My guest post features Michael Huber, CEO of Indy Chamber, a career policymaker and civil servant whose passion is creating a better Indianapolis. He’s served under Governor Mitch Daniels as deputy director of the Indiana OMB, Mayor Greg Ballard as deputy mayor for economic development, and joined the Indianapolis Airport Authority as senior director of commercial enterprise. He became leader of Indy Chamber in 2013.
BKB: Chambers of Commerce have been around for a long time. Indy Chamber is now in its 129th year. How do you keep its purpose and mission timely?
MH: The constant mission throughout our history has been to harness the power of business to improve our region. Today we have nearly 2,000 businesses and a growing number of nonprofits that supply constant input and energy. It’s a collective effort to improve our city and region. We’re able to take the financial and intellectual capital of business leaders and employ that through advocacy, policy, and economic development initiatives to create a better Indianapolis.
BKB: Improving life in Indy is understood. What does that look like for today’s resident?
MH: It’s all about workforce. The bread-and-butter metrics for chambers in the past have been job commitments and new capital investment. Today, the more important indicators are the health of growth sectors – tech and life sciences – as well as inclusive growth. Growing the economy and job base in ways that are accessible to people across the spectrum. Not just the highly educated. We want to serve 2019 and not 1989.
BKB: What does that conversation look like?
MH: For a chamber to be relevant and have an impact on areas that matter, you have to do a constant scan of the environment and what other cities are doing. The old school was focused on finances. I still hear, “your agenda is kind of soft. You used to talk about taxes, and now you’re talking about early childhood education.” The social issues are critical to workforce development. Employers used to go into cities, and then attract workers. Today, employers won’t enter a city if the workforce isn’t present. It’s our job to bring that forward.
BKB: You lead a regional initiative, and an important organization that drives that. How do you find team members who share your inspiration?
MH: We recruit team members who have intellectual curiosity about what makes businesses work, and a passion for our city and region. I spend a lot of time getting to know candidates who would report to me and have empowered leaders throughout the organization to narrow down the list. Once that’s done, I always join in to participate in discovering the best fit.
BKB: What have you learned about leadership that surprises you? That you’ve latched onto as important?
MH: The inevitable part of leadership is conflict resolution. In my 20s and 30s I got by because I was fortunate to work in jobs where I was passionate. Driven by that, I could work very hard. But that required frequent bursts of intensity and raw emotion that put me on edge. When there were losses, I took them personally. Today I put my family, physical, and spiritual health at the top. If I don’t prioritize those I’m not going to have the internal resources to deal with being a leader. And helping people grow through conflict.
The leaders I admire are constantly growing, constantly putting themselves in situations where they can learn and stretch. If I’m growing as a leader, it’s likely that I’m uncomfortable. I’m constantly fighting my self-orientation to focus on the other person. The leaders I admire the most are those who are interested in others in genuine ways to help them grow. Professional talent scout, professional appreciator – part of your life as a leader includes this acknowledgment of different skills and backgrounds.
Read more about Indy Chamber’s progressive plan for our city at www.indychamber.com
And join us next time for another perspective on leadership.