Called to Serve: Goal No. 1—Keep Your CEO Alive!


By John Pearson

Note: This is No. 29 in a series of blogs featuring wisdom from the 91-page gem by Max De Pree, Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board.

Max De Pree: “The fourth thing the board owes the president is care.”

In his almost-final pages of this board governance masterpiece, De Pree lists six ways that the board demonstrates care of the CEO. His priorities include:
1. Care: devotional bonding
2. Care: recognizing the needs of the CEO’s family for “friendship, support, and love”
3. Care: mandatory vacations and regular health checkups
4. Care: “the kind of care that goes the extra mile in compensation arrangements to include such things as budgeted spouse travel allowance and financial planning service”
5. Care: continuing education and professional development (“especially the opportunity to be mentored”)
6. Care: “the kind of care that keeps the president alive, that doesn’t permit him to ‘work himself to death.’”

My opinion: Start with Number Six. The untimely death of an over-worked CEO will only create more work for the board! You may want to add more to this list.

This week, a fellow board member facilitated an excellent exercise for our board—and his methodology would work for your board. Read pages 87-88 about “Care” in Called to Serve—and then, in groups of two or three, ask board members to assess two things:
• First, identify the priority for each “care” item: High, Medium, or Low.
• Second, assess how well the board is doing in caring for your CEO. Use a five-point rating with 5 being Very Effective, and 1 being Very Ineffective.
• Third, ask each group for a brief report on their assessments.
• Finally, refer next steps to the appropriate committee for any action items required.

For more resources to help your CEO grow and flourish, check out these books:

Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives, by Richard A. Swenson, M.D.
Crafting a Rule of Life: An Invitation to the Well-Ordered Way, by Stephen A. Macchia
Serve Strong: Biblical Encouragement to Sustain God’s Servants, by Terry Powell
Leadership Prayers, by Richard Kriegbaum

BOARD EXERCISE: What is your CEO’s “love language?” What the board might consider a helpful resource or benefit may not speak to your CEO’s unique needs. Talk about it!


This article was originally posted on the “Governance of Christ-Centered Organizations” blog, hosted by ECFA.
John Pearson, a board governance consultant and author, was ECFA’s governance blogger from 2011 to 2020.
© 2021, ECFA and John Pearson. All rights reserved.


This text is provided with the understanding that ECFA is not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from an accountant, lawyer, or other professional.