Relationships Build Strong Leaders

RICHARD H. RYDER (January, 2017)

This is the first in a series of occasional articles focusing on the application of leadership skills to Freemasonry.  Whether you are new to the Craft, a seasoned Mason, a line officer, event organizer, or lodge Master you will receive useful information to help you demonstrate leadership.  Contrary to popular opinion, effective leaders are not born; they grow, with experience, into the role.

I’ve always liked Dwight Eisenhower’s definition of leadership: “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” What I love about it is the simplicity of both the sentence and the image.  Remember, Eisenhower is the general who inspired 156,000 troops from multiple armed forces to lay their lives on the line during D-Day.  Our tasks are less consequential, but still important.

In a volunteer organization like Freemasonry, leadership is more about persuasion than coercion.  It is true that you get more bees with honey than you do with vinegar, especially when leading men who voluntarily give of their time and talents to continue the traditions of our Fraternity.

At its core, leadership is about respect and forming relationships, where equality exists between individuals regardless of the organizational hierarchy.  Once a strong relationship of respect and equality exists, the leader has a firm foundation on which to promote his ideas and lead others toward a common goal.  People are more apt to follow someone whom they respect and who reciprocates respect, someone who has built bridges of relationships, and someone who talks “with” them and not “at” them, someone who praises in public and criticizes in private.

Leadership is not the same as management.  I’ve seen plenty of managers who can’t lead and leaders who can’t manage.  Having both traits is true talent.  As Admiral Grace Hopper was fond of saying, “managers manage things; leaders lead people”; which gets us back to relationships, by far the most important skill in a leader’s tool box. Without the soft skills of relationship building a manger will never attain the position of an inspiring leader.

This series of articles is meant to get you thinking about the leader you are and want to be.  None of the articles are complete essays on a given leadership topic.  Instead, each article is meant to get you thinking about how you can improve yourself and hopefully will motivate you to self-study.  Maybe these articles will illicit discussion among those of you who want to improve the quality of leadership within your lodges. My ultimate hope is that these articles will form a leadership body of knowledge within and among individuals that will strengthen and enrich our Fraternity.