Our Independent Order of Odd Fellows has developed, over the years, a vast number of elected and appointed Lodge offices. This plethora of positions offers many members an opportunity to become more cognizant of the beauty of our rituals, and more involved in the leadership and management of the Lodge. Every appointed officer position is important to the Lodge. But unquestionably, the most significant positions are the five elected officers: Secretary, Treasurer, Financial Secretary, Vice Grand, and Noble Grand. Each of these elected officers performs a vital and fiduciary function for the Lodge, and in many ways, protects the health and welfare of that Lodge. But, in my opinion, no elected position is more important than the position of Noble Grand. A strong Noble Grand can insure the happiness and progress of the Lodge and its members. A weak Noble Grand can bring a Lodge to its collective knees.
I have served as Noble Grand of my Lodge in Davis, California, for four terms. I also served as a District Deputy Grand Master, and as the Grand Master of California. In those positions, I learned a great deal about what it takes to be an effective Noble Grand. I encourage members of Lodges – who believe that they have leadership skills and wish to enhance those skills – to progress to the position of Vice Grand, and ultimately to Noble Grand of their Lodges. That said, not everyone is cut out to be a Noble Grand. If you think you might be such a person, here is my Top Ten List of Qualities to be an effective Noble Grand:
- Be organized. A Noble Grand does not (and should not) do everything that needs to be done in the Lodge. However, a Noble Grand needs to know what is going on in the Lodge. A Noble Grand appoints committee chairs and then must ensure that the committee chairs follow through. As a fiduciary, a Noble Grand must make sure that the Lodge officers do their jobs. A Noble Grand must keep the members apprised and informed of dates and events. So, only organized people should apply for the job of Noble Grand.
- Practice parliamentary procedure. You don’t have to be a General Henry Roberts (who wrote Robert’s Rules of Order) to be Noble Grand. But you do have to know a modicum of parliamentary procedure to be able to run an effective and controlled meeting. One hour of homework can give you the basics of parliamentary procedure. I recommend you go to Google and type in “Rosenberg’s Rules of Order” and you will find my easy-to-learn rules that are basic to running a meeting. You can read them in less than 30 minutes.
- Learn to listen. Obviously, Noble Grands have to be able to talk – they run meetings after all. But it is equally important for Noble Grands to be good listeners. They need to take the time to listen to members who have concerns and issues. They need to read the pulse of the Lodge. If members have issues with other members, it is often the Noble Grand who must sort out the dispute, and bring peace to the valley.
- Be calm and kind. While we like our Noble Grands to be active and dynamic, no one wants a Noble Grand who is aggressive or pushy. No one wants a Noble Grand who follows the philosophy of “my way or the highway.” An effective Noble Grand seeks consensus whenever possible, and makes sure that members have a chance to be heard. A calm and kind Noble Grand goes a long way to achieving Lodge harmony.
- Say no to boredom. Meetings of the Lodge should not be unnecessarily long or boring. A Noble Grand needs to be able to run meetings with focus and efficiency. Stay on the subject at hand and make sure it is dealt with expeditiously. Nothing is worse than a Noble Grand who can’t run a meeting. And when an issue is presented to the membership for a vote, a Noble Grand should precisely state the motion that is about to go to vote; and then must clearly state the result of the vote.
- Focus on membership. Perhaps the most important single duty of the Noble Grand is to ensure that the Lodge grows. Without that growth, the Lodge will just fade away. So, the Noble Grand must accept the responsibility to ensure that existing members are enjoying their fraternal experience and will stay as members, and also must assume the responsibility to ensure new members come into the Lodge through initiation.
- Be open-minded. An effective Noble Grand does not say “no” when a new idea is broached. The far better policy is to explore that new idea. Just because it’s never been done in the past (or was done before and didn’t work out) is no reason not to try it in the future. Remember that every single thing we do as Odd Fellows was once suggested as a “new idea.”
- Follow the rules. Obviously, we are Odd Fellows in a fraternal order with rules. Noble Grands need to be knowledgeable about the way things are done in a Lodge of Odd Fellows. Noble Grands need to fully understand the duties and responsibilities of the other officers, elected and appointed, and of committee chairs. Rules can be flexible, but can’t just be ignored. If necessary, a new Noble Grand should consult with Past Noble Grands or the District Deputy to make sure that rules are followed.
- Plan for the future. Succession planning is important in business, and it is equally important in Odd Fellowship. A Noble Grand must always be aware that his/her term of office is typically one year in duration. Some thinking must go into the plan for succession. Normally (but not always) the next Noble Grand is the person who served as Vice Grand. And who are the potential candidates for Vice Grand next year? Encouraging qualified members to run for Lodge office is a noble thing.
- Remember to have fun. It’s not all work and no play. An effective Noble Grand is not just about running meetings. The Noble Grand should make sure he or she participates in Lodge activities and events. Go to the breakfast, take the hike, play poker at the tournament – be part of the Lodge experience, not above it.
So there you have it – my Top Ten List of Qualities to be an effective Noble Grand. I hope it may help those of you are thinking of seeking this vital Lodge position in the future.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
Independent Order of Odd Fellows
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