Thursday, February 26, 2009

Bridge Builder


The title of the 19th Degree in the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite (SJ) is Grand Pontiff. Many outside of masonry chafe at the title and use it as evidence that masonry is preaching its own religion or somehow anti-christian. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Rex Hutchens points out in Bridge to Light that the etymology of the word shows its true meaning and why it was chosen by Pike as the title for the degree. The word is derived from the Latin root words pons, "bridge" + facere, "to do" or "to make", with a literal meaning of "bridge-builder".

Pike begins the 19th chapter of Morals and Dogma with the following:

"The true Mason labors for the benefit of those who are to come after him ..."

In essence, the Mason - in labouring for the benefit of those who are to come - builds a bridge from the present to the future. But its much more than that. He's also extending the bridge that was started generations ago, continuing the work of others, adding his individual touches, and passing it along to those that will come after him. Culturally, we can accomplish much more by looking at an issue from a multi-generational point of view.

As leaders, do we not strive to leave things better than we found them? It's our responsibility to our investors, to our employers, to our customers, and to ourselves to continuously improve. Improve products, services, and ourselves. Everywhere in our country, we can see examples of this ... if we just look for it.

Take Hickman's Family Farms as an example. It's a family owned business that was founded in Arizona in 1944. Bill and Gertie Hickman began something special with a few chickens and a single truck. Today, they're still family owned and operated - with houses holding almost a quarter of a million birds each. It certainly took a while, but the Hickman's children and grandchildren are enjoying the "shade of the trees" planted in the 40's. 

Now that's what I call multi-generational leadership. That's what I call "building bridges" to the future. 

It happens in our lives in subtle ways as well. Do we have enough saved for retirement? Do we have an adequate amount of insurance? Have we prepared a will? A leader thinks of these things and plans for them, factors them in now as well as tomorrow.

Leaders act as bridge builders in other ways as well. They build bridges between cultures, between departments, between employees ... between family and friends. Robert Lomas, in his book Freemasonry and the Birth of Modern Science illustrates this quality of leadership in the interplay between Catholics and Protestants in the English court and how masonry and masonic leadership was used to build bridges between the two camps, uniting them to defeat a common foe. Leaders find ways to bridge divides that separate people - getting them to work together and prosper. Thus, the bridge builder aids in increasing productivity and adds to the bottom line. In today's struggling economy, how important are the bridge builders? Will a bridge builder be seen as an asset or a liability when layoffs loom?

Think today about your role as bridge builder in the lives of those around you. Act as the Grand Pontiff - the great bridge builder - and watch the improvement that happens. It may be slow and subtle ... but it will pay off.

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