The Issue in Leadership is Determining Who and Why

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Mark St. Cyr

Over the course of the last several weeks there has been nothing short of what can only be described as reserved outrage pointed squarely at both the decisions, as well as accusations, directed squarely at the leadership throughout the fraternity. The current trepidations and revelations in Texas and the Scottish Rite NJ are just two of the latest. 

Much of this is playing out in full view for all to see, even the profane. That alone should tell one all about the severity of it.  However, with that said, what’s truly been astonishing to those of us watching from afar is during all of this many in the leadership are now calling for “leadership training” not for themselves, but for the rank and file. You just can’t make this stuff up.  

This is why it’s becoming so profound in both voracity, as well as vociferousness, in the responses to it. 

Now since this whole “Leadership” thing, along with the  “teaching of it” has entered into the current discussion. I find it only fitting to opine with my own overview of analysis since, in many respects, I’m probably more qualified (e.g., being an actual recognized, business expert and thought leader) than most to weigh in, while also a current member of the fraternity. 

So with that said, here’s my two cents… 

The first premise of true leadership is this: Do they have the actual power and authority to enforce change? Or: Are they assumed to have this authority because it’s just never been challenged?  

Titles don’t really matter here - power does. i.e., Think of a union strike as an example. Who really is the leader with the true power for change in this situation? People will argue semantically, but the power for change does not always reside where one thinks at first blush. Let me illustrate… 

Much of this reminds me of a discussion I was privy to that happened years ago taking place at one of the largest insurance firms in the U.S. with its senior leadership (i.e., C-suite). It taught me something I never forgot and helped forge my own efficacy when dealing with just these type of issues. It went like this…  

Them (e.g., current leadership): We’re having issues with our franchises not doing what we want or need them to do. We are implementing changes that are cost-effective and are helping streamline everything. Yet, they won’t conform. They keep doing things the “old way” and won’t change because they see no need to. Yet, when they submit their work for entry we all but have to redo it entirely just to get it into our system. It’s costing the company now double the work and double the expense than we were before the change! When we tell them about this their response is basically “Then just go back to the way it was (i.e.,  the way they’re still doing it) that worked. Problem solved.” We try explaining, try showing with real examples that this new way is truly better for them, but they just don’t care. They will not change and are now venturing on insubordinately so. We’re at our wit's end and don’t know what to do. We’ve tried everything previous consultants have argued we do and none of it has worked. We’re hoping maybe you have a different approach that will. 

Response: “If you decided to close all your franchises could your customers still buy insurance from you?” 

Them: Complete silence, then “I’m sorry, can you repeat that?” 

Response: “If you decided to close all your franchises could your  customers still buy insurance from you?”

Them: Again, silence and a lot of looking back and forth at each other, till finally one squeamishly says “Well, I guess they can, if we converted the portal now used for franchises to be open directly with a few other modifications, Ummmm, yeah, I guess we could. But, this company is built on a franchise model,  without them we have no business.” 

Response: “If you (e.g., the company) declare there’s no franchise model any longer going forward and will be phased out entirely. Are you still able to sell insurance to consumers?” 

Them: Well, yes. 

Response: “Alright, so, just to be clear: If the franchisees tell you  they are no longer a franchisee, can they still sell your  insurance?” 

Them: No, of course not. 

Response: “Then the issue here is - it’s not that you can’t control or run your business efficiently because of internal compliance issues. It’s because you’re not addressing the where and what aspect that applies such compliance. You’re acting like you’re  trying to herd cats, which is a futility in itself, but you don’t have  cats or, in the modern business vernacular, “independent  jobbers.” You have franchised subsidiaries selling your product and your product only. You have to start acting and thinking as well as doing the required hard steps of enforcing it. Other than that - you don’t really have a business under your control,  regardless of it being worth $Billions. You’re just a paper tiger figurehead at the whim of any or all franchisees that can or may already be making you less competitive to more efficient players.  It’s only a matter of time before you too will be a “once great name” for  the history books if you don’t act now and with resolve.” 

Them: What do you recommend?

Response: Compose a letter stating to the effect - that due to unresolvable compliance issues throughout the franchisee network allowing competitors to gain further market share within our markets, we have decided to begin the discussions for implementation of ending the franchise model. During this period we will no longer be issuing any new ones and will be looking to both hear, discuss, and work with current franchisees to both help and support converting current franchisee offices into solely owned and directed corporate divisions. We look forward to your input as we engage in this all-important possible transition. Thank you, the management. 

So, with the above synopsis, what do you think happened?  Here, let me save you some time… 

Once the initial knee jerk of “You can’t do that!” settled, and the realization that the response of “Maybe, but that’s what we’re proposing so we look forward to your input.” then standing firm into it - compliance went from herding cats to a stampede into the compliance coral near overnight. That franchisee model is still in place today and the efficacy promised was delivered to the benefit of all. i.e., it wasn’t a power move type thing. 

Now, with the above all laid out, I’m going to imagine (because I can hear it through my screens) that there are many in what some might call “the leadership” reading this and thinking “See, that’s right, we’re right! We should do exactly this, that’ll fix things the  way we believe it should be.” 

The problem with that thinking is this: I picked this scenario precisely because it is the exact opposite of that thought which is true. i.e., The current leadership does not have this power to force the complicity - it is the franchisees or “lodges” that do. This model moves both ways and knowing the difference (which is why I get paid “the big bucks” as they say) separates true leaders from those they think they are, to their complete and utter surprise when things go awry. 

It’s also why many leadership teams, C-suites, et cetera find themselves in positions of fighting one fight when they really should either be fighting another or - not fighting at all. Let me elaborate on why…. 

Let me ask a few simple questions, but don’t mentally knee-jerk any type of answer like “But the rules!” type of response. Just answer yes or no to the actuality of the possibility.  Ready? 

Question: If a lodge surrenders its charter or it is revoked: can the men still practice all the tenants of Masonry and assemble as freemasons for not only companionship but also, to collect and consolidate funds for building, accouterments, and upkeep while dispensing what it feels is masonic education-based experiences within its walls. Let’s also say, for the sake of argument, leaves its current building and rents another somewhere else. 

If the above statement can be answered yes - then what is the need of any current leadership? 

Now the knee-jerk reaction is “The Charter” aspect, which for all intents and purposes, to simplify the discussion means:  legitimacy. i.e., sanctioned and approved by a ruling authority.  But that’s the problem. Who gives the “authority” the authority? 

Are you beginning to see the issue here? 

Many are going to take real issue with this premise (especially those in leadership) but let’s use a few examples to test my reasoning, shall we? 

Note: Just to be clear: the following premises are all based solely on U.S. models and are for thought experiments only. Not actual suggestions or anything other. 

Prince Hall. The last time I looked, this segment of masonry not only formed but has been thriving since 1784. And although there have been great advances in the recognition throughout the U.S. the reality is still apparent. i.e., although it would be a shame if recognition never materialized, the obvious fact is, does it matter in general for the brethren of it? Hint: it didn’t matter in 1784, so why would it now? 

The Shrine: What would happen not only to the recruitment numbers but more importantly, the yearly re-ups of current dues  if paying members were told “The requirement to be a Mason is  no longer a requirement?” 

The Scottish Rite: What if the Rite decided rather than wait and hope recruitment efforts they have both designed, paid for and in some cases nearly begged many GLs (e.g., “Not just a man…”  et cetera) into using to help attract new members, they simply decide to focus all of their attention and $dollars solely into their jurisdictions? Both crafting and delivering meaningful initiations starting at Entered, Fellow, and MM then continuing through much like they do all their others. 

Many will say, “No way! Can’t be done.” Maybe, but I’ll counter  with - if General Blue Lodge’s and by extension the current GLs controlling them can’t deliver enough possible recruits for the  Rite itself - does one think the Rite is just going to go “Well, OK,  guess we should close up shop because lodges just can’t attract men wanting to be Masons.” Again, I ask you, do you think that?  Really?  

Maybe I’ll ask another way: What is the difference between the  Rite and the Shrine in respect to whom it can or will admit? i.e., if there were no GL system at all - could it both practice its  current tenants along serve its membership much like it  does now other than a “certification?” And if the answer to that question is yes, then what is the dominating role of current leadership, again? 

Currently, every argument I have read, listened or been privy to concerning current leadership in many GL jurisdictions is that the leadership is trying to promote compliance to it through offering  “leadership training” styled motions.  

The problem with this that can be seen a million miles away by anyone who understands true leadership principles, doctrine, and efficacy in the real world, not the consulting class fairytale viewpoint, is this… 

To be a true leader - you first have to fully know and understand if you truly have the authority of it or, if your current leadership position is only being held together by a very thin veneer that’s yet to be tested, and dangerously close to being just that because of the current state of said leaderships actions? 

Just because one may have a “title” doesn’t always mean what one thinks it does in the real-world application reality. 

Again, and to be clear: Only dogmatic consulting class-driven leadership thinking and practice would be so foolish to think they  are the ones that should be creating and enforcing because they  are titled “the leadership.” As history shows - it’s precisely this type of thinking and execution that is the eventual last gasp of failed ones. 

One way or another - things are going to change because they have to. The question now is… 

What truly is all this push for “leadership training,” is it…

A: The current leadership understands that following its current leadership path is destined for failure and is looking to course correct through remediation of lower-status members in hope something positive comes forth? Or… 

B: The current push for “leadership training” is only being pushed by leaders who don’t truly know why things are failing and are simply doubling down on any effort to try and stem any current innate leadership to fix obvious problems? Or… 

C: Someone read some best-selling “leadership/management”  book and decided since it was a best seller, and it is “their year”  then it must be the perfect remedy for such a vexing problem because after their year is over, it’s someone else's problem and  they can have some sort of shield that “They tried?” 

My guess is it’s a combination of all three, but my own experience in past matters would push me more to C than others. Why? 

Because I put most (most - not all) business books, especially the so-called “best sellers” into a category that infuriates most.  That category is “Romance Novels.” Because it all sounds so sweet and easy laced with the prospects of enduring passion and cooperation forever, laced in flowery language, all wrapped in a  beautiful bound bouquet of colorful typeset covers. And who can argue with a great love story, right? Even if it is pure rubbish. 

The reason for this derision is simple… 

After reading and applying most of what they read in these  “Romance Novella” - I’m the one that’s called in to help settle the now ongoing divorce proceedings that have become mired with infighting, backbiting, and legal maneuvering that would make a court jester blush.

This whole “leadership” kerfuffle can all be fixed with near immediacy if only one thing transpired for the good of everyone.  And that is this… 

True leaders don’t just sit behind closed doors drafting  “leadership” prose for others to follow. They get out in front of the others and boldly shout “Follow me” as they admirably set the examples for others to follow and aspire to imitate. 

That’s done via example, and from the top - not by some  “leadership” class to the underlings. For there’s a law of leadership that’s never broken, yet little understood by most,  which is… 

Subordinates do what they see their leaders do. You can’t train the subordinate to be better if the upper echelons are seen as not playing by the same rules. It never has worked and won’t ever either. If you want people to follow your leadership, you better make sure it’s true and on point because subordinates will emulate whatever good or bad is obvious to them. 

Right now leadership throughout the Craft appear to be doing anything and everything, in full public view, that any sane person looking in would determine to be nothing but calamitous,  unbecoming, and totally anathema to what the self-described “Making good men better” implies. 

How many potential inquirers have been lost just because of these types of leadership squabbles in the last two months alone, never mind what’s been aired over the last few years collectively? 

Maybe if there’s “leadership training” to be had and done it should start there, first, before advocating for the general membership.

Think about it. 

Mark St. Cyr Freemason

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