Last week, COBA partnered with the Lytle Center for Faith and Leadership to host our annual Distinguished Speaker Series. We were honored to have Horst Schulze as our guest this year. Schulze was born in a small German village and knew he wanted to work in hotels at age 11. He left home at 14 to be a busboy and the rest, as they say, is history. Schulze spent nine years with Hyatt Hotels Corporation before becoming a founding member and president of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. After resigning from The Ritz-Carlton, Schulze is now the chairman and CEO of Capella Hotel Group, an ultra-luxury hotel chain.
Schulze spent his time in Abilene connecting with students, faculty and staff, and community and university leaders conversing about exceptional customer service and what it means to be a leader striving for excellence. He shared stories from his years in the hotel industry and the absolute importance of having a vision and a purpose. Schulze advised that the steps to success are vision, commitment, and initiation. You must have a dream, a vision, to guide what you do and define what you are working toward. The dream becomes more than just a dream when you commit to it and decide to carry it out. Carrying it out entails taking the first step, initiating, and persevering to make the dream and vision a reality. Especially as a leader, the vision is very important and gives meaning and information to everything you do. According to Schulze, being a leader implies that you have something in your mind that you are bringing people to. People respond not to rules and orders, but to objectives and motives. Schulze shared that he thought it was immoral to hire people to fulfill functions; you hire people to join the vision and become a part of the dream.
Schulze also spoke about a seeming contradiction: what it means to be the best in the world but to live a life as Christian where we are called to not be of the world. In scripture, we are consistently reminded that our citizenship is in heaven, how we should not conform to the world, and how it is likely that the world will hate us because we are not of it. This leaves many questioning how can we be in the world, but not of the world. Schulze shared how he struggled with working in the luxury hotel business and wanting to create the very best hotel in the world, but not being sure how that connected with his calling as a Christian. He then realized that this was an opportunity to be an example and show the kingdom to the world. It all connects back to Schulze’s personal vision for his life: to be excellent in every role he fills. Excellence in how he treats and grows his employees, excellence in serving customers and shareholders, excellence in every aspect of his hotels points back to Christ. Creating the best hotel in the world sets his hotels apart and creates an example for others. Schulze believes that if we are not living with a mission to be excellent and not using our God-given gifts and abilities, then we are not fully living in every way we can for Christ. Being an example of excellence while living for Christ allows others to see Him through you and points people back to Him. Scripture also reminds us that being holy implies being different and unique. By being excellent, you are set apart like we are called to be.
Schulze’s messages were eloquent, inspiring, and convicting. Below are some of the testimonies that students shared after listening to him:
“This was the best part of my entire semester. I heard him in the morning and at the luncheon and wish I could have had him in all of my classes. I have a renewed commitment to living out my calling with Christ.”
“Horst made me grateful to be at ACU. I never realized how special this place was until I heard this accomplished man come to us and tell us that we bring him hope by what we do and how we aren’t ashamed of Christ.”
“The way he stayed consistent with his vision over his entire career is so impactful – I just want to live better after hearing him.”
“How often do you hear about someone who worked their way up from washing dishes and busing tables to running the #1 hotel brand in the world? This means we have to start being our best right now, where we are.”