Can leadership get us out of the mess we're in?

The Exchange: Assembly Room
Thursday 24 November 2022 (18:00-19:00)

As part of the College of Social Sciences Inaugural Lecture Series, join Professor Carolyn Wilkins and Professor Christopher Pietroni of the Birmingham Leadership Institute, as they deliver their joint inaugural lecture.

Join this lecture via Zoom, from 6pm GMT on Thursday 24 November.

The climate emergency, war, economic stagnation, entrenched inequalities - there is a growing sense that the challenges we face locally, nationally, and globally may be greater than our ability to solve them. A sense too that we have been led to the mess we’re in by leaders now proving themselves unequal to the task of leading us out of it. So, is leadership the answer or might it be part of the problem?

In this lecture we will argue that leadership, as usually understood, is indeed part of the problem. We will explore how highly individualised assumptions about what makes a ‘Leader’ are at odds with the systemic nature of the challenges we face. We will offer some reflections, confessions and illustrations drawing on Carolyn’s experience working across the public sector at local, city, regional and national levels often simultaneously and including as a Director at Test and Trace during the Covid pandemic and an Adviser at No. 10. We’ll argue that a certain kind of leadership – systemic leadership – could be part of the answer, illustrate what we think it looks like and suggest how we think we can get more of it.


Professor Carolyn Wilkins OBECarolyn Wilkins

Professor Wilkins is a Professorial Fellow at Birmingham Leadership Institute. She has undertaken a number of senior executive roles at local, city region and national levels. She has been a chief executive at both metropolitan and district borough councils, also undertaking the combined role of chief executive of a local authority and chief accountable officer at an NHS clinical commissioning group. 

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


Professor Christopher PietroniChristopher Pietroni

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.


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About the College of Social Sciences Inaugural Lecture Series

An inaugural lecture is a key milestone in any academic's career, signifying their promotion to 'Professor'. It is an opportunity for our new professorial colleagues to present their innovative research first-hand. All of these events are free of charge and attendance is open to all, and we look forward to sharing the experience with you.

Find out more about the series and forthcoming events