Richard H. Ryder, 2017
As Master of the lodge it is important to set high standards in every aspect of your responsibilities. You represent the lodge more than any other member and in your first few months they will gage the strength of the lodge from your words and actions. Visiting brethren draw conclusions about the lodge by how you perform ritual and floor work, and by your presence in the East. Non-masons draw conclusions about the Fraternity from your words and mannerisms. Most importantly, your line officers look to you for direction, inspiration, and leadership.
Wardens, especially, look toward the East to form impressions of how they will conduct themselves during their own term. They will measure you against predecessors and Masters from other lodges. They will look to you for inspiration. They will view you as a model, either positive or negative, and as a barometer of lodge health.
Appointed officers will draw inspiration from your example as they decide if being a senior officer is worth the effort. They are in the formative years in their journey to the oriental chair. Do they see someone just putting in time to get a Past Master’s jewel? You have the power and the responsibility to reflect well in the East.
No one is more under a microscope in a lodge than the Master. You owe it to yourself and the lodge to reflect excellence in everything you do, inside and outside the walls of the lodge room. You WILL make mistakes; you’re only human. However, those on the sidelines can readily distinguish between a Master who puts in the time and effort to excel, and stumbles now and then; and a master who is just warming a seat without dedication to his responsibilities.
Being a Master is more than a role; it is a responsibility, a profound responsibility to do more than manage daily events. You are, first and foremost, a leader. As such you have the power, by example, to positively direct the hearts and minds of every member, to inspire line officers, and strengthen the lodge for several years. You worked hard to gain the trust of the membership, so demonstrate, in everything you do, the leadership those members sought and deserve.
To help you visualize leadership traits consider the following:
- Be prepared prior to monthly meetings. Know your agenda and write it down. Anticipate issues and problems that may arise, along with possible responses
- A written meeting agenda allows you to run your meeting with confidence and in an orderly sequence. Surprises and lapses of memory are minimized, allowing you to concentrate on what you need to do and say
- Know the flow of the degree; that is, the sequence of events. You don’t need to know every word of ritual for you and all officers, but you need to know and be able to direct the floor work. You are responsible for the success of the degree. For example, how does the degree work begin? When do the stewards begin their work? When do you rap the gavel? When does the Marshal open and close the lights? How is the District Deputy received? What is the shortest way to open and close the Lodge? Being aware of the sequence of events and making sure the officers know them will ensure a better meeting and a better degree. If you need help, make sure you have an experienced ‘right hand man’ or mentor to assist in this area
- Perfect ritual is enviable, but hyper-focusing on it is counter-productive and creates tension within the ranks of your officers. You should always encourage the best ritual presentation for you and others, constantly seeking to improve all aspects of it. As you and your officers strive to improve, seek the assistance of more proficient members to fill gaps, but don’t use them to shirk officer responsibility to do well themselves. Know your limitations and the limitations of your officers, constantly setting an example of improvement to others, and seek help when needed
- Dress the part. How you dress and present yourself, in and outside the lodge, says a great deal about you and the lodge. Being well groomed and well-dressed sends a message that you take your role seriously. You represent the lodge more than anyone else; reflect it well
- Always speak clearly and concisely, and project your voice. Think before speaking and anticipate how others will receive and interpret your words. Know your material by preparing ahead of time whenever possible. Seek feedback from respected and trusted lodge members on items you plan to present
- Stand and sit straight. Body language sends a message about your own self-respect and the respect you have for the Lodge. Good posture displays confidence and encourages the same in others
- Be present at required events such as, but not limited to, monthly meetings, Lodge of Instruction, visits, and funeral services. There will be times when, for personal or professional reasons, you cannot attend an event; however, this should be the exception. Planning your year in advance will help to clear your schedule for important Masonic events. When you can’t attend something, arrange ahead of time for someone to represent you. Taking your role seriously in this area sends a strong message to your senior officers about your commitment to your duties and encourages them, by example, to do the same
- Be prompt on every occasion, for it demonstrates respect for others and their valuable time. It also sends a message that you are prepared and ready to make effective use of time. This is especially true for the monthly meeting. Starting on time, adhering to the schedule, and using allotted time efficiently sends a message that you are in control and confident
- Demonstrate integrity in all aspect of your role
- Fulfill and follow-up on commitments to build trust and respect
- Expect and encourage the best in yourself and others