Some Thoughts On Leadership
By The Most Worshipful Brother Geoff Edwards (OSM)
First published in The Square and Compasses
A newsletter for the Grand Lodge of South Africa
No.40, May 2015
When I consider successful Grand Lodges, the one factor which stands out is that they are all built on a foundation of effective Lodges, and these invariably have effective Masters. Choosing the right Master is vital to the Lodge’s success and we must strive to ensure that the Master elected has the ability to do the job and that he receives the full support of his Lodge.
Brethren, Freemasonry endeavours to assist each of us as we look to develop ourselves – to shape and smooth our rough ashlars. It affords us the opportunity to strive towards being the best that we can be and it is our task to ensure that every Brother is presented with those challenges which best match his skills. We must identify our potential leaders and then support them as they shape this aspect of their lives. There are many skills related to leadership and I recently read an interesting paper from Brian de Haaff (the CEO of Aha! - product roadmap software). His thought-provoking comments are just as applicable to Masonic leaders so I thought I’d share them with you.
His paper’s title is "The One Secret of Highly Successful Leaders" and I have taken the liberty of modifying it to better fit our environment.
Brian starts by emphasising the importance of just being yourself. Some people think they need to be a caricature of themselves. They try to act like somebody they admire, assuming that this is the path to success. They may not even be aware that they are hiding behind a facade as they try to be someone they are not. However, highly successful leaders choose a different way to lead, and it’s a radical departure from this idea of the carefully crafted persona. They understand that if they want others to follow them, they need to pull back the curtain.
Think for a moment about successful leaders you may know. They are charismatic. They draw people in. They aren’t afraid to show their true selves. They are real. Successful leaders don’t hide their goals and their motives. They broadcast them. They share such information as their objectives, plans and anticipated actions. They do this because they believe that better insight into the inner workings of the environment creates a greater sense of ownership.
In Brian’s view, the one key secret of highly successful leaders is Transparency. Here are a few reasons why being transparent can help you be a better leader.
It establishes confidence. Transparency serves as a model for how you want the team to work. You will find that others will want to engage with you. Sharing not only the objectives but how you arrived at them allows others to get on board, think things through, and grow stronger themselves.
It creates buy-in. You choose to share the goals with your team and involve them in the goal-setting process-- but you also choose to explain why those objectives matter. That means sharing your thought process - your assumptions and conclusions that you have brought to bear in making a decision. When you are willing to share the "why" with the "what" you help create buy-in from your team.
It builds trust. When you are transparent with people, you show respect for their efforts - and respect builds trust. Being transparent is about being open and honest about your motivations and decisions. If you operate from the premise that what you see is what you get, you will build stronger, trusting teams.
Transparency goes hand in hand with humility. When you are transparent, you bring your authentic self into play. You are saying, "this is what I believe, and why I believe it."
Transparency is the currency that is used to acquire trust. It's an investment that also requires you to be open to the possibility that you might be wrong. Someone else may have a better way or another idea. Someone may correct a misconception that you have – and successful leaders can accept that!
Historically, Freemasonry was often accused of being a "Secret Society" and, to a large extent this was our own fault. Times, however, have changed and we now look to be far more open in our approach. While we aren’t advocating that we start broadcasting the structure of our workings, for example, we will be more transparent in all our interactions and, like most things, it really does start with our leaders.