Max De Pree gives us 14 attributes that he sees in what he calls vital organizations. I’ve decided to tackle the list, offering some of De Pree’s words and my own comments. I’ll do just five attributes today.


“What is the nature of truth?” De Pree asks. His answer is in a person (the New Testament), beauty (poet John Keats), a promise, a communication, and more. He sees truth as something of an intangible, and writes “It seems to me that in our most private moments, we all know truth in our hearts.” Somehow, I think it works its way out into the everyday life of a vital organization.


“Like talent and wealth, access is a gift. It needs to be shared because it demands accountability,” writes De Pree. He sees things like access to opportunity, medical care, work, a mentor, a leader, a chance to learn, to fruitful and healthy relationships. He says that it is “a marvelous thing.” We all know organizations where there is an open feeling, where people can thrive. And unfortunately, most of us have seen the opposite.


De Pree draws a relationship between discipline and delegation. Leaders need to delegate important work, and offer the necessary discipline organizationally that is required to be effective. He says that “discipline among followers mirrors the discipline demonstrated by leaders.”


Rather than blame, we need organizational and personal accountability. That means being accountable to those our organizations serve.


“People are nourished by transforming work, growth, reaching their potential.” De Pree believes that vital organizations are full of vital people, those who have an attitude of lifetime learning.

How do these attributes – truth, access, discipline, accountability and nourishment for persons work themselves out in your organization?

*Max De Pree, Leading Without Power: Finding Hope in Serving Community (1997, Jossey-Bass) pp. 99-113.

If you would like to get a better handle on governance, I simply offer a shameless plug for my book, Board Essentials: 12 Best Practices of Board Governance. A friend who chairs both a corporate and a nonprofit board suggests it as a great primer.

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About Dave Coleman

Dave Coleman Principal / Consultant Phone: 253-237-4118 After many years of nonprofit leadership and the privilege of getting to know hundreds of organizations through my work with the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust, I am pleased to offer my services to you at BoardTrek Nonprofit Consulting. Our small Pacific Northwest based company is focused on helping guide nonprofit organizations and their leaders into the future by offering our services in board governance, strategic planning, leadership development and organizational change. Always feel free to contact me with your thoughts and questions.
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