Listening, Learning, and Leading

Building blocks
Jason Mangan Chief Executive Officer

Leadership transcends titles. Whether inherent or learned, everyone has the potential to lead.

Since its inception in 1966, LHB has been led by four CEOs. Over the course of my career, I’ve had the good fortune to know and work with three of these leaders, along with several excellent managers. As LHB’s newest CEO, I’ve been thinking a lot about how these individuals approached leadership, what was successful, and what leadership style resonates most with me.

How a CEO leads is important, yet I firmly believe that people can lead at all levels. For me personally, I try to manage projects and people in a way that both aligns with the company’s vision and benefits clients and staff.

What makes a good leader? Opinions vary, of course, but here are three leadership principles that I have learned and use as a compass. Perhaps they can serve as a guide for you too.

Leaders Listen and Learn

I grew up in Cloquet; my dad was the county sheriff. It wasn’t an easy job, but he was good at it because he surrounded himself with good people. He trusted them to do the right thing and listened carefully to what they said. I learned a lot from my dad, including the lesson that you really can’t know what people think until you ask them. As CEO, I plan to ask people questions and I hope they’ll tell me (honestly) what they think.

Years ago, I earned a graduate certificate in management at the University of Minnesota, and I recently enrolled part-time in some remote-learning courses with Penn State, focusing on corporate innovation and entrepreneurship. There is value in cultivating a lifelong learning mindset. Whatever field you are in, continuous learning allows us to keep up with the ever-changing world around us.

Leaders Mentor Others

I began at LHB as an intern, and from the start, I was lucky enough to have supervisors who were mentors. They were patient and open, and as I moved up through the ranks, they showed me how to succeed in work and in life. We talked about how to manage money, balance work and life, and the importance of client service.

At work and in my community, I have tried to be a mentor. I’ve helped University of Minnesota Duluth students with resumes and organized job shadows for high schoolers. I try to make sure that our staff include younger LHB staff in site visits and important meetings, so they can learn from experience. Mentorship continues to be a priority at our company. Not only does LHB benefit, but so does our industry overall. What we can teach, others are eager to learn.

Leaders Engage their Community

As a youth I was in the Boy Scouts, an experience that taught me self-reliance, the benefits of teamwork, and the value of getting involved. Living in Cloquet, I served for several years on the city’s planning commission and volunteered as a regional and state science fair competition judge. These experiences showed me that our communities benefit enormously from volunteerism. I encourage our staff to volunteer their time to help communities and nonprofits. We can feel proud that our neighbors recognize the name of our firm — not only for our designs — but also for the contributions we make in our communities.

Leadership is a dynamic concept, always evolving to meet the needs of the moment, but I see these principles as timeless and applicable to anyone. And when everyone recognizes their role in company leadership and commits to hard work, good intent, and honesty, the results can be astonishing. ■

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