Nationbuilder’s New CEO: Lea Endres

“Follow the leader is the title, theme, task
Now you know, you don’t have to ask”
-Rakim

Nationbuilder makes software for leaders. The company was founded on a belief in the profound good that great leadership brings to the world. So when Nation Builder’s own leader Jim Gilliam became critically ill this year, we were very worried.

Despite surviving cancer and a double lung transplant, Jim worked tirelessly to build Nation Builder into the number 1 product for leaders of all stripes. From the 40% of candidates running for elected office in the U.S. to people advocating for hundreds of important causes to business people organizing their customer evangelists, Nationbuilder serves leaders in every walk of life. Jim’s vision, passion, and relentless work ethic built the company into something special. How could we possibly survive if he didn’t? Would the company disintegrate without the guidance of its Founder/CEO?

It turned out that Jim saw the potential for this scenario many years ago and he identified Lea Endres, formerly President of Nationbuilder, as his natural successor. Since then Lea and Jim have been running the company side by side. From conducting the staff meetings to setting the long-term vision, for the past several years, it’s been Jim and Lea, Lea and Jim.

So as we sat there praying for Jim’s recovery and wondering what would become of the company, Lea stepped into the void. She ran the staff meetings, developed the team, set the strategy and recruited strong new executives where we had holes.

Amazingly, she did this while also acting as Jim’s primary support in the hospital. Lea worked with Nationbuilder board member Sean Parker to marshal the right medical resources at UCLA and do something that the doctors did not think possible — bring Jim back at full strength.

How did such a strong leader emerge out of nowhere? Well, she didn’t actually come from nowhere. As a mere teenager, Lea was recognized for her natural leadership skills and selected to an elite group of future world leaders. She developed those skills and eventually was assigned to help foreign organizatons with the most intractable problems. It’s that rarefied skill set that she now brings to Nation Builder.

While Jim is sharper mentally than he’s been since I’ve known him, his health remains delicate. Germs and bugs that might be a slight nuisance for the average person can be deadly for Jim. Make no mistake; he is back working around the clock to make Nationbuilder greater still. He is delving into everything from the product architecture to the marketing strategy to the long-term vision. In fact, if we didn’t have a dynamic, charismatic leader in place, Jim would risk his life and be CEO. But that’s not necessary.

We have a leader and her name is Lea.