Umair Haque: Evolving leaders to builders

The 21st century doesn’t need more leaders – nor more leadership. Only Builders can kickstart the chain reaction of a better, more authentic kind of prosperity.

A very important point made by Umair Haque in “The Builders Manifesto“:


“Leaders don’t create great organizations — the organization creates the leader. 20th century economics created a canonical model of organization — and “leadership” was built to fit it.

Leadership can be a bad. Organizations are just tools — and leaders are just more proficient users. When would a tool need a more proficient user — a leader — most? When the opportunity cost is greatest: exactly when that tool is about to be outcompeted by a better tool. Leaders are created when organizations are threatened to ensure organizational survival. But sometimes organizational death is the optimal outcome. That’s exactly what we see in the real world: leaders unleashing bailout after bailout, horse-trade after horse-trade, to ensure the survival of yesterday’s malfunctioning machines. The economics suggest that 20th century leadership lets dysfunctional organizations thrive at the expense of prosperity.

Here’s the problem in a nutshell. What leaders “lead” are yesterday’s organizations. But yesterday’s organizations — from carmakers, to investment banks, to the healthcare system, to the energy industry, to the Senate itself — are broken. Today’s biggest human challenge isn’t leading broken organizations slightly better. It’s building better organizations in the first place. It isn’t about leadership: it’s about “buildership”, or what I often refer to as Constructivism.

Leadership is the art of becoming, well, a leader. Constructivism, in contrast, is the art of becoming a builder — of new institutions. Like artistic Constructivism rejected “art for art’s sake,” so economic Constructivism rejects leadership for the organization’s sake — instead of for society’s.

Builders forge better building blocks to construct economies, polities, and societies. They’re the true prime movers, the fundamental causes of prosperity. They build the institutions that create new kinds of leaders — as well as managers, workers, and customers.”

And here are his ten principles of Constructivism:

1. The boss drives group members; the leader coaches them. The Builder learns from them.

2. The boss depends upon authority; the leader on good will. The Builder depends on good.

3. The boss inspires fear; the leader inspires enthusiasm. The Builder is inspired — by changing the world.

4. The boss says “I”; the leader says “we”. The Builder says “all” — people, communities, and society.

5. The boss assigns the task, the leader sets the pace. The Builder sees the outcome.

6. The boss says, “Get there on time;” the leader gets there ahead of time. The Builder makes sure “getting there” matters.

7. The boss fixes the blame for the breakdown; the leader fixes the breakdown. The Builder prevents the breakdown.

8. The boss knows how; the leader shows how. The Builder shows why.

9. The boss makes work a drudgery; the leader makes work a game. The Builder organizes love, not work.

10. The boss says, “Go;” the leader says, “Let’s go.” The Builder says: “come.”

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.