the shape of leadership

Pursuing Excellence

Horst Schulze’s book reveals how Kingdom principles helped build a business empire

Yisrael Vincent on June 11, 2019

We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.” This has been the culture-setting maxim of Horst Schulze, co-founder of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. In his latest book, Excellence Wins: A No-Nonsense Guide to Becoming the Best in a World of Compromise, Schulze invites readers to see the processes that have helped develop an industry defining product.

Although Schulze identifies as a Christian and shares some of his personal spiritual journey in the epilogue, the book is practical and professional, which makes it a great read for business leaders and ministry leaders alike.

Part 1 focuses on best practices for serving people. This section contains many invaluable truths that apply to all types of organizations. Schulze challenges readers to recognize that, without exception, every member of your organization has a role in customer service. From his lifetime of experience in the service industry, Schulze identifies three things customers desire: quality, timeliness and courtesy.

Part 2 is about strategically engaging employees who accomplish the goals of the organization. Schulze calls for a paradigm shift that places value on the individual rather on what he or she can do for the organization — a perspective that stokes a sense of purpose at every level and in every process.

Excellence Wins helps underscore the missional dynamic of giving your best in your professional life.

This type of leadership honors the God-inscribed value that every person possesses and cultivates excellence as individuals embrace a sense of value in their roles. Schulze helps readers see that excellence is not simply a matter of surpassing industry metrics, but of passion and ownership that exceeds expectations. This mindset transforms a satisfactory experience into a memorable one.

Part 3 deals with leadership. Although many have written on this subject in the last two decades, rarely is it engaged by industry leaders with Schulze’s experience. Schulze helps demystify leadership and ultimately shows that quality leadership is a function of discipline rather than genetics. He proposes several key indicators for leaders to watch closely in assessing the strength of their organizations, including customer loyalty and employee satisfaction.

This month, our Church Multiplication Network team read Excellence Wins in our effort to constantly improve how we accomplish the vision to see a healthy church in every community. The insights Schulze offers have been immediately valuable in our context and scale well to different leadership contexts.

One of the takeaways I most appreciate from Schulze’s story is how a widely recognized and respected hotel empire was clearly built upon Kingdom principles. Figures like Schulze are noteworthy in professional circles because of what they have accomplished and how they did it — but the ensuing question is always why they have done it that way. Excellence Wins helps underscore the missional dynamic of giving your best in your professional life.

Ultimately, Schulze demonstrates to leaders and churches that excellence is a professionally bilingual quality capable of traversing the sacred-secular divide. When you do something well, beyond what is expected, people notice and eventually ask why.

Book Reviewed

Horst Schulze, Excellence Wins: A No-Nonsense Guide to Becoming the Best in a World of Compromise (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2019).

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