Friday, February 27, 2009

Are you free?


Are you free? 

Many jurisdictions ask this question of a candidate upon his first entry of a lodge. Other jurisdictions clear this matter up in the investigation and merely report his status upon questioning. But, it's an interesting question to be asked.

Are you free?

Certainly we're not worried about admitting slaves in today's age. So what are we being asked? 

Are you free and unfettered; body, mind, and soul?

Wow! That's quite a set of questions. Are any of us? The chains that bind are unique to each of us, but why should a lodge's Deacon want to know such information before we are allowed to enter?

When requesting Secret clearance or higher, a person is thoroughly investigated. All ties, contacts, relatives, debt ... a complete profile is built of this person. Is he/she worthy of trust? The higher the level of clearance, the deeper the probe goes.

As a leader, you'll ask people to trust you. You'll ask them to put their lives in your hands, and with that, the lives of those that they love as well. If you are not free, are you worthy of that trust? Will you act in their best interests?

A classic example of this is the Madoff scandal. Was he free? Certainly, the evidence proves that he was not. His balance sheet was weighted so far in the negative ... yet he kept this fact from those that trusted him with their savings and their futures. He wasn't free, so he had to keep the stream of new money coming in to keep the illusion of freedom alive. But, as we've seen, it was just an illusion.

So, where does that leave the us? Think about the question, "are you free," when making decisions. See how much your freedom (or lack thereof) influences the decisions that you make as a leader. Look at the decisions made by other leaders and evaluate them based on the same question. It'll give you a whole new perspective on the decision making process.

something to consider

"Today Freemasonry lies in the hand of the modern man largely an unused tool, capable of great achievements for God, for country, for mankind, but doing very little. For one, I believe that circumstances may easily arise, when the highest and most sacred of all freedoms being threatened in this land, Freemasonry may be its most powerful defender, unifying all minds and commanding our best citizenship." - Bishop Potter, taken from The Builder Magazine, December 1915,  Volume 1 Number 15

Almost 100 years later, and Bishop Potter's words still ring true.

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.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Participation in the process is key

Greetings brothers and friends,

So much of today's learning is passive. Sit in a seminar, a classroom, a theatre, or watch on-line. It rarely puts all of your senses to work. What if you are a tactile learner - needing to get your hands on things to help you figure it out? What then?

Participation is the key. Getting involved with your development. Taking ownership of it. Taking it "by the horns." Being responsible for it. Albert Pike said, " ... [h]e who would become an accomplished Mason must not be content merely to hear, or even to understand, the lectures; he must, aided by them, and they having, as it were, marked out the way for him, study, interpret, and develop these symbols for himself." Take it and make it your own.

Whatever it is that you are doing, take it and make it your own. Participate in its success. Make its success your success. Master it, and thus master yourself. 

Leadership is certainly not a passive activity. Endeavour today to get off the sidelines and participate. Success is out there - you just have to go after it. Remember, a true leader is one who labours strenuously to help effect great purposes. Wouldn't you like to be that leader? If so, what are you waiting for? Participate.

A new beginning

Greetings Brothers and friends.

So many people have an adverse view of Masons and Masonry. I want to change that by opening up the discussion about what it is and what it isn't. Yes, I am a Mason. No, I won't be revealing any of the "secrets" of Masonry. But, in a way ... I'll be opening up the door of the lodge room to show Masonry in a different light. I'll be showing Masonry to be an operative science, even for speculative masons.

What do I mean by this? Simple. We're not hammering away at stones anymore. We're in the workplace, in the fields, on the streets ... in the everyday world. Masonry has helped us become better men, better employees, better husbands / fathers, and better warriors. In short, Masonry has helped us to become better leaders. Leaders of others and leaders of ourselves.

In the following posts, and in upcoming books and speaking engagements, I'll be opening the door to let the world see this aspect of the craft - Masonry as a Leadership Academy.

"A true Mason labors for the benefit of those who will come after him ... To plant the trees that, after we are dead, shall shelter our children, is as natural as to love the shade of those that our fathers planted." - Albert Pike