Boston, MA -- (SBWIRE) -- 02/13/2006 -- Comparing greatness in the social sector versus the private sector is a challenge because the nature of leadership is vastly different, says Jim Collins, best-selling author of Built to Last and Good to Great and the recently published monograph, “Good to Great and the Social Sectors: A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great” (Collins, Nov. 30, 2005).
In an exclusive Q&A session in the current issue of Leadership Matters, Collins explains the distinction between “executive” leadership found more in business and “legislative” leadership found more in the social sectors. “In business, a single individual often has enough concentrated power to simply make executive decisions. Sam Walton could make decisions for Wal-Mart… after all, it was his company. In the social sectors, composed of a much more complicated governance and power structure, rarely do we find a single individual – not even the nominal chief executive – with enough concentrated power to make the big decisions by himself or herself.”
Instead, Collins observes, executive directors “must architect the conditions for the right decisions to happen, through the power of language, and coalition, and shared interests, and artful persuasion; it’s more like being Lyndon Johnson in the Senate, where you are but one of a hundred Senators, and if you try to ‘lead the Senate’ like a corporate CEO, you will fail.”
Published by Bridgestar, a nonprofit initiative of the Bridgespan Group dedicated to attracting, connecting and supporting senior leaders for the sector, “Leadership Matters” is part of a robust portfolio of offerings to help both nonprofit organizations and senior leaders make meaningful, appropriate matches. Each month “Leadership Matters” picks a different theme designed as a conversation about how to build and sustain effective nonprofit organizations. The newsletter is available to Bridgestar members or, for a complimentary subscription, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition, Bridgestar’s job board has listed more than 400 senior positions from around the United States and across a range of service areas including the environment, human services, elder services, human rights, and youth services. The organization has assisted more than 50 organizations in finding new leaders through its talent-matching services, which include executive recruiting and related advisory activities.
According to Collins, greatness “starts with creating a culture of discipline, composed first and foremost of the right people. Discipline characterizes greatness, across many fields – great artists, great musicians, great Buddhist monks, great schoolteachers, great sports teams, great medical institutions, great police departments and great nonprofits. Discipline is not a business idea; it is a greatness idea.”
In the interview, Collins suggests that “the social sectors might best operate by a resource engine composed of three components: ‘time’ (how well you attract people willing to contribute their efforts for free, or at rates below what their talents would yield in business), ‘money’ (sustained cash flow), and ‘brand’ (how well your organization can cultivate a deep well of emotional goodwill and mind-share of potential supporters).”
The key, he says, is to “be rigorous, not ruthless. To be ruthless means hacking and cutting, especially in difficult times, or wantonly throwing people off the bus without any thoughtful consideration. To be rigorous means consistently applying exacting standards.”
The current issue of Leadership Matters is available at:
Collins also spoke at a special Bridgestar community event, where he previewed “Good to Great and the Social Sectors.” Detailed highlights of Collins’ presentation are available in the January 2005 issue of “Leadership Matters,” available online at
“Bridgestar was founded on the idea that strong organizations are built by strong leadership teams, and on a mission to provide services, content and tools to help organizations recruit, hire and support leaders,” says David Simms, Managing Director, Bridgestar. “Jim Collins brings great insight into how discipline can help nonprofit organizations achieve greatness. Too many people look at the percentage spent on management and overhead without realizing that it takes work to transform nonprofit organizations into great organizations, that organizations need to allocate resources on training to attract and support the right people.”
Bridgestar, an initiative of the Bridgespan Group, is a nonprofit organization providing talent-matching services, content, and tools designed to help organizations build strong leadership teams and individuals pursue career paths as nonprofit leaders. Bridgestar’s goal is to attract, connect, and support senior talent, leading to greater organizational effectiveness and social impact.
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