01 Dec 2017
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Leadership in Practice

William F. Dawson Jr. (MBA 1991)

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William F. Dawson Jr. (MBA 1991)

After three decades working with executives in scores of private and public companies, Wellspring Capital Management CEO William F. Dawson Jr. (MBA 1991) is convinced that “the most successful business leaders rely at least as much on emotional intelligence as IQ.” His 25th Reunion gift to establish the William F. Dawson Jr. MBA Program Innovation Fund and his support for the HBS Fund for Leadership and Innovation reflect his interest in helping MBA students develop the habits of mind of successful leaders through hands-on experience.

“Leadership is difficult to teach,” says Dawson. “To Dean Nitin Nohria’s credit, HBS’s approach is evolving in a very creative way. Business leaders need to inspire trust, they have to be able to read people, and they need to know how to motivate others to do their best. The School’s introduction of the field method, experiential learning, immersion experiences, and team-based entrepreneurial projects are all on the right track.”

Dawson grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and was the first in his family to attend college. He majored in business and finance, and was working as a successful analyst at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette (DLJ) when he applied to HBS. “I already had the analytical skills,” he recalls, “but the rigors of the case method raised the bar for me.” Dawson greatly admired his HBS corporate finance professor, the late Scott Mason, whom he credits with “teaching me how to apply theory to practical challenges.”

After 14 years at DLJ, Dawson moved to Wellspring in 2001 and was named CEO in 2014. He has led or cosponsored many of the firm’s most successful investments in distribution, consumer and business services, and industrial companies. “Like many of my classmates, I had a fantastic experience at HBS that definitely contributed to what I’ve achieved,” Dawson notes. “I’m happy to be able to give back by supporting innovations that are keeping HBS at the forefront of leadership education.”

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Featured Alumni

Featured Alumni

Class of MBA 1991, Section H

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