Executive Master of Leadership Blog

Mauricio Guardado - Becoming a Change Agent Through the EML

[fa icon="calendar'] Jan 18, 2022 1:44:38 PM / by Hailey Sole

Mauricio Guardado (EML Cohort 6) shares his experience as a student of the USC Sol Price Executive Master of Leadership Program. From pinpointing key takeaways to emphasizing the importance of expanding your network, Mauricio details his journey through the EML Program and shares just how the EML has shaped him into the leader he is today.


As General Manager of United Water Conservation District (“District”), Mauricio E. Guardado, Jr., leads the District’s efforts in protecting, conserving, managing and enhancing the water resources of the Santa Clara River watershed and Oxnard Plain. As the region continues to experience extreme drought conditions, Mr. Guardado provides the innovative leadership to spur collaboration with constituents in the agricultural industry and municipalities as well as with neighboring water agencies and private industry in seeking efficient, effective and long-term solutions to ensure the development and execution of reliable “new” water resources.


What drove you to join the Executive Master of Leadership Program at USC?

Mauricio Guardado

Mauricio: I had been looking for a master's program for a number of years, but the curriculum associated with most degrees failed to resonate with me. As I envisioned what my career might look like moving forward, I wanted to find a program that would transform me into a more well-rounded leader in business and corporate environments. I think for a long time I was looking for something without even knowing for sure what I was looking for. And it wasn't until a friend of mine introduced me to the Executive Master of Leadership Program that I discovered exactly what that was. As soon as I read through the first few lines on the website, I immediately said to myself


“This is me. This is exactly what I’m looking for."


After I applied and was accepted, I was introduced to the most amazing, diverse, high-level group of leaders. Whether they were involved with nonprofits, colonels in the army, police and fire captains, or politicians, the people in my cohort really changed the whole landscape on how I approached my career in addition to my personal life.


What do you think is the most important lesson the EML Program was able to teach you?

Mauricio: The EML has taught me lessons that have shaped me both personally and professionally. Unlike traditional leadership training programs, what truly sets the EML program apart is that it gives you the tools to improve your skills plus the environment and opportunity to practice. Without practice, how can you really improve? For example, if a basketball free-throw shooter wants to go from a 70% average shooter to 90% average shooter, techniques written on a board can only help so much. The thing that is really going to help them become a 90% free-throw shooter is if they apply the techniques and continue to practice on the court the right way.



“That is what USC trained me to do. It taught me how to take the elements and tools I was learning and actually put them into practice.”


When thinking of leadership, most people assume that means being the face of an organization, but this program showed me there are other ways to lead. During one of the exercises within the program, it became clear to me that my group was struggling to get organized. In assessing the room and my partners, I realized that maybe I needed to take a backseat and become the administrator, rather than continuing to play the same role as each of the other leaders. Therefore, I found myself leading through a different venue than what I was used to and found it exponentially more successful. I think the enhanced ability to read the room is something that has really helped me in my career thanks to the EML.


“Through my experiences in the EML, I have learned when and how to adapt to changing circumstances and bring leaders together under common objectives which has helped me succeed in my industry.”


In what ways have you seen the EML lessons applied in your professional career?

Mauricio: Every agency in our region has very similar goals and objectives, but in the past, each agency would come up with their own individual plan resulting in a lot of duplication. Being able to step back and become an administrator for the region helped bring leaders together, eliminating much of the duplication and pushing forward many of our sustainability projects.

One of the areas that had previously stifled me in my career was not knowing how to approach relationships in politics. However, both through the lessons I learned in the EML and the practice I gained from being surrounded by politicians in my cohort,


“USC taught me exactly how to handle these interactions and opened my eyes to the power of storytelling.”


Rather than relying on a particular approach, say, from a technical standpoint, understanding how to tell the right story and being effective has made all the difference in the world and that is something USC taught me. As a public water agency, our sole mission is to make sure that our people and environment have the resources they need, and


“USC has helped put me in the position to help the water industry meet that mission.”


How has the EML program shaped you as a leader?

Mauricio: Prior to the EML, I didn't realize what my true capability was. I always felt like I had it in me, but it was my classmates and this program that really drew it out of me. Once I finally realized that this program was providing me the right tools and the right setting to practice and respond to feedback, I found the confidence to propel myself into the next level of my career.

“Without USC and the EML Program, I don’t think I would be in the position I am today and be doing the things that I am currently capable of. The EML Program has been truly transformational.”


The EML Program betters people to create better leaders. And if you're a better leader, then you’re in a position to positively affect those around you. The traits and qualities I have gained from this program have helped me professionally as well as in my personal environment. It has aided me in keeping the people in my organization motivated amidst the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has provided, and has helped me keep my family, including my four kids, motivated as we navigate the course of our life through these obstacles. What I learned in the EML was not cut off when I graduated, but instead, I left with information, journals, books, articles, and a network that I use each day to practice and hopefully continue to improve. I think another big difference that a lot of other programs can’t provide is the Trojan Family.


“The connectivity you gain is undeniable and you feel it through and through during your time in the program and beyond.”

Any final thoughts you would like to share?

Mauricio: I believe it is your frame of mind going into the program that will determine how much you get out of the program. If you are truly looking to personally and professionally develop at a high level to navigate the next steps of your career or personal life, then this is certainly the program for you. The takeaways from the program are transformational and everything you learn each day you show up is applicable in real time. In fact, there are a lot of tools that you don't even realize you need until you get into this program. So if you are someone looking to find a program that will help you develop as a person and you are willing to put in the work, the EML Program will shape you into the change agent you want to be.

Download a brochure for USC's Executive Master of Leadership degree program.

Topics: Innovative Leadership, Transformation, leadership, Leadership Development, Leadership Styles, Leadership Journey, Leadership Skills

Hailey Sole

Written by Hailey Sole

Hailey Sole, undergraduate student at the University of Southern California, Marshall School of Business, brings to the forefront pressing topics regarding the USC Sol Price Executive Master of Leadership Program. Beginning her professional career as a social media intern for Danima Creative Group and Contrebleu Blue Light Glass Co., she now acts as the Social Media Coordinator for USC Sol Price EML. In this position, it is her goal to explore key concepts in leadership, highlight critical advice from frontrunners in the leadership development industry, and create an overall engaging and unified EML community.

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