Professor Christopher Pietroni

Professor Christopher Pietroni

University of Birmingham
Professor of Leadership Practice
Director of the Birmingham Leadership Institute

Contact details

The Exchange
Centenary Square
B1 2DR

Christopher is Professor of Leadership Practice at the University of Birmingham where he is Director of the Birmingham Leadership Institute. His work focuses on leadership in complex systems with a particular interest in applying and adapting research and practice from narrative, framing, social movements and adaptive leadership. In addition to academic teaching and writing, Christopher leads programmes and masterclasses and consults extensively in the UK, Europe and the US working across public, private, voluntary and community bodies seeking to support progress on complex social challenges.

Professor Pietroni hosts the Leadership Exchanged podcast where he discusses with guests what kind of leadership is needed if you want to make real, lasting change.


  • Masters In Public Administration, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University – 2010 (Lucius N. Littauer Fellowship)
  • MA in Social and Religious History 1500-1700, University of Warwick – 1995
  • BA in History (Modern), University College, University of Oxford - 1995


Christopher’s work focuses on leadership and change in complex systems with a particular interest in applying and adapting insights from narrative, framing, movement building and adaptive leadership. Working in the UK, US and Europe he leads a number of senior executive and graduate development programmes and post-graduate teaching/Exec Ed as well as consulting widely.

He is a long-time collaborator with Professor Marshall Ganz and in 2016 and 2020 was a member of Professor Ron Heifetz’s adaptive leadership teaching team at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

Christopher has wide experience directing, designing and leading systems leadership programmes across the public sector including: Senior Civil Service Programme (Civil Service Leadership Academy) Leadership for Change (Systems Leadership Steering Group), Skills for Systems Leadership (PHE), Future Vision (Leadership Centre), C21st Aspiring Directors Programme (University of Birmingham), National Graduate Development Programme for Local Government (University of Birmingham).

Christopher has been a Senior Fellow at the Leadership Centre and a Senior Associate at the Kings Fund. In 2017-18 he was Fellow of Practice at the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford and he received the Lucius N. Littauer Fellowship from the Harvard Kennedy School in 2010.

Prior to joining the Birmingham Leadership Institute, Christopher was Co-Director of Leading Communities. His background includes senior roles in local government, including as a Corporate Director at the Local Government Association and Assistant Chief Executive at Hampshire County Council, and in anti-poverty, democracy and human rights NGOs.


  • Module Convenor, Leadership in Public Services
  • LANS Year in Civic Leadership
  • Programme Director, Future Vision
  • National Graduate Development Programme for Local Government
  • Aspiring Directors of Public Health Programme


Research interests

  • Leadership in complex systems
  • Application of narrative, movement building and adaptive leadership to complex systems challenges
  • Leadership development for systems leadership and adult development


Mangan, C. & Pietroni, C. (2022) Leadership development and Executive Education: round peg, square hole? in Handbook of Teaching and Learning in Public Administration & Management, Edward Elgar Publishing.

Mangan, C., & Pietroni, C. (2020) Telling stories & turning up the heat: exploring new approaches to developing the skills of public servants in Handbook of the Public Servant, Palgrave.

Mangan, C., & Lawrence-Pietroni, C. (2019) ‘More rave than waltz: why the complexity of public services means the end of hero leadership’ in Dickinson, H., et. al. (eds.) Reimagining the Future Public Service Workforce, SpringerBriefs in Political Science.

Lawrence-Pietroni, C., & Needham, C. (2019) ‘Narratives and Storytelling’ in Dickinson, H, et. al. (eds.) Reimagining the Future Public Service Workforce, SpringerBriefs in Political Science.

Lawrence-Pietroni, C., & Hilton, K. (2012) Leaders Everywhere: The story of NHS Change Day.

View all publications in research portal