Freemason Acedemy
by Phillip J. Budo




Leadership and Freemasonry

The Howard Johnson story

Getting the Big Picture



Leadership and Freemasonry

A hundred years ago, Freemasonry was the vital heart of American society. It was the Freemasons who founded
the public school system and began fraternal organizations within the different industries. They were involved in the
founding of the Sons of Vulcan which evolved into the Ironworkers Union, the Knights of St. Crispin which evolved
into a Union for Shoemakers. Many other unions were founded by Freemasons including those of the Railroad Unions.
Even the powerful AFL-CIO has its roots in the Noble Order of the Knights of Labor of America. Its’ demands for an
eight hour work day, the end of child labor and equal pay for equal work became the cornerstones of the 20th Century
labor movement.

Fraternal organizations helped lay the infra-structure necessary to successfully organize labor. In their Lodges,
members learned leadership, procedures, and techniques that would ultimately be successfully transposed and applied
to organizing labor.

        Using the Masonic obligations to be exemplary in their civic duties, the fraternal lodges promoted law, civil
government, and the betterment of the community. The Freemasons had come west with the army, or in search
of land or gold. They met other Freemasons and began a local lodge. As new members joined they saw many new
applications of the order and some went on to found other fraternal orders. The leadership skills taught in the Lodge
were so important that for 100 years every officer in the Mexican Army had to be a Freemason.

        The problems started to occur when the lodges became too busy and lost sight of the fact of what they were
supposed to be doing; teaching. Like the story of Howard Johnson, they had become a victim of their own success
and did not heed the warnings of those in the craft who did notice what was going on.

        In 1980 my friend and Brother, John Hilliard wrote: “Masonry in its greatest and happiest aspect is but a school
of human relations; in its most sublime attribute, but an extended family. I believe that it is the greatest fraternal
complex ever devised by the mind of man, and perhaps still in its infancy, the exaggerations of its antiquity
by many of its addled and more dotty historians, notwithstanding.” 




Is teaching human relations a form of leadership?

One definition of leadership is the “process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and
support of others in the accomplishment of a common task”. Another more meaningful one for people working
together as a team might be the one given by Alan Keith of Genentech who said "Leadership is ultimately about
creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen." Both these two definitions
fit into the context of Human relations. However, personally, I prefer the one used by one of the great sales trainers
of the 20th century, Zig Ziglar who said “You can get anything you want out of life by helping others get what they want!”

All of which leads me back to the life skills taught within the philosophies and rituals of Freemasonry.


The Howard Johnston Story

          If Freemasonry was an important school of leadership a hundred years ago and if the skills it taught
are still valid, then why aren’t we more successful? The short answer is that we stopped teaching. We forgot a very   
important lesson leadership is a never-ending job. It’s like tending your garden if you do not keep at it, the weeds
take over.

Let me give you an example of how that happen in business.

In 1925, 27 year-old Howard Johnson took over the operation of a small patent medicine store, soda
fountain and newsstand.  He added hamburgers and other foods, carefully making sure of the best quality of content
and preparation.  Soon his little store had become a restaurant and Johnson then decided that the food business
was a way to greater success.          In 1929, he opened another restaurant in downtown Quincy, Massachusetts, and
began planning further expansion.

Business boomed and the Howard Johnson Company continued to grow.  In 1965, sales exceeded those
of McDonald's, Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken

HoJo's was the second largest food feeder in the U.S.,
second only to the U.S. Army.  By the late 1970's, HoJo's empire
consisted of over 1,000 restaurants, more than 500 motor lodges,
vending and turnpike operations and a manufacturing and

Then the corporation decided to cut back on advertising
since HoJo’s was already a household name. Improvements and
remodels were put off and as the company’s revenue began to
fall it was ignored as a normal business cycle.  While HoJo slept,
the competition began to take over. The giant which had dominated
the industry for decades slowly faded into the background.

They had forgotten that leadership needs to be a full-time job.  


The leadership principles of the First Degree:

          I have always been amazed by the inability of many Masonic leaders who fail to practice the leadership skills
which are taught in the rituals and philosophies of Freemasonry.

Regardless of where in the world Freemasonry is practiced, the principles are the same. To be sure, they are
far more dramatically portrayed in countries like Mexico which places the candidate for the first degree in a chamber
of reflection and tell him to write his will. In  the United States, such behavior is not the norm. However, regardless of
how they are presented, the lessons are still there and still as viable today as they were 300 years ago. They begin
even before the candidate ever sees the inside of a lodge room.


Bonding and trust the first step in becoming a leader:

By being blindfolded and led into a room and there being handed over to a person he has never met, the candidate
is taught the first lesson in teamwork, learning to trust someone else with his own welfare.

Building trust is the basis for all cooperative effort whether it is an executive committee performing a difficult
negotiation or a Navy Seal combat team. Each team member has to know that the other team members trust his judgment
and in turn expect him to trust them. This is not a skill learned from books but one which comes from practicing discipline,
coordination and reliance on each member of the team.

In Freemasonry this process which starts with the candidates first step into the unknown, like every other skill he is
about to learn, will take from seven to eight years to fully develop, which means that each member of the team (Lodge)
must become both student and teacher. Long term mentoring is not an option, but a necessity for success in any field.


The beginning of discipline and the development of integrity:

Before any person can learn to lead he must first learn to follow orders or instructions. If you have ever served
in the military you will always remember your very rude entry into military life, whether it was your first day at a Military
Academy or your first day at boot camp, the experience was very much the same and it seemed to last forever. You
were stripped of your personality, told when to speak, eat, sleep, how to dress, from your close-cut hairstyle to your
underwear, and what and when to do anything. You were now the lowest of the low and your only purpose in life was to
conform to what is expected of you as part of your team.

Discipline begins in Freemasonry by not allowing the candidate to speak until spoken to by the Master of the
Lodge. He is questioned by the officers of the lodge but as in the military he is not to respond unless he is specifically
told to. He keeps silent. He is warned by the Master of the Lodge that he must make a solemn obligation to hold inviolate
the secrets of Freemasonry under penalty of death. These penalties today are symbolic but there have been times
past where the fraternity has been persecuted, and indeed there are countries today where the disclosure of a person
being a Freemason can lead to arrest or worse. However, in America it is a symbolic reminder of those war time slogans
such as “loose lips sink ships”.

The leadership quality taught by this technique is a development of discipline and integrity.

·        Can this team member be trusted to live up to his word?

·        If he says he will do something, can he be relied upon to accomplish the job?

No other attribute is more important in the development of a leader than that of being known as someone people
can trust. A leader who does not inspire trust cannot lead anyone and will be forgotten as soon as they leave the room.


Getting the big picture:

A team can only function if every member of that team shares the same vision. Some leadership courses call this
creating a vision, developing common ground, or getting the big picture. In his Masonic leadership course, Allen Roberts
called it getting more light in Masonry.  In Freemasonry “Light” is a synonym for truth or knowledge, so we can clearly see
all these descriptions have the same meaning.

One of the first jobs of any team leader faces is to get the newest member of his team to understand the teams’
mission, what its goals are, why they are important and what their role in the team is. They need to be assured that they
will be properly trained and prepared so that they can perform their duties on the team properly. This usually entails
working with more experienced members of the team and studying procedure manuals until their job becomes second
nature to them.  

In his first two hours in a Lodge Room, the candidate spends much of his time being deluged with information
and instructions. He is informed about the higher levels of morality and ethics he is now obligated to live up to as a
Freemason. He is expected to live his life from now on so his record is spotless and pure.  He is told about the glorious
history of the Fraternity which has for its foundation the practice of moral and social virtues. He is told of his obligation to
not only his new Brothers in his Lodge but also to his God, country and his neighbor as well as to himself. No man should
aspire to lead unless he can be a living example of the principles he extols. Once again the entire initial experience of
the first degree is informing the candidate about the character he is now expected to develop in order to be an
effective leader and contributor to the management team.

Unfortunately, the high turnover in the craft is a good indicator that we are doing a poor job of training and
communication the big picture and if a team member does not feel comfortable in their position they will not stay. 


A Reality check on Masonic Leadership: 

In Masonic Life Leadership Allen Roberts echoes the same concerns faced by every manager and executive
of an organization regardless of whether it is small Masonic Lodge or a huge corporations like Howard Johnsons.

 The search for more and more light (knowledge) goes on day after day. The cost runs into billions of
dollars year after year. Even in industry, which might be termed a post-educational institution, the quest for
knowledge is encouraged and supported by tremendous sums of money.In industry and non-profit
organizations the search has differing terms. Two of the most popular are "research and development"
and "training programs." As the term "training programs" most closely fits Freemasonry's search for more
ight, for survival, we'll use it here.

Do we really need training programs in Masonry? Do we really need to seek and spread more
light? For some the answer may be "no," but if any of the following are present, the answer must be "yes":

·                     Attendance at meetings is poor

·                     Loss of membership is experienced

·                     Requests for demits are numerous

·                     Suspensions for any reason are high

·                     The degree work is poor

·                     Candidates don't return for the Second and Third Degree

·                     Programs are poor or non-existent

·                     The Lodge is not considered a vital part of the community

·                     Reports to the Grand Lodge are not made promptly

·                     Errors in reports are numerous

·                     District or area Conferences are sparsely attended

·                     The Lodge is making members instead of Master Masons


Other items can be added to the list. Each Lodge should determine where its own weaknesses
are. If it is then determined that a search for more light is needed, some kind of training program will be
required. It must be emphasized that no training program can be successful unless the "top" is fully "sold"
on the need. Unless the Master and' his officers are in agreement that more knowledge about Freemasonry
is essential, any program is doomed to failure


We could substitute any organization in the place of Freemasonry in Allen’s comments. The concerns are still
the same whether we are discussing the performance of a company as a whole, a branch office or a particular management


·        Does everyone have the big picture?

·        Are all the team members committed to the team goals? If not, why not, and how can it be corrected?

·        Is the team operating efficiently, is there a chokepoint in the flow of information?

·        Are the duties clearly explained and delegated?

·        Is the team leader providing inspiration or confusion by lack of interest or attempting to micro-manage everything?


The Law of the Big Picture:

The second of Maxwell’s laws of teamwork brings us back to the First Degree. He calls it The Law of the Big Picture.
In other courses it may be described as having a shared image.

In the First Degree, much of the work focuses on attempting to give the candidate a glimpse of Freemasonry’s big
picture. Why do we spend so much of the degree on this? Wouldn’t it be easier if we assigned someone to work with
him outside of the lodge? If we shorten up the ceremony, everyone can go home or wherever they want to be.

I have sat in lodges where they have a break midway through the degree and when the Degree resumes 15 minutes
 late, half of the members have left the lodge. Is this an indication that our ritual is too long or is it something else? Could
it be that the people who leave have decided that there isn’t anything there for them to learn. They have seen the degree
countless times and it is old news- there isn’t anything in it for them. For one thing they are not involved and if things do not
resolve around them they are not interested in sticking around.

In his book, Maxwell describes meeting a man wearing a tee-shirt with a message on it reading: “My idea of a team
is a bunch of people doing what I tell them to do.”

A team is not supposed to be operating as a tool for the implementation of one person’s ideas but as a cooperative

Recently I participated as a team member in a Masonic function. At one point a discussion was going on about
how to arrange the equipment which would be needed that day. When the team leader was asked for his thoughts he said
that he would let everyone have their say and then he would tell them how it will be done.  The words had scarcely left his
mouth when it was apparent to everyone except the speaker that the team’s level of enthusiasm had just plummeted
through the floor. To make matter worse, the team leader did none of the work himself, electing to be the supervisor.

The lesson is obvious. It is impossible to get the big picture when you think you are the big picture. It’s all about
the team. The best leaders, the guys who build successful teams never forget that every person on the team has an important
role to play and each role contributes to the big picture whether the team is in sports, business, family, ministry or a
Lodge of Freemasons. The true function of a team leader is not to supervise the team but to serve the team. Nothing
inspires more respect than a leader who rolls up his sleeves and goes to work.

When Shakespeare wrote Henry V he depicted the young charismatic king dressing as an ordinary soldier and
mixing with his men on the eve of a battle which to all intents and purposes could not be won. They were hopelessly outnumbered
and every man expected they would die the next day. Yet the king sat with his men in the mud and gave their lives meaning.
As a result, the next day 3,000 men defeated an army ten times their size. It is amazing what men can do when they share
the same vision.

Today, men like Bill Gates, built their empires by creating an work atmosphere and environment which allowed
their employees to interface very closely and develop the corporate vision together.

This is what Allen Roberts had to say about the big picture in 1986:

It is impossible for one person to list all the situations peculiar to the 16,000 Lodges throughout
the United States. Not even Freemasonry's legendary first Grand Master, Solomon, with all of his wisdom,
could find all of the answers. Every person is different; every Jurisdiction has its own peculiarities; every
Lodge has a differing number of members and location; so every Lodge must determine its own
needs. . .
Actually, the sources for assistance from non-Masons and Masons are plentiful. The leadership
of every Lodge can find the help required to set up any program desired.

Every Lodge has members who will be willing to take the time necessary to learn how to be a
Masonic teacher. The ritualistic instructors have proven this. In those few Lodges where Masonic education
has been put to work, other instructors have been available. All it really takes is a Master eager, anxious, and
willing to spread the Light of Freemasonry to his members. It would be impossible to hire in the open market
the type of talent needed to carry out the required training activities. There isn't enough money in the
treasury of any Lodge for that. But Freemasonry is fortunate. It has all the talent it needs among its
members. It just isn't being used as it should be. It hasn't been put to work!


If you can see and understand the big picture you are more able to fit into it. You can see what is needed to
accomplish the task, and who is best qualified to do the work. Multi-millionaire Ray Kroc is fond of saying that at
McDonalds “none of us is more important than the rest of us”. In Freemasonry we close the Lodge by reminding
ourselves that we all meet on the level, act towards each other by the plumb, which is an instrument used to make
sure a building is vertically straight, and part on the level. When we all keep this in mind we put ourselves in a
better position to be able to see the big picture.

 In the next lesson we will look at ways to communicate your teams’ vision.


 Recommended reading:  


The 17 indisputable Laws of Teamwork by John C. Maxwell (Pages 1-27)

The Search for Leadership  by Allen E Roberts. (pages 1-29)





Becoming a Better Team Member


Write down the three most important goals you are working toward achieving right now:


1.  _____________________________________________________________________________________________


2. ______________________________________________________________________________________________

3. _______________________________________________________________________________________ ______

        Now reflect on how you are working towards these goals and what approach you have been taking to
achieve them.

Are you trying to do it by yourself?

If you are not part of a team, figure out why?

Is it a matter of ego?

Are you insecure?

Does your temperament incline you to work alone?


If you answered yes to one of these questions you have work to do. The sooner you become part of a
team the sooner
you will be able to achieve your goals.

        Think about the greatest dream you have for your life then ask yourself,

  • Is it bigger than I am?
  • Does it benefit others as well as me?
  • Is it worth dedicating part of my life to?


If you answered yes to any of these questions, then think about what kinds of people you need to join
with to achieve that dream. Make a list of like-minded people you know who might want to join with you
in the process.
Then invite them to take the journey with you. If they do not wish to be a part of your team ask them if they
would be willing to serve as part of your Mastermind (support) group, people you can have a cup of coffee
with to discuss your ideas with. Be always on the look for new people to be part of the team.




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