Students encouraged to lead with a servant's heart

PLAINVIEW – Leadership takes on many different forms in society, but the best way to lead is by serving others, says Tracy Reynolds, keynote speaker for the second annual High Plains Leadership Summit, held at Wayland Baptist University on Friday.

“We’re called to build bridges in people’s lives,” said Reynolds, who is a member of the coaching team for Growing Leaders, a nonprofit organization created to develop emerging leaders, especially on college campuses. He is also campus pastor and chair of the School of Christian Ministries at Emmanuel College in Franklin Springs, Ga.

In his keynote address at the Leadership Luncheon, Reynolds pointed out three key images to recall in building bridges through relationships and service: Hosts and Guests; Hot Air Balloons; and the Waldorf Principle.

“Hosts make people feel comfortable,” he said. “They are people who make you feel at home when you talk to them.”

He encouraged leaders to take the initiative to meet others and build a connection on some level, even if they don’t particularly get along with someone. He also encouraged listening and empathizing with people in order to help build bridges.

“The number one need I see in people, no matter their race or creed or how much money they have, is to be understood,” Reynolds said.

The hot air balloon image was a reminder of the need for the ingredients that make the balloon rise, which is hydrogen.

“Encouragement is the hydrogen of the soul,” he said. “And really, about 99 percent of accountability is encouragement. We all need to be encouraged along the way.”

The Waldorf Principle is that of giving to others with no expectation of reward but simply because it is the right thing to do. Telling the story of the clerk at a rundown hotel with no occupancy who let a couple have his room for the night rather than send them back out into the stormy night, Reynolds made the point about rewards coming later and taking different forms. The couple turned out to be Mr. Waldorf Astor and his wife, who later built the famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York and asked the clerk to return and run it.

“Servant leadership needs to be extravagant at times and sacrificial,” Reynolds said.

He closed with a prayer he had heard reminding of the calling individuals face to serve others.

“Lord, show me a person in need today, and help me to have the sense to know they’re there. Help me find a way to brag on Jesus and pray for that person right there on the spot,” he said.

Earlier, at Wayland’s chapel service, Reynolds told the story of the Towel and the Basin, a picture of servant leadership based on Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet. He encouraged students to remember their calling to serve others and follow Christ’s example, and luncheon attendees were given a towel as a reminder.

The Leadership Summit is a project of the Center for Student Leadership and Involvement.

“Wayland has recently formed a partnership with this dynamic organization to assist us as we continue to grow our own student leadership culture,” said Hope English, director of student leadership and involvement at Wayland and organizer of the Summit.