Mr Horst Schulze, CEO of he Ritz-Carlton Hotel Group

Mr Horst Schulze

Some of life’s greatest lessons catch you by surprise! Some of these surprises initially seem like a routine hit with a pillow which only is it later that you realise it had a non-routine brick among the feathers! One of these recent brick-in-the-pillow moments for me was listening to Horst Schulze. He is now one of the world’s most successful men and widely regarded as one of the greatest managers of people on the planet. As I listened to Horst tell his story, it dawned on me that he too had the same pathway to success and greatness that every other enduring super-high achiever possessed: he started young!

The Bible also contains the stories of some great leaders who were able to achieve the extraordinary.  Without exception, these great people also came up along the same pathway of success which required that they started very young. Joseph the Dreamer, Joshua the Commander, Jeremiah the Prophet, and Jesus the Saviour, all commenced their journey to extraordinary success when they were young. The young person who veers too long from the path of success by rebelling against God and those He has placed in authority over them is jeopardising not only their future but the positive benefit to the futures of many many others! The success that comes from helping many others brings a satisfaction that no party with booze, drugs, and sleaze could ever ever ever come close to! This is why I was so fascinated to hear Horst Schulze’s story.

For Horst it all began when his father took him to the city. It was young Horst’s first time in a city. His father showed him inside a hotel lobby. The young boy stood there amazed at the numbers and types of people in that lobby. He saw bell-boys assisting travellers with their suitcases. He saw desk-clerks pinging bells. He saw managers watching over their staff and directing traffic. And what he saw excited his young mind greatly. He now knew what he wanted to do with the rest of his life!

The Tokyo Ritz Carlton

Horst could think of nothing else after he returned to his village. He was so persistent in his pleas to his parents to take him back to the city hotel that eventually his father not only relented but even decided to ask the hotel manager if he would give his pre-employment-age son a job in the hotel – without pay! The manager agreed and young Horst didn’t start a job that day, he started a career that has now led to him being the President of The Ritz-Carlton International Hotel Group. On that first day in that hotel Horst discovered that he loved helping people. Initially he found tremendous happiness from helping a weary traveller with their luggage. He then found new delights in helping people to the room. The more he discovered about the workings of a hotel, the more ways he realised he could help people. Today, he still enjoys the thrill of helping customers experience the world’s best service, but he also now enjoys helping people find a job in his hotels and helping them to do their job well and enjoy it, by learning to serve others. He says that this love of helping by serving particularly occurred when he was assigned to work in the hotel’s restaurant as a waiter.

Normally, he tells, the Matradee (restaurant manager) is the ‘star’ in a restaurant and is treated like a rock-star by his staff. But in this hotel’s restaurant, the real rock-star was the Head Chef. All the waiters and even the Matradee were in awe of him. He commanded respect. But unlike most Head Chefs, this chef had time for people. When Horst started working as a waiter in this restaurant, the Head Chef came up to him and spoke with him.

Who’s the most important person in this restaurant Horst?” he asked the awe-struck boy.

You?” timidly replied Horst.


The customer?


You are!” said the Head Chef to Horst, “You are a gentleman serving other ladies and gentlemen tonight Horst! Everything we do tonight can be made better or worse by you!

This made a great impact on Horst. How he served customers (“ladies and gentlemen”) in that restaurant was the most important thing that was happening that night! As the restaurant opened and began to fill with diners, the Head Chef made an appearance from the kitchen onto the dining room floor amidst rapturous applause from the dinner-suited diners. The Head Chef acknowledged their applause and then gave Horst a wink, as if to say, don’t let their applause for me trick you into thinking that you’re not still the most important person here tonight.

Today, there are 90 Ritz-Carlton Hotels in 29 countries around the world and Horst Schulze is the part-owner, President, and Chief Operating Officer of the world’s most prestigious Hotel chain. They are now regarded as one of the world’s leading customer service orientated businesses which they won many international awards for. Wikipedia notes

The company grew under the leadership of President and COO Horst Schulze. Schulze instituted a company-wide concentration on both the personal and the data-driven sides of service: He coined the company’s well-known customer/employee-centered motto, “We are Ladies and Gentlemen Serving Ladies and Gentlemen” and the set of specific service values (standards) on which The Ritz-Carlton employees base service through the present day.[17] Under his leadership the hotels earned an unprecedented two Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Awards[18] and grew from four to forty U.S. locations.[19]

Horst attributes his passion to serve others and to do it with excellence to his faith in Christ. After all, Jesus Christ is the Servant of all. Christ is the Ultimate Helper. To love Jesus is to serve Jesus and join with Him in serving those He wants helped. Not many followers of Christ really come to understand this. But history tells us two standout things about those who do: they all started their journey with Christ at a very young age and they all refused to be ordinary just like the crowd around them. 

If you have come to Christ after your teen years, it’s not too late for you – but it is far more difficult for you to overcome years of worldly attitudes, decades of bad habits, and the ease of just going along with the crowd. But by the grace of God, it can be done. However, if you are a young person who has come to know Christ – rather than a young person who goes to church because they are made or expected to by their parents – you probably already feel different. There will be moments of doubt to overcome. There will be times of loneliness to bridle. There will be temptations to resist. But history tells screams to you that it will be well worth it – hang in there!

When I move into the next phase of my life and begin to look to someone to take the baton from my hand, I am pretty sure it will be to someone whom God has called and equipped from a very young age. This young person may be very be alive today (they may even already be in our church). They will probably have an unusual curiosity about God and the Bible. When in church their heart probably draws them to close their eyes during the times of congregational worship and capture a vision of God in Heaven surrounded by trillions of mighty angels singing their adoration of Him. As the preacher preaches, they will find the questions they had previously asked God that week being answered – as if God was speaking directly through the preacher to them. When they receive instruction in our Kids Church they will probably gladly be memorising the assigned memory-verses of the Bible. They will probably grow up with a very keen sense of right and wrong – which could cause their sometimes-compromising parents some irritation.

In the meantime, you might be the lady or the gentleman who encourages them with an appropriate word or wink, just like the Head Chef did for Horst when he too was a very young man, because when it comes to greatness and success – it starts young.     

But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.
Luke 22:26


Andrew Corbett