Be a Builder

builder laying bricks on wall

by Thomas J East

A few years ago a company I worked for was interviewing for a human resource director to replace ours who had retired. We interviewed several terrific applicants, but one stood out above the rest. She came into the conference room full of energy and bearing gifts. The management team was a taken aback by her approach when she handed a promotional desk mirror that had a smiley face and the words “Be a Builder”. I don’t remember exactly all that was said that day in the interview, but the words on that promotional item got me thinking about how being a builder contrasted with leadership. Specifically, why today with all the crises sweeping the world of business, does leadership seem to be almost totally absent? What is needed? The answer I have come up with is organizations need builders.

The problem is that most organizations, from larger corporations to small businesses, are broken. The problem isn’t leading broken organizations to make them better; it is building better organizations and businesses in the first place. It isn’t so much about leadership as it is “Buildership”… Buildership is a word that I coined to suggest that organizations today need both leadership and Buildership working in harmony to create an environment that workers can be part of the construction. Leadership is important and is not going away – most leaders determine the vision and set the course for the followers. Builders, on the other hand, forge better building blocks that construct and create institutions of new kinds of leaders, managers, and workers.

How do you become a “Builder” and foster the principles of Buildership while contrasting this concept with a boss, and the leader? Here are 10 principles to consider and get you started in your thinking:


1.) A boss drives team members; the leader coaches them. The Builder learns from them.

2.) A 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 environment.

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 drudgery; the leader makes work a game. The Builder organizes devotion, not work.

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

Now is the time to consider something between the worker and the leader that blends these two critical areas to build organizations and smaller businesses in today’s hyper competitive environment. Isn’t it time you became a “Builder?”