What is Leadership?

by Senior Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott

What is leadership? I’ve been asking myself that repeatedly over the last couple of years. I hear the phrase uttered everyday in the workplace, on social media, in the masonic lodge, in Scouting and numerous other places and groups that I am associated with.

In 2018, I was fortunate to attend the Leadership Institute for Academic Librarians at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. We wasted no time in getting right into the definition of what leadership is. We talked about the great social changes that are sweeping across the nation that are impacting all of us and how we can be prepared to lead into the future.

We were provided a book to read in advance, Reframing Academic Leadership by Lee G. Bolman and Joan V. Gallos. While focused on an academic setting, the authors laid out an excellent case about what it means to reframe things in the context of leadership. Specifically, they put forth four leadership frames that we spent the course developing an in-depth understanding of; structural, human resources (people), political and symbolic.

We used each of these four frames to analyze case studies, develop a broad understanding of how they influence the organization and how using different perspectives can further our own leadership abilities within the organization. In other words, by reframing situations or experiences, we can exert our leadership in more effective ways that benefit both you as an individual and others around you.

I want to explore these four frames (over a series of articles) in the context of the masonic fraternity and how we can use reframing as a concept to grow as leaders, as an opportunity to open your mind to new ideas, developing strategies for personal growth and ultimately putting these ideas into action.

Before diving into the framework discussion, let me touch briefly on some leadership concepts. So back to the basic question, what is leadership? Here are a few notes and thoughts I jotted down to get us started:

  • Influence towards action
  • Ability to know thyself
  • Modeling appropriate behavior
  • Leveraging your self and others for an objective
  • Sense making – the big picture
  • Determining the direction
  • Flexibility – adaptability – sense of plans
  • Ability to bring people together
  • Motivating people

Let me expound on a few of these.

Influence towards action. I have always been an individual who is action oriented. I’ve not been one to just talk about things but want to see something get done. But I have also learned the hard way that I cannot do everything myself. Without the help from others, nothing I have achieved in life would have been possible. Influence towards action tells me that you can develop relationships with others, can present ideas that they can buy into and ultimately see these ideas come to fruition and implementation.

Modeling appropriate behavior. How can we expect to exert influence on others without modeling proper behavior? Have you ever known someone and thought or said I wish I was more like them? Was this because of something they did or perhaps just how they lead their life? There have been numerous men I have met in this fraternity that I always see modeling appropriate behavior. They are a positive influence on me and others. The behavior your modeling may impact people you’re not even aware of.

Sense making – the big picture. My definition of the big picture in Freemasonry is simple, the improvement of the individual man who then goes into society and makes a positive impact on his family and community. I find that very often we forget the big picture and get so lost in the details of business meetings, grand lodge debates, etc. that we need to step back and make sense of what is happening around us. Ask yourself at the next lodge meeting, is what your doing helping grow the individual member of the lodge, if not it’s time to step back and look at the big picture.

Ability to bring people together. I consider leadership a game of addition, not subtraction. Bringing people together around a unified goal is as much an art as a science. Can you articulate a clear vision of what you or your lodge is hoping to accomplish that will help inspire others to want to be part of it? When you approach your brothers for assistance, are they willing to jump in and help? While Freemasonry can help the individual man grow, I am of the firm belief that the strength of our fraternity is the collective influence we have on each other in achieving this growth.

Motivating people. This one goes hand in hand with the ability to bring people together. Are you and/or your lodge providing a positive experience that motivates people to want to attend. Is your lodge providing the members with opportunities to grow or are you barely making a quorum? As a leader when you make that phone call or send that email asking people to take part in a degree, attend a work day at the lodge or help with the scholastic bowl event effective in getting people there? Where can you strengthen your ability to motivate others?

These ideas barely scratch the surface regarding leadership. In future articles I will discuss in depth the four framework ideas (structural, human resources (people), political and symbolic). I will pull in what I learned in my Harvard program, but more importantly the experiences I have learned from both in the masonic lodge and life in general.

I would like to hear your thoughts on leadership. How can the masonic fraternity help grow our leaders of not only today, but the future? Let me be very clear from the start, simply going through the chairs in the yearly progression is not leadership. What can you learn for your personal growth and leadership abilities from being in a chair? How can you apply this not only in lodge but in your life?

Leadership is not a destination but a journey. I invite you to come along.


WB Gregory J. Knott is the Worshipful Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754 in Ogden (IL) and a plural member of St. Joseph Lodge No. 970 (IL), Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL) and Naval Lodge No. 4 in Washington, DC.

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