Just four attributes remain in my review of Max De Pree’s attributes of vital organizations in his book Leading Without Power: Finding Hope in Serving Community.


De Pree notes that tolerance is rare these days, though it is the beginning of a community.   “If we work together toward a common good, I should not insist that you think like me or live like I do. Your commitment to a common vision and agreed-on goals is sufficient to establish a working relationship.

There needs to ample room for people with differences as they unite around common goals.


Two De Pree quotes say it well. “Vital organizations respect and practice conservation and simplicity.” “Vital organizations are rich in the acquisitions of the spirit.”


This has a lot to do with our surroundings, of place, and space, buildings and grounds. Some people don’t seem to see what can be defined as beauty and taste, but most do, even as they may not realize it. Vital organizations demonstrate beauty and taste.


“We show fidelity to a mission through strict observance of our promises. Fidelity to a mission is the realization of commitment. Words made flesh.” As I often say in my work with boards, the first best practice of board governance is a passionate commitment to a mssion.

I think Max De Pree sums it up well when he writes: “Vital organizations have the innocent energy of children and the compassionate wisdom of older people. They exist all around us, especially in the world of not-for-profit work. Perhaps organizations become vital because the people in those groups bring vitality with them. Or perhaps the organization elicits vital contributions from the people who work there. I suspect it is a little of both.”

I’ve worked in what could be described as vital organizations. What that means is not easy to describe. There is sort of a mystical quality about it. It just is, and you know it is. That’s why De Pree’s observations are so helpful.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where you rate your organization on a vitality scale?

*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.

Board Essentials Book

And for more information visit

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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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