Called to Serve: Max’s Most Memorable Message (1924–2017)

By John Pearson

Note:This is No. 24 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.

Raving fans of Max De Pree were saddened this week to learn of his homegoing on August 8, but so grateful for this Christian business leader’s heart for God and passion for good governance. Here’s a link to the tribute from Fuller Seminary, where he served 40 years as a board member, retiring in 2005. The school honored him by establishing the Max De Pree Center for Leadership and noted:

“In his four popular leadership books—Leadership Is an Art, Leadership Jazz, , and Called to ServeMax, in a gentle storytelling style, shared his vast knowledge and wisdom about leadership and management, always emphasizing putting people first.” Fuller also shared a favorite quotation by De Pree:

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.
The second is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor.”

For me, the most memorable message delivered by Max De Pree is about measurements. Throughout his writings, he gently pounds away on the importance of staff and boards weighing in on what to measure. (I mentioned this in my introduction to this blog series, What Will You Measure in 2017?”) De Pree writes:

• “In my experience a failure to make a conscious decision about what it is we’re going to measure often causes discombobulation and a lack of effectiveness and a lack of achievement.”
• “The task of stating just exactly what to measure falls to the leaders in organizations. It’s not an easy job, and finding what to measure won’t happen automatically.”
It’s so easy to fall into the trap of measuring only what’s easy to measure.”

As your board considers what to measure each year (perhaps you’ve already done it), invest time also in spiritually discerning God’s direction for the ministry. As John Wesley said, “I judge all things only by the price they shall gain in eternity.”

BOARD DISCUSSION: Ask your CEO, “What do you want to be remembered for? And what should we measure?”


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.