Consensus management

Don’s Diary

Revising ritual makes you think. We are told that our obedience will be proved, among other requirements, by “...a ready acquiescence to all votes and resolutions duly passed by the majority of the brethren, and by a perfect submission to the will of the Master and his Wardens.” However, is that the way it really works? Probably the answer is “yes and no”.

“Yes”, because the Master must be given every support for him to do his job. It would be a shambles to do otherwise. “Yes”, certainly in the lodge room and particularly in the conduct of degree work, because it is then that we are operational. Unless there is some major variation from the ritual which would cause the work to be invalid it should proceed for the benefit of the candidate. Nevertheless, this submission does not extend to other members of the lodge.

“No”, if this operational contingency is extended beyond the lodge room, especially in a lodge like ours where the culture has been in recent years to promote “ownership” to the body of the lodge. Such ownership averts a potential for alienation but it concurrently creates expectations. One of the most demanding tasks for all principle officers will be how to manage those expectations. It starts with being very attuned to the feelings of all members on issues and having the wisdom to comprehend. It then needs managing by consensus. Leadership is needed to change that consensus, not rank and power.

Too often there have been those who have brought matters to a vote in the lodge, often without wide consultation with others, sometimes ambushing the Master, and having the resolution passed by virtue of the good will of the members. The vote may be won but the confidence of many members will be lost, probably lost forever, or at least until respect has been re-earned and this may never occur. No vote should be taken unless there is a prior consensus of support or it will divide a lodge.

There is also no place for anyone, even those nominated in the ritual, to use their perceived power and make high handed, ill considered decisions affecting the brethren either in or out of the lodge room. Members might put up with it but will not like it and the seeds of discontent will be sewn. The power given to an office is for the duties of that office and not for some sort of ego trip by the incumbent. Authority acceded to in the lodge room is not automatically translated elsewhere.

Therefore, what we have in the ritual is a statement of where ultimate power rests with specifically named officers and voting procedures for the last resort. It will be a sad day in a lodge if such acquiescence and submission is necessary. Let consensus management prevail if at all possible.

Yours fraternally

Don Paterson