Sessions will cover relevant key issues for current and future board members and contain opportunities for hands-on practical experience.


The programme runs over the course of 5 months with 2 sessions per month. The separate sessions use facilitated learning with a combination of professional and academic leaders, and are designed to encourage active learning where participants learn from one another as well as from these experts.

Each module is designed around a theme particularly relevant to individuals in senior management and board positions, and offers tools or frameworks that can be put into practice immediately. In addition, during sessions participants will work together to discuss scenarios and case studies.

What will you gain?

  • Building confidence
  • Cutting edge business and technical skills
  • Experimentation and reflection
  • Gaining experience
  • Self-knowledge and goal-setting
  • Support
  • Tangible results

Each session will be led by specialists in the subject matter from the University of Edinburgh Business School and will also involve business leaders from a variety of backgrounds, depending on course topic, with relevant skills and experience pertaining to each. The level of teaching is Executive MBA and above, and each session is video recorded for the exclusive use of delegates for continued learning and in case a session is missed.

The style of learning and delivery will be practical workshops, case studies, and group work to enable practical learning at all times.

Sessions will take place from 16:00 to 19:00 and will be delivered in person at the event venue, Surgeon's Hall, Edinburgh.


  • £3,500 per person for private sector companies (discount available when registering 2 or more individuals)
  • £3,000 per person for public/NFP sector companies (discount available when registering 2 or more individuals)
  • £1,800 for self-funded individuals

August Module

Session 1: Leading with Purpose

Tuesday 30 August 2022, 16:00–19:00, Surgeon's Hall


David Ferguson, Chief Executive Officer, Seccl

Academic Lead

Professor Susan Elaine Murphy

In this kick-off session we will focus on the requirements for today's leaders in the landscape of new working arrangements. With change, leading with purpose based on one's own values becomes even more important for success. We hear much about the need for purpose-driven organisations where customers, employees, and society at large all benefit, and this takes leaders who know who they are and how they bring their unique qualities to their leadership.

We will be exploring values and other tools in the context of leadership requirements. This initial session will also help participants to set individual programme goals and expectations with time to begin networking with other participants.

September Module

Session 2: Leading Strategic Change

Tuesday 13 September, 16:00–19:00, Surgeon's Hall


Gautam Dev, Global Head of Talent and Organisational Effectiveness, abrdn plc

Academic Lead

Professor John Amis

Change has always been not only a ubiquitous fact of organisational life but also one of the most difficult imperatives with which leaders have to contend. Indeed, studies show that the success rate of major change initiatives is remarkably small.

The recent pandemic has thrown into sharp relief the personal side of change with leaders being required to demonstrate empathy, inspire courage and resilience, and cope with continuously high levels of uncertainty. At the same time, we have seen leaders also required to cope with rapid shifts in the technological environment that have radically altered the ways in which organisations function.

The purpose of this session is to uncover some of the key dynamics associated with strategic change. We will examine how more effective leaders approach, manage, and lead change through identifying the most salient internal and external imperatives that will shape the change process. Further, you will develop understanding of how leaders cope with ambiguity while leading people effectively during times of uncertainty.

Session 3: Leading with Impact and Influence

Tuesday 27 September, 16:00–19:00, Surgeon's Hall


Anne Richards, Chief Executive Officer, Fidelity International

Academic Lead

Professor Chris Carter

Ideas shape organisations. Specific managerial ideas will be in the zeitgeist at any given juncture. This session examines how some managerial/economic ideas move from the periphery to become 'mainstream'. We explore the crucial leadership task of translating an idea into practical organisational action.

For example, we consider Benny Higgins' use of Mission Led Innovation to create the Scottish National Investment Bank, and John Birt's controversial marketisation of the BBC in the 1990s. In each case, we examine the leader's role in bringing an idea to fruition, which draws on diplomatic, mediation, communication, and stakeholder management skills. Finally, we reflect on broader lessons on making persuasive arguments for change within and beyond an organisation.

October Module

Session 4: Developing Strategy

Tuesday 4 October, 16:00–19:00, Surgeon's Hall


Simon Pitts, Chief Executive Officer at STV Group plc

Academic Lead

Professor Chris Carter

Strategising is one of the most crucial activities of leadership. But unfortunately, evidence highlights that it is one of the most difficult, as many strategies fail to deliver their objectives leading to strategic drift or worse. This session engages with Richard Rumelt's Good Strategy/Bad Strategy dichotomy, exploring what can go awry in the strategy process before focusing on more affirmative examples of effective strategic practice.

In particular, the session will focus on:

  • How an organisation diagnoses its strategic challenge
  • What is its overarching strategy for dealing with the challenge?
  • How is the strategy broken down into coherent actions and tactics?

The session will examine the importance of an organisation's culture to the strategy process, focusing on:

  • What is core to an organisation?
  • What makes an organisation distinctive?
  • To what extent does the prevailing organisational culture enable or constrain strategy delivery?

The session will equip participants with fresh insights on the strategy process, enabling them to contribute positively to strategic conversations in their organisations. The session will be highly interactive and will allow participants to learn from other participants, academic faculty, and senior leaders, who engage with the strategy process on a daily basis.

Session 5: Future Workplace

Tuesday 25 October, 16:00–19:00, Surgeon's Hall


Jane Brydon, People Director for Group Functions and Finance, HEINEKEN

Academic Lead

Dr Winston Kwon

The spread of Covid-19 and the resulting impact on 'work as we knew it' have forced organisational leaders to take a long hard look at how business is now done. Boards are now asking themselves, their employees, and their customers: what's essential, how should and could we do business, what is holding us back, and what we may be forced to give up or change? With many of these questions being worked on or perhaps still to be answered, what will the future of work look like?

This is the question on many business leaders' minds—a question that was already rearing its head through the emergence and utilisation of more digital, remote, and collaborative technologies, but made even more critical amid disruptions caused by the pandemic. Potentially therefore, a watershed moment has now been reached in how we conduct our operations, lead our teams, develop our people, engage with our customers. To continue to innovate and grow we must therefore consider how to best support a more varied and agile set of workforce practices, such as remote and hybrid work models, agile planning, continuous performance management, and perhaps even the end of the 9–5 structured workday or work week.

While some of these shifts may be temporary, others will be permanent, driven by a renewed understanding of what operational efficiency and productivity actually look like, as well as increased demand to provide a positive employee experience. Some of these changes will be driven by employee demand to support broader talent management strategies, while others will evolve as a necessity for business leaders looking to keep up with their vendors and peers, or to get ahead of their competition.

Embracing these changes will require cultural, operational, and technological shifts that will play out over a period and, thus, may have a return on investment that is difficult to grasp. Failure to embrace and champion these changes, however, could set organisations behind their competitors, and introduce friction across a variety of efforts in business operations, workforce strategies, and beyond.

November Module

Session 6: Sustainability and Climate Change in the Boardroom

Tuesday 8 November, 16:00–19:00 Surgeon’s Hall


Juliet Davenport OBE, Founder of Good Energy

Academic Lead

Dr Sarah Ivory

Sustainability, and some of its specific challenges such as climate change, have become an increasingly important subject for organisations around the world. With lending criteria and legal requirements regarding carbon emissions becoming more developed, the requirement for companies to consider their social, environmental, and economic impact has never been greater.

Indeed, we have even seen huge opportunities to commercialise one's sustainability efforts, for example charging premiums for sustainable products and packaging. A global survey of CEOs in 2019 showed that 99% of CEOs agree that "sustainability issues are important to the future success of their businesses", referring not only to profits but vision, values, and ultimately a firm's reputation internally and externally.

But what does 'sustainability' really mean, and how should it be addressed? Moreover, what is the role for those leading organisations? Is it as straightforward as appointing a Chief Sustainability Officer? How does sustainability influence the quest for competitive advantage and commercial gain?

This session will take an honest and critical view of sustainability and its relationship with organisations, leaders, and society. It will encourage you to ask (and answer) potentially uncomfortable questions about purpose, responsibility, and impact. It will conclude with an optimistic view of the future relationship between sustainability and organisations, and an inspirational message from the Founder of Good Energy, Juliet Davenport OBE.

Session 7: Board Governance and Ethics

Tuesday 22 November, 16:00–19:00 Surgeon’s Hall


Angela Seymour-Jackson, Non-Executive Director, Trust Pilot

Academic Lead

Dr Lila Skountridaki

Good governance has a strong and direct link to performance, whether in private, public, or third-sector organisations. Over time, however, scrutiny on corporate governance structures has increased with the result that ensuring rigorous and transparent processes are in place across areas such as audit, risk, and remuneration has become a vital board function. While this has often resulted from individual or more widespread financial mismanagement, recent years have seen a qualitative shift in governance expectations.

The #MeToo, Black Lives Matter, and climate crisis social movements, among others, have raised expectations both internally and externally as to how organisations should operate. These have been entwined within a broader context in which what constitutes appropriate ethical behaviour by organisation leaders have been raised by employees, the media, policymakers, and the public.

In this session, we examine the basic functions of good corporate governance and the role of board members in ensuring that appropriate structures and systems are in place. In so doing, we explore how strong ethical practices can be infused throughout the organisation, and why this can be problematic to attain.

December Module

Session 8: Managing Your Career Journey

Tuesday 6 December, 16:00–19:00 Surgeon’s Hall


Malcolm Kpedepko, Partner at Panoramic Growth Equity

Academic Lead

Professor Susan Elaine Murphy

In this last session, participants will work on ways to take the learnings from the course and focus on the latest knowledge about 'managing one's career', which might not always be linear. This session will focus on further developing one's strengths and identifying any leadership gaps and development goals for the future. Individuals will be able to share career experiences to date, understand the power and importance of their networks, explore the 'no wrong path concept' when progressing their career, and learn more about what employers, investors, and shareholders are looking for in their future board members.


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Register your interest

If you would like to discuss the programme in more detail or express your interest in joining this programme, please contact the team:

Contact the Executive Leadership Programme