

It is very important to note, that an MBA is extremely useful to have at senior management level in a business, but very few managers aspire (or even wish to aspire) to such a level, noting that an MBA is an administrative qualification, its vast subject matter covers all aspects of business administration. However, there is a major difference between a business and it’s managerial hierarchy and that of leadership in Freemasonry, as managers in business are only chosen for their qualities, whist “management” in Freemasonry is open to all its members (but certain qualities are required at Grand Master’s level and within the Grand Lodge “Leadership Team”).

Most of us who have worked in a company, large or small, accept and understand the role of management, recognise who is a great leader, and who really shouldn’t be there. In Freemasonry we recognise that all Freemasons can achieve the Master’s Chair if they so desire. In business, a poor manager works alone with little regard to his team members, whilst a great manager encourages, delegates and recognises the qualities within his team and assists in their ambitions, where their qualities match these ambitions. A poor manager commands, looks down on the team, seldom allows discussion (as this may uncover his weaknesses); he is aloof from his team, whilst a great manager knows his weaknesses and recognises where, among the team members, those weaknesses can be enhanced; he is a team member also.

So, much in the MBA is required to run a Grand Lodge, but leadership is not administration alone. Many of the Leadership Qualifications named at the start of this paper are desirable in a Grand Master, namely:

  1. Honesty & Integrity
  2. Confidence
  3. Commitment & Passion
  4. Good Communicator
  5. Decision Making Capabilities
  6. Accountability
  7. Empathy

The above specifies leadership qualities, the following describes the making of better people within Freemasonry, which can in turn just give the confidence some of us lack, whilst all good people usually have several of the other listed features.

Let’s now discuss leadership with respect to Freemasonry alone. To begin with, what is Freemasonry? A direct answer is “a peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols,” but that can be confusing to most, so here is a longer, more explanatory definition. In the words of the “life of a Freemason.”

The Life of a Freemason

You become a Freemason by asking, but it isn’t as simple as that, your integrity and honesty must first be confirmed, and your wife/partner (if you have one) must also agree to you joining as you are required to make a commitment to your Lodge. 

Entered Apprentice (Initiation)

The first stage, or degree, is your initiation; in Freemasonry we explain this as coming from ignorance to knowledge (the knowledge of yourself), or from darkness into light, the light of Freemasonry. You are taught that integrity and honesty are most important, you are given certain “secrets” which “on the violation of any of them you will be branded a wilfully perjured individual,,,” (these so called “secrets” must remain within the Lodge). You are given a Charge which points out, among many other things, that “no institution can boast a more solid foundation than that on which Freemasonry rests – the practice of every moral and social virtue,,,,” You are recommended to “consider the unerring standard of truth and justice,,,,” During the initiation, you are also taught to embrace the opportunity of practicing the virtue of charity should you ever meet a Freemason in distress who might solicit your assistance. Charity is at the heart of Freemasons, it covers all of society, not just Freemasonry. This sets the scene for the following degrees.

Fellowcraft (Passing)

In the second phase, or degree, is the Fellowcraft’s degree, here you are taught to explore the hidden mysteries of nature and science. This is how speculative Freemasonry began, as a quest to discover the hidden mysteries of the universe, of God. To some this can be interpreted as further discovery of yourself. 

Master Mason (Raising)

The third, and final degree, named the Masters  Mason Degree,  is where you become a full Freemason, there is no higher degree than that of a Master Mason (despite what other’s may imply). In the Master Mason’s degree you learn, or are reminded of, life’s journey, right to its end. Your are reminded of many things in this degree, but the main message is integrity and goodness. During the ritual you are “made to represent ,,, ,,,our Master, who lost his life as a consequence of his unshaken fidelity to the sacred trust imposed in him,,,”  You are taught to “be sure to perform your allotted task whilst it is yet day,” implying that it is the duty of every Freemason to follow the guidance of moral truth and virtue. To reach out to your fellow man (or woman) and inspire that on which Freemasonry rests (first degree, above). 

Of course, there is much, much more to all three degrees.

Having now reached the highest degree in Freemasonry, your journey fully begins, you are now enabled to embark on your journey to the Master’s Chair, which is the highest accolade your Lodge can bestow on you. This is your journey to leadership of your Lodge. There are several offices within Freemasonry that lead to the Master’s Chair, and they are Tyler (often performed permanently by a Past Master, but not always), Inner guard, Junior and Senior Deacon, Junior and Senior Warden, The Worshipful Master. Each of these offices lasts a full year. You will note that, including Tyler, you attain the Mastership of your Lodge in the  7th year (the 7th year after taking that first step in the officer trial), a number highly regarded amongst Freemasons. During your journey you will learn all of the words in each degree in a catechistic  (question and answer) manner, and in the form of a play. By the time you reach the Master’s Chair you will be fully conversant with the ritual, you should fully understand it as you have been taking each new Freemason through his three degrees whilst in each office. In this process your confidence will have grown, you will have been praised for you attempts no matter how good you have been at delivery, as every Freemason understands that it is effort and not being the best that is the mark of a virtuous person.

Now you have reached the Master’s Chair and you are now totally in charge of your Lodge. But, as in life (or as should be in life), nobody’s perfect and behind every successful leader is a good team, both junior and senior, so it is in this office that you realise that you have a team of juniors whom you lead and you have a team of “experts” behind you to assist and guide. That is all the Past Masters of the Lodge who have already completed the same journey, have understood the difficulties of being Master and are always there to offer their full support, even to take over should you be experiencing a “bad day.” Empathy is an important  part of being a Past Master, not every Past Master has empathy, but most have acquired some empathy during their journey. One main part of this journey is to improve the confidence you have in yourself, once your confidence has grown many more things become achievable (including leadership in business, no matter how low or high your status).

So, that is the journey that leads to the phrase “making good people better.” But the management structure of Freemasonry doesn’t end there.

In England and Wales we have Provincial, District (overseas) Grand Lodges as well as a Grand Lodge (UGLE), this just breaks down the many Lodges into collective groups. Each Province/ District has a similar role in leadership, both in financial management and guidance to the Lodges in their jurisdictions.  For the purpose of this essay we will jump to Grand Lodge, as in other territories Provincial/ District Grand Lodges are unnecessary.

The Twofold Leadership in Freemasonry, business and guidance. 

The business side of Freemasonry can be split into to groups (and in some areas overlapping groups): finances (including that involved in charity and care), the management of real estate and the maintenance of a core staff, not all staff need to be Freemasons (at Grand Lodge level). So, compared to a business, a Grand Lodge (and all the way down to Private Lodges, such as Neptune) have an amount of cash and real estate to manage (Neptune rents from another Lodge that owns the building). The real estate management requires a portion of the cash paid in as membership dues, the rest of the dues support the financing of Provincial and Grand Lodge. All Freemasons, include Provincial, District and Grand Lodge officers, pay membership dues. Charity is also a major part of Freemasonry that requires management at all levels, and this cash has been totally and voluntarily donated by the membership; sometimes charity is in the form of service. Recently, an additional part of the Grand Lodge leadership team is to “grow the business,” and to quell rumours and myths in order to challenge the view that Freemasonry is a “secret society.”

The guidance of the craft is the second, and probably most important, part of the function of Grand Lodge, Freemasonry is governed by a Book of Constitutions that was first written in 1723. During the course of the evolution of Freemasonry, the rules and charges in the original book have been absorbed into our rituals so, rather than have a set of club rules that govern the membership, it has been turned into a “morality play” such that it is better and more regularly explained to all brethren, new and old.  Today the Book of Constitutions is a set of guidelines on how to respond to every situation that may arise. There is a ban on any discussion of politics or religion within the Lodge. Also, any attempt at business, financial or personal gain, though connections of Lodge members (or members in other Lodges) is far more serious and is strictly forbidden within Freemasonry, with the guilty most likely expelled. Each Lodge can instigate such punishment under certain rules in the Book of Constitution or their own bylaws.

Freemasonry consists of men (and women) from all walks of life, for example, from a labourer or any unskilled worker through to skilled workers, holders of degrees, junior and senior management,  directors and even Royalty and any monotheistic religion. Any or all of each “class” of person can be members of the same Lodge, we do not segregate within Freemasonry, and within each Lodge all are deemed equal, no matter what your station in life may be (even if your own boss is a member). Any one of the membership can aspire to be Grand Master, but as this office does require certain very specific senior leadership skills, few of the variety of members would qualify for, or even desire, this position.

The Grand Master of English and Welsh Freemasons (UGLE) is His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent, who does take a keen interest in the running of Freemasonry. However, Grand Lodge also has a Pro Grand Master, whose responsibilities lie in the management of the “Leadership” team. In order to manage the financial side most roles would be permanent and paid employment, where specific skills are required, including but not necessarily, an MBA degree.  As stated, the financial side also includes charity, but here at national level (Grand Lodge), this is managed by a separate organisation, the Masonic Charitable Foundation, funded purely by voluntary donations from Freemasons, no outside money is used, and this is collected through Grand Lodge. Within each Lodge, Provincial, District Grand and Grand Lodge there is an appointed Almoner; his role being to assist Masons in distressed circumstances. This is also extended to any widow (widower in the case of Lady Freemasons), and in some circumstances the children of a Freemason. It goes without saying that within the family of a Freemason can be distressed circumstances, the whole family in need are supported. In this charitable foundations, funds are extended to Freemasons and non Freemasons alike. (See Testimonials here: https://www.ugle.org.uk/charity/testimonials)

In conclusion

Leadership qualities must always be borne from integrity, honesty, empathy and a deep understanding of the goals of the organisation. A leader must be able to share with the team the aspirations of the business or organisation. Leadership is much more than business administration (MBA) as these tasks can be administered by the leadership team. This applies to the senior leadership within Freemasonry as in any other business. However, in Freemasonry compared to a business, the leaders are considered equal to all, and it is the office each occupies that is respected or revered. All leaders (including royalty) within Freemasonry have undertaken the same three degrees, and advanced through the same Lodge offices to reach the Master’s Chair as all others, wherein within a business it is often an outsider that is “brought in” to manage the business, the stock holders being the first consideration, the people employed apparently less important. 

Should a Grand Master, or more likely a Provincial/District Grand Master, visit a Private Lodge (like Neptune) he will enter the Lodge with his team with much pomp and ceremony, which, I must admit, all enjoy. He will immediately be offered “the gavel” by the Master of the Lodge, which is generally refused. He then takes his seat in the south east part of the Lodge and the business of the evening commences. He will laugh and joke as any ordinary member (often a lot more), and on retiring from the meeting,  join us at our Festive Board to dine as any other member.

These articles are written and researched by W Bro Steve Froggatt PPJGD, former Chaplain of Neptune Lodge No 5150 EC. Steve was initiated into Freemasonry in 1986.They do not represent the view of any Grand or Provincial Grand Lodge.

© Copyright 2019 Al-Khabar/Stephen Froggatt all rights reserved


About Steve

Steve is part of the publishing team of Al-Khabar. He was initiated into Neptune Lodge 5150 EC In 1986 and completed his third degree by being exalted into Neptune’s Royal Arch Chapter in 1989; he also enjoyed two successive years in the Chair of KS in 1993/4. He has also enjoyed being a Mark Master Mason and a Royal Ark Mariner. He has been honoured with the position of Past Provincial Deputy Grand Registrar. All the articles are his own and represent no Official Masonic Body

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