- NOTE: This is a special excerpt from the March issue of The Practicing Freemason Newsletter, which you can subscribe to on my Patreon for just $1 each month!
“Why did you become a mason?”
This question gets a variety of answers, but most commonly candidates say “I want to be part of something bigger than myself.” That “something bigger” is a brotherhood with the will and the resources to get things done. But it’s not a static thing that either exists or doesn’t; it’s a process of participation and role fulfilment.
Fulfilling roles in group dynamics is not like casting brothers in a degree. People are who they are and taking an inventory of who you have will give you a great idea of the health of your lodge and who, if anyone is missing, you need to find.
Every successful lodge has four types of brothers: a Gambler, a Governor, a Go-Getter, and a Grunt. Some lodges have a lot of some and only a few (or one) of others. Some brothers are more than one type (keep those!), but the presence of all four personalities is how you get things done.
Gamblers are the guys who like rolling the dice on a new idea. A Gambler is a creative who typically has his pulse on what contemporary men want. He’s the one who brings the ideas that give the lodge and its ritual flavor, enriching the brotherly experience. Never content to flip pancakes or fry fish, he wants to try new events and fundraisers. Corn roasts? Nope. Comedic roasts? Yup! Murder mystery dinners and burlesque shows are the preferred events over the regular stuff that never gets anyone through the door. Lapel pin merit badges, and branded club scarves are where they want to go.
Maybe an idea will work and maybe it won’t; either is fine. They just want to try something, pluck out the gems and discard the rest.
Getting the best out of a Gambler
If there are downsides to being a Gambler, it’s that they don’t sweat the details, and forget that their ideas require the efforts of other brothers to work. Give them the space to create, and provide them awareness of what resources and assets are available. When they’re suggesting an idea, they may have just thought of it. Now isn’t the time for No’s. They need the opportunity to develop an idea, and sometimes this is done in full view of everyone. Ask them questions, and phrase problems you have with an idea as a challenge to overcome and not a criticism.
Archenemy: The Grumbler
A Grumbler has never heard an idea he hasn’t found a way to dislike. They fear change and new paradigms because they can’t envision them or the possible end results. A Grumbler will immediately poke holes in a Gambler’s ideas. He won’t necessarily say it’s a bad idea, as they don’t want to be viewed as an obstacle to the lodge, but they act as a cooler, lowering the excitement for any new concept, and opposing it by planting doubts in the brethren’s minds. Grumblers make particularly deadly secretaries, as they will usually find a way to kill any idea they don’t like, behind the scenes.
A Governor can usually, but not always, be found behind the secretary’s desk. He’s an organizer, not just of records and paperwork, but of people. He knows names and faces, and has learned, through necessity, who to call to get what job done. He’s a rules guy, and typically keeps the lodge safely tethered to the ground, but on the flip side he also knows how to successfully navigate the rules and regs to get something done where others might be immediately dejected.
A Governor doesn’t let obstacles stop forward momentum. If the new lodge website requires a program no one knows how to use, he’ll figure it out. If the repairman cancels, he knows a guy. A Governor digs into how systems function so they can work the systems.
Getting the best out of a Governor
It may sound like Governors make ideal lodge leaders, and in a sense, they do, especially when they have a streak of creativity, and have learned to listen. However, they thrive in a supporting role, acting as a cannon Gamblers can aim to get their projects realized. To get the most out of a Governor, they need a great working relationship with a Gambler, and the freedom from the master of the lodge to flip any switches they need to get something done. As they’re rules guys, they’re not going to cheat, but asking them how to get something done quickly will usually get a productive answer. In fact, the best way to relate to them is to ask questions, but only the ones you can’t answer for yourself. Governors hate doing the same job twice without good reason.
Archenemy: The Gadfly
Gadflies love challenging authority or the status quo, and this means they are sometimes mistaken for Gamblers, but that’s a superficial similarity. Unlike Gamblers, Gadflies have no ideas or solutions of their own. They chip away at lodge projects not because they fear change, but because they want to be seen as smart or useful. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to have someone who can show all the ways a project can fail, but that is where their utility ends.
If the lodge was a business, the Go-Getter would be the salesman. He’s a hype-man, generating excitement among other brothers. He’s often a natural traveler, visiting lodges frequently, and while he’s there, he’s happy to push his own lodge’s projects.
Go-Getters are optimistic, extroverted networkers. They can sometimes be off-putting and come across as egotistical attention-seekers. Some are. These negative traits don’t dampen the effectiveness of a Go-Getter; it makes them better at what they do. But most of the time what the quieter brethren are seeing is a guy who likes his energy reflected back at him. Nothing is more contagious than a good story, well told.
Getting the best out of a Go-Getter
Like Gamblers and Governors, Go-Getter need the space to do what they do best: bullshit. This isn’t a bad thing. Bullshitters can be extremely effective, because when they hype a person or idea, they’re not selling you on the person or idea, they’re selling you the feeling those generate in you. It’s certainly not unusual for a Go-Getter to write checks with his mouth that a Governor can’t cash, but that’s not important, because when the product is delivered, it will be exactly what the customer wanted, and the Go-Getter make sure the audience is convinced of that. A word of warning though: do not outshine a Go-Getter! They like being the center of attention and that’s where they thrive. Stealing their spotlight will only get you a pouting brother.
Archenemy: The Grouse
Some brothers, due to some actual or perceived trauma they’ve experienced in their masonic career, will never pass up an opportunity to badmouth their lodge, their grand-lodge, or freemasonry in general. Often the only time they can be found complimenting something is when they’re using it as contrast to explain how something else (something you like) is actually bad. Grouses don’t care if a lodge project succeeds or fails. All they want is validation that they were unjustly victimized, and they will never move on.
Don’t let the name fool you into thinking these guys are the remainder when all the other roles are filled. Most masons don’t fit any of these categories. No, the Grunt is the master of git-er-done. If the Gambler is the marksman, and the Governor is the gun, the Grunt is the ammo. The Grunt doesn’t generate ideas or excitement; he reflects it back, feeding the Gamblers and Go-Getters. They’re the muscle that move the furniture and clean out the basement to make room for a new gym set. They’re the ones who sell the tickets or at least bring their family to the fundraiser. They man the booths. When someone says “I just met a guy from that masonic lodge. He seemed like a really good guy,” they’ve probably just met a Grunt.
Grunts can be verbal and expressive, but this is no requirement of their position. They express their enthusiasm through a certain stoic dedication to showing up. They don’t need to be strong, or otherwise physically fit, nor particularly skilled. They truly come to be a part of something bigger.
Getting the best out of a Grunt
Grunts are fueled by feelings. They may or may not know what a Gambler is talking about, but they like his energy. They respect the heck out of Governors for being the paperwork-versions of themselves, and they’re the ones to totally buy into the feelings that the Go-Getters are selling. Most of all, though, they are the ones who clearly see the point of a lodge and brotherhood. In some ways that makes them the best of any of the above, because they put service over self. The best way to get great effort out of a Grunt is to make sure they see that their efforts are an essential part of a functioning machine, not through praise, but through results. And never take advantage of their good natures! There are plenty of other organizations they could be helping and are probably members of quite a few of ‘em!
Arch-Enemy: The Goof-Off
Goof-Offs aren’t bad brothers to have around. They’re not just needed. They tend to be jovial and funny. They like entertaining others, like a Go-Getter, but all they’re selling is good times. And that’s perfectly fine at the right fellowship setting, but when they volunteer to help with a project, watch out. They’re not there to work, they’re there to distract. They’re the ones who will suggest knocking off after an hour and hitting the bar. They talk a supportive game, by saying that you’ve got a lot of good work done or cite some small hurdle that they’re convinced means you need to stop for the day. They’re just looking for friends. And that’s fine! But during a project is not a good time. There’s no beer that doesn’t taste like ambrosia after an actual hard day’s work, and that’s just not the Goof-Off’s thing.