Good Leadership Often ‘Less
about Credit and More about Results’
By Mary Branham, CSG Managing Editor
Jason Frierson had been involved in student government from grade school through high school.
So it just made sense, after he suffered a career-ending knee injury playing football at the University of Nevada-Reno, to get involved in student government.
“I made the most of it and took advantage of relationships I had developed,” said Frierson, who now represents a portion of Las Vegas and surrounding areas in the Nevada State Assembly.
Frierson earned a bachelor’s degree in 1996 and moved from Reno to Las Vegas in 1998. The Compton, Calif., native had visited extended family in Nevada in his youth and found it a natural fit once he got involved in the communities in which he lived.
Nevada is a small state, he said, with about 2.8 million people. He got the chance to meet the governor, attorney general and other public officials, which prompted his interest in staying in the state.
He earned a law degree from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, where, like at Reno, he served as student body president. That just cemented his desire for public service.
“Helping other people is something that gave me fulfillment,” Frierson said. In being able to continue in a representative capacity from high school to college and law school, he said, “it just became obvious that it was a natural fit for me to try to be a voice for other people.”
That led him to the Nevada Assembly, where he recently finished his second term in office.
Frierson, who has a background in criminal law, initially ran for office to be able to contribute to the vetting of legislation in that area. He’s also developed an interest in child welfare-related issues, working with foster children and abused and neglected children.
But Frierson, a 2012 CSG Henry Toll Fellow, is a quiet leader who is most comfortable working behind the scenes.
“I think far too often, potential leaders get caught up in needing credit and praise, when a lot of times the real work is collaborative,” Frierson said. “Sometimes, the best leader is one who lets everybody get credit. It’s less about credit and more about results.”
Frierson said it takes a variety of leadership styles to garner success. One of his role models is Nevada Congressman Steven Horsford, with whom he served in student government. Horsford, Frierson said, is a dynamic speaker and presenter with a leadership style different than his own.
“I think working with him helped me to discover a comfort level with my style,” Frierson said.
“We need the dynamic fiery speeches and folks who can be the face of issues, but we also need folks that are willing to get in the trenches and do the hard work to learn the issues and come up with some good solutions,” he said. “A lot of times, those (solutions) come from folks that are focused less on getting credit and praise and more on collaboration to come up with a great result.”
Frierson also counts former Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley as a role model. Buckley endorsed him when he ran for her seat in the Assembly.
His experience in the CSG Toll Fellows program taught him that a lot of representatives around the country face the same challenges he and his colleagues in the Nevada legislature face.
“I think lots of times, it’s easy to feel like you’re by yourself,” he said. “For me, knowing that other people are going through the same thing is encouraging. Knowing you have other people to lean on if you needed to and draw from a similar experience has been one of the most beneficial things for me.”
Frierson has this advice on being a good leader: “Being true to yourself is the first thing I would tell folks.”
That means you must maintain a healthy home and family life, he said. He makes sure he balances his time as a legislator, a deputy district attorney in Las Vegas and husband and father. Frierson and his wife Abbie enjoy traveling when they can. The couple has a son, Matthew, who just turned 1.
“If you let this take over and define you, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment,” Frierson said of serving in the legislature. “You have to maintain yourself and who you are.
“All of those things make for a great experience and, quite frankly, for the long term, a better leader,” he said