When Mark McLellan — a “Double Tommie” – first learned about Mobile Loaves & Fishes, the 3M executive was moved by the simplicity and notion of driving a truck to serve people in need.
“The whole model is built to be flexible and reactionary when needed,” he said.
Mobile Loaves first set its humble roots in Texas as an outreach program to provide “food, clothing and dignity to brothers and sisters” in need. Thanks to Mark, the organization is now garnering serious attention in the Twin Cities. More than 260 local volunteers serve up an average of 200 meals a night four times a week, year-round.
Mark’s interest in social justice began at an early age. He earned his undergraduate degree at St. Thomas, minoring in peace and justice. The school’s emphasis on Christian social teachings instilled a sense of responsibility. “Mobile Loaves was my calling to get off the sidelines and make something happen,” he said.
Mark later earned an Executive MBA graduate degree at Opus College of Business (“A no brainer”) to augment his successful 20-year career at 3M, a global innovation company based in St. Paul.
He attributes his leadership success to the Executive MBA program, a 21-month cohort program in downtown Minneapolis. Professor Tom Ressler was especially impactful. To quote Dr. Ressler:
“We are the beneficiaries of very complex systems created long before we got here. As leaders, we have a responsibility to grow and drive them even further from a business perspective.”
In other words, be humble, be creative, think strategically and execute. But Mark is quick to point out that leadership goes beyond the bottom line. Ethics and community play an important role, too. His MBA encouraged him to think critically about societal impact:
“In my classes we talked a lot about how easy it is to let the P&L become the only relevant thing — versus the value you bring back to the community,” he said.
While he was at St. Thomas getting his MBA, Mark was also active with the Mobile Loaves organization. Community value and ethical leadership no doubt were two important outputs of his graduate program.
“I’ve worked in the corporate environment so I’ve been very blessed to be on the winning side of a lot of things in this world,” he said. “I come from a family that struggles with addiction and mental illness. I believe that we all walk a very fine line in this world.”
As for Mark’s most rewarding part of Mobile Loaves, he doesn’t hesitate in his answer.
“It’s the contact with people,” he said. “I’m in their environment; giving them a hug, shaking their hands, looking into their eyes, hearing their stories. We’re here to let them know they’re not out here alone.”
St. Thomas historically has strong dimensions in social teachings and ethical leadership at both the undergrad and graduate level. Mark adds, “It’s not just enough to contemplate and intellectualize ideas, but taking action in a productive way to serve the common good.”