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Welcome to the Age of the Builder

In a recent issue of the Harvard Business Review, Umair Haque wrote The Builder’s Manifesto. He writes that we needed Leaders in the 20th Century: people who forged people and resources, like Jack Welch at General Electric. Jack made his shareholders a lot of money in his time, and organized and acquired a lot of businesses. Jack and GE defined success in the 1980’s and 1990’s. There was a certain cult of personality around him. At the same time, Jack developed leaders who went on to run many other companies when they reached the top of their career ladder at GE.
What’s so different about the 21st century? In some respects, it’s still too soon to know. We’re only one decade in. But we have seen with the collapse of major banks and financial institutions that brought us to the edge of a Great Depression that a new kind of model for leadership is required. What were the leadership qualities that undermined Citibank, Merrill Lynch, JP Morgan Chase, BankAmerica?
You can read more about the Builder’s Manifesto at
Today, with a wave of senior nonprofit leaders preparing to retire after multi-decade careers, we need to find Builders to transform our organizations. It will be a mistake to recruit clones of the 20th century prototype to carry the banner of our 21st century mission, vision, goals.
How will we identify the Builders of the 21st century to replace the Leaders of the 20th?
Here are three comparitive pointers from Umair Haque:

The boss drives group members; the leader coaches them. The Builder learns from them.
The boss inspires fear; the leader inspires enthusiasm. The Builder is inspired — by changing the world.
The boss assigns the task, the leader sets the pace. The Builder sees the outcome.

Whether we’re searching for our 21st century CEO, or members of our community to serve on our board, I think it’s useful to keep the concept discussed by Umair Haque in mind. This is not a blueprint. It’s another way of thinking to apply to our process of building effective nonprofit organizations.

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