Our People

Birmingham Leadership Institute are pleased to work with inspirational people, both within our team and beyond.

Christopher Pietroni

Christopher Pietroni

Director of the Birmingham Leadership Institute

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 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.

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Catherine Mangan


Director of Education, College of Social Sciences

Catherine is the  Director of Education for the College of Social Sciences and a Professor of Public Management and Leadership in the Institute of Local Government Studies at the University of Birmingham. She has a background as a policy maker and practitioner in public service and as such as a particular research interest in developing research which can deliver change within the public sector.

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Rachel Lilley

Rachel Lilley

Senior Fellow

Dr Rachel Lilley has developed high impact and innovative research in decision-making, mindfulness and behavioural insights to support adaptive leadership, well-being and behaviour change policy initiatives aimed at improving sustainability and well-being. She is currently Programme Director of the Systems Practitioner and Leadership MSc and Apprenticeship programme due to be launched in the University of Birmingham in the Autumn,  She has over 30 years’ practitioner experience in community engagement, climate change, inequality and wellbeing. Her work has supported leadership development at all levels, enabling more collaborative and co-productive public sector working. She is an expert behaviour change consultant, using a systemic approach to support public and private sector partners to design and deliver policy initiatives.

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Carolyn Wilkins OBE

Carolyn Wilkins

Carolyn is currently a Professor at Birmingham Leadership Institute, University of Birmingham. She is an experienced public sector leader and coach. She has held senior executive roles at local, city region and national levels including the combined role of chief executive of a local authority and chief accountable officer at an NHS clinical commissioning group where she oversaw a significant programme of health and care integration within wider reform of public services. 

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Her national experience includes Expert Adviser Health and Care, Number 10 Downing Street and Director of Contain, NHS Test & Trace. In this role she led the team supporting local government and local systems with their Covid response and worked across government to champion a joined up approach, liaising on a regular basis with local authorities across the country and organisations including the LGA, ADPH, and SOLACE. In Greater Manchester she undertook a range of system leadership roles including for Complex Dependency; Population Health, and Lead Chief Executive for Safe and Strong Communities.

Her academic interests include leading across boundaries, and her doctorate explored the relationship between trust and control in organisations. She supports a range of senior executive and graduate development programmes as well as supporting a number of leaders through coaching and mentoring.

Carolyn is a Trustee of the Kings Fund and a member of the NHS Assembly. In June 2016 she was awarded an OBE for her services to local government and public service reform. 

Rajneesh ChowdhuryRajneesh Chowdhury

Assistant Professor

Dr Rajneesh Chowdhury serves as a faculty member at the Birmingham Leadership Institute. His current work focuses on designing and launching a practice-based systems thinking and systems leadership programme for middle and senior level professionals. In the past, he has worked as a management researcher and consultant with focus on organisation development, social impact and corporate reputation applying systems thinking for complex problem solving.  

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Iola Jones

Iola Jones

Operations Manager, Birmingham Leadership Institute

Iola joined the University in November 2014 as a recent graduate, working for the College of Life and Environmental Sciences before moving to the College of Social Sciences in October 2017. Iola has held a range of roles, from Programme Administrator to Head of Operations, enjoying leading a range of continuous improvement initiatives and functional teams throughout.

Iola joined the BLI in May 2021 as Head of Operations. Iola has worked as part of the College’s Operational Management Team for four years, building strong relationships with key internal stakeholders and enacting positive change for the College. Iola is in her final year of study for an Executive MBA with Level 7 Senior Leader Degree Apprenticeship, a programme that has helped her enhance skills that she now brings to her role in the BLI. Iola is responsible for leading the BLI’s Professional Services Team, and, alongside Professor Christopher Pietroni, is responsible for the successful delivery of the BLI’s strategy.

Rhiannon Sharp

Rhiannon Sharp

Programme and Project Manager, Birmingham Leadership Institute

Rhiannon joined the University in March 2018 and has since broadened her experience at University, College and School level. In October 2020, Rhiannon joined the Birmingham Leadership Institute as Programme and Project Manager.

Rhiannon applies her wide ranging experience in project based activity to manage designated projects across the institute, including liaison with external programme delivery staff to ensure the policies and processes delivered to clients meet the regulatory requirement of the University of Birmingham. Rhiannon is responsible for leading the administrative staff within the Institute to deliver an effective and efficient administrative service for a portfolio of programmes and CPD.