What I have learned from the giants of our industry is that the organization and its members must come first. Whether we are the CEO or in a staff position, the well-being of the organization and of the members must always come first. There is nothing wrong with being ambitious, but we should be ambitious for the good of the organization. In his best-selling book “Good to Great,” Jim Collins calls this Level 5 Leadership. By the way, search committees are looking for this type of leader.
One such “Level 5” leader is Bruce Hillegeist, President of the Greater Tomball Area Chamber of Commerce in Tomball, TX. Bruce is Tomball born and Tomball proud. The only time that he left his home was when he went off to college at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX. His father was a well-respected banker in Tomball and his mother an extremely active community volunteer. Bruce tells me that she has probably sung at more than 100 weddings in the Tomball area… that is until Alzheimer’s began taking its ugly toll on that beautiful life.
Bruce returned from college and followed in his father’s footsteps as a banker in the community. He spent 13 years in that profession and like his dad and mom, he served on numerous community boards. A deeply religious and giving man, Bruce was, and still is, very active in his Lutheran Church. One of the many boards that he served on during his banking career was the local chamber of commerce.
When the chamber executive decided to retire, the leadership of the board came to Bruce to implore him to take the CEO position. That was almost 20 years ago, and Bruce Hillegeist is still moving the Tomball Chamber of Commerce, the Tomball community, and indeed the entire region forward. Bruce is a consummate team player who does not care who gets the credit, as long as the business community and his beloved City of Tomball benefits.
During a recent visit to work with Bruce and the board and staff of the chamber, I learned just how much he is respected, admired, and, yes, loved by his community. He was surprised by Tomball High School when named as the Grand Marshall of the Homecoming Parade while I was there. Every restaurant we went to had his photo on the wall. His board and staff told me how much he is revered in the community. He is actually known throughout the community as “Mr. Tomball”. This moniker is not something he aspired to, and he is embarrassed by all the attention, because he does not feel that he has done anything out of the ordinary to deserve the title or other accolades he has received.
Bruce Hillegeist is “Mr. Tomball” because he walks the talk. He gives so much of himself to the chamber and the community. He believes that service to others is the only rent you pay for the space you occupy on this earth. He is, indeed, a Level 5 Leader – ambitious for the chamber and the community, but not for himself.