As Riverside Mayor, EMBA Candidate Dawson Applies Her Drucker Training Daily
“Knowing myself provides me with the confidence to proceed in the face of criticism,” says Patricia Lock Dawson, mayor of the City of Riverside and a current EMBA candidate at the Drucker School. Dawson was sworn in as the city’s mayor in December 2020.
Over the past year, Dawson has pursued a robust agenda to bring resources to the city. In the following Q & A, Dawson discusses how she’s juggling her demanding public leadership role with her academic experiences at Drucker.
Q: What Drucker principles do you believe have made you more effective in your current role as mayor of Riverside?
A: Drucker’s idea that “the best way to predict the future is to create it” drives me daily. In fact, it’s inspired this year’s State of the City address, which is titled “Building Tomorrow Today.” I’m creating the future economy in Riverside by establishing the city as a global center for green and clean technology. I’ve established clear goals, priorities, and metrics to determine the efficacy of my strategy.
I’ve also seen firsthand that in every challenge lies an opportunity. Riverside’s challenges with air quality and traffic create a living laboratory for innovative environmental research and technology. My courses with Professors Hideki Yamawaki and Kristine Kawamura gave me a lens to see these as opportunities to attract businesses and drive investment into the city’s economy.
Q: Peter Drucker wrote about how the effective executive builds on the strengths of oneself and of others. How you have exercised this principle at work?
A: As a Drucker student, I’ve learned we are all better off when we know our strengths and use them to guide our careers. I used to approach my development from a deficit viewpoint, focusing on my weaknesses and looking for ways to improve or fix myself. But Drucker principles taught me that knowing my strengths and building on them was a much better use of my time and efforts.
My biggest strength, for example, is being strategic. One of the primary jobs of being a mayor is finding solutions to the large and vexing problems inherent to managing a city. Professor Bernie Jaworski’s Drucker philosophy course was especially helpful to me in recognizing and utilizing my strengths.”
Q: If you could give one piece of advice to up-and-coming executives, what would it be?
A: Relationships are everything, so build them, nurture them, and be trustworthy.
Important relationships can develop with anyone. Never discount someone because you think they aren’t powerful or able to help you.
Q: Peter Drucker emphasized–and Professor Jeremy Hunter does it now–the critical importance of managing oneself. What role has self-management played in your current role?
A: Self-management has become one of my highest priorities. Knowing my strengths is important—but knowing and managing my blind spots is equally so.
In my role as mayor, my judgment and decisions are often questioned and harshly critiqued. Knowing myself provides me with the confidence to proceed in the face of criticism. My classes with Professors Jeremy Hunter and Chris Laszlo taught me grounding techniques and gave me the resources to build resilience and flourish in my leadership role.”
Q: Another saying of Peter Drucker is: “Results are obtained by exploiting opportunities, not by solving problems.” Can you give an example of an opportunity at work that has been successfully tapped and the result?
A: This past year, I applied and was accepted into the competitive Bloomberg Harvard City Initiative. I was one of only 38 mayors selected from around the world to participate in this year-long program. The program comes with support and coaching to establish a clean and green innovation economy in Riverside.
I will be working with Drucker School Dean David Sprott on a capstone project in my final semester that will leverage this work with Harvard. Additionally, as a member of the state’s Big City Mayors’ Coalition, I have secured millions in funding for youth workforce development as well as homeless programs by identifying opportunities in the state.