The Howard Johnson
Getting the Big
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
into a Union for Shoemakers. Many other unions were
founded by Freemasons including those of the Railroad
Even the powerful AFL-CIO has its roots in the Noble
Order of the Knights of Labor of America. Its’ demands
eight hour work day, the end of child labor and equal
pay for equal work became the cornerstones of the 20th
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
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
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
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,
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
fit into the context of Human relations. However,
personally, I prefer the one used by one of the great
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.
Howard Johnston Story
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
important lesson leadership is a never-ending job. It’s
like tending your garden if you do not keep at it, the
Let me give you
an example of how that happen in business.
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
and preparation. Soon his little store had become a
restaurant and Johnson then decided that the food
was a way to greater success. In 1929, he
opened another restaurant in downtown Quincy,
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,
consisted of over 1,000 restaurants, more than 500 motor
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
remodels were put off and as the company’s revenue began
fall it was ignored as a normal business cycle.
While HoJo slept,
the competition began to take over. The giant which had
the industry for decades slowly faded into the
They had forgotten that leadership needs to be a
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
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
of reflection and tell him to write his will. In the
United States, such behavior is not the norm. However,
how they are presented, the lessons are still there and
still as viable today as they were 300 years ago. They
even before the candidate ever sees the inside of a
Bonding and trust the first step in becoming a leader:
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
and in turn expect him to trust them. This is not a
skill learned from books but one which comes from
coordination and reliance on each member of the team.
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
must become both student and teacher. Long term
mentoring is not an option, but a necessity for success
in any field.
beginning of discipline and the development of
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.
were stripped of your personality, told when to speak,
eat, sleep, how to dress, from your close-cut hairstyle
underwear, and what and when to do anything. You were
now the lowest of the low and your only purpose in life
conform to what is expected of you as part of your team.
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
told to. He keeps silent. He is warned by the Master of
the Lodge that he must make a solemn obligation to hold
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
being a Freemason can lead to arrest or worse. However,
in America it is a symbolic reminder of those war time
such as “loose lips sink ships”.
quality taught by this technique is a development of
discipline and integrity.
team member be trusted to live up to his word?
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
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
called it getting more light in Masonry. In Freemasonry
“Light” is a synonym for truth or knowledge, so we can
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
will be properly trained and prepared so that they can
perform their duties on the team properly. This usually
working with more experienced members of the team and
studying procedure manuals until their job becomes
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
Freemason. He is expected to live his life from now on
so his record is spotless and pure. He is told about
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
aspire to lead unless he can be a living example of the
principles he extols. Once again the entire initial
the first degree is informing the candidate about the
character he is now expected to develop in order to be
effective leader and contributor to the management team.
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
Reality check on Masonic Leadership:
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
for more and more light
(knowledge) goes on day after day. The cost runs into
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
of membership is experienced
Requests for demits are numerous
Suspensions for any reason are high
degree work is poor
Candidates don't return for the Second and Third Degree
Programs are poor or non-existent
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
Lodge is making members instead of Master Masons
Other items can
be added to the list. Each Lodge should determine
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.
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
everyone have the big picture?
the team members committed to the team goals? If not,
why not, and how can it be corrected?
team operating efficiently, is there a chokepoint in the
flow of information?
duties clearly explained and delegated?
team leader providing inspiration or confusion by lack
of interest or attempting to micro-manage everything?
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
through the floor. To make matter worse, the team leader
did none of the work himself, electing to be the
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.
inspires more respect than a leader who rolls up his
sleeves and goes to work.
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
and every man expected they would die the next day. Yet
the king sat with his men in the mud and gave their
As a result, the next day 3,000 men defeated an army ten
times their size. It is amazing what men can do when
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:
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;
Lodge has a differing number of members and location; so
every Lodge must determine its own
needs. . .
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
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,
willing to spread the Light of Freemasonry to his
members. It would be impossible to hire in the open
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
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
sure a building is vertically straight, and part on the
level. When we all keep this in mind we put ourselves in
better position to be able to see the big picture.
In the next
lesson we will look at ways to communicate your teams’
The 17 indisputable Laws of Teamwork
by John C. Maxwell (Pages 1-27)
The Search for Leadership
by Allen E Roberts.
Better Team Member
Write down the three most important
goals you are working toward achieving right now:
reflect on how you are working towards these goals and
what approach you have been taking to
trying to do it by yourself?
If you are
not part of a team, figure out why?
Is it a
matter of ego?
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,
bigger than I am?
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.