By Daniel Houston
Baylor President Ken Starr returned from a trip to Washington, D.C., Thursday to speak on the importance of good leaders having a courageous entrepreneurial spirit, among other topics on leadership.
Citing the story of Howard Schultz, an entrepreneur who successfully changed the atmosphere of Starbucks Corp. coffeehouses despite the ownership initially rejecting his approach, Starr lauded Schultz’s ability to trust his judgment in the face of uncertainty.
Starr identified six traits he believes great leaders possess: vision, persistent hard work, courage, humility, integrity and creativity. Starr’s presentation was full of references to books he found helpful on the subject that helped illustrate these traits.
“You can lead up, you can lead down, and you can lead across the organization,” Starr said, quoting John Maxwell, a Christian author who writes on leadership. “Do not be held hostage to your circumstances, or your position. You do not need to be the leader –the president to lead effectively.”
The speech took place in Kayser Auditorium before an audience of more than 100 people as part of the Leadership Lecture Series hosted by the Academy for Leader Development and Civic Engagement. Munday senior Ashleigh Myers, fellow at the academy and president of the Baylor Ambassadors, moderated the lecture and the following question-and-answer session.
Myers said she believes the audience benefited most from Starr’s explanation of the six traits of leadership, but also said Starr sets a good example of leadership by his own conduct.
“I think it is his absolute no-nonsense attitude, how he’s going to do what’s best for the students,” Myers said. “It’s not political for him; it’s not increasing the recognition of his own name. It’s, ‘How can I help the students?’ And so it’s that humility, that unselfishness, that selflessness that makes him such a great leader.”
Starr also used Jordan Hannah, student body president during the 2009-2010 school year, as an example of an effective servant leader. Hannah was part of a group of student body officers who polled the student body and concluded that the rising cost of a Baylor education was one of their primary concerns.
“It was heavy on Jordan’s heart,” Starr said, “as the duly elected president of the student body, to be very communitarian about not so much his legacy, but how can I best serve? Out of those conversations was born the broader scholarship initiative which is underway.”
During the question-and-answer session, a member of the audience asked Starr if he ever felt his responsibilities in the field of law conflicted with his commitment to Christian principles.
“I’ve never had that kind of moral struggle that I want to do X but I can’t do it because of my Christian worldview,” Starr said. “I would say to my colleagues in public service that we turn square corners; we don’t jaywalk. … One of the prosecutors in the investigation I was charged with leading as a servant leader had a great saying … ‘I can deal with the truth, whatever it is. What I can never deal with’ – and he had an edge in his voice – ‘are lies.’”