Skip to main content

The series will feature speakers that bring a fresh perspective to the most pressing challenges facing business today

‘Leading Edge’ speaker series returns with Mary Portas and John Amaechi part of stellar line up

The University of Exeter Business School’s MBA community is set to continue its successful speaker series after announcing its exciting autumn line up.

The Leading Edge speaker series sees world-renowned leaders and entrepreneurs come together with students, faculty and alumni, chief executives and senior leaders to discuss the most pressing global challenges facing business, and through their ideas they challenge us to reflect upon how business can shape a better and more sustainable world.

This autumn’s series features influential business people, leading arts figures, authors and journalists, each displaying a unique and provocative approach to leadership within their particular field.

They include high profile businesswoman Mary Portas, writer and broadcaster Mary-Ann Sieghart and Dr Darren Henley OBE, Chief Executive of Arts Council England.

John Amaechi OBE returns to Leading Edge for this second series, following a sold-out session in 2020.

Each speaker has recently written books on significant topics of interest to the Business School’s MBA community: the role of kindness in society and business; the importance of creativity and innovation; the continuing challenges of gender inequalities and developing leadership potential wherever it exists.

Based within the Exeter Centre for Leadership at the University of Exeter Business School, The Exeter MBA has been recognised as one of the leading MBA programmes in the world.

The programme seeks to prepare managers from around the world for the responsibility of leadership and provides the space and opportunity to engage with the cutting edge research that informs decisions, which bring social and environmental progress.

Jackie Bagnall, Director of the Exeter MBA, said: “As an MBA focused on sustainability, innovation and responsible leadership we are committed to hosting events that bring high quality speakers with a fresh perspective to the most pressing challenges facing business.

“The Leading Edge programme has been designed to spark debate, fuel the imagination and generate conversations among a vibrant leadership learning community.

“An MBA provides leaders with the opportunity to hear directly from a range of voices on issues that are pivotal in leading responsible business. We encourage anyone who has an interest in big ideas and new perspectives to join us for the series. You can ask questions of our speakers and join us afterwards for optional lively breakout sessions, where you can discuss and debate the issues raised by the speakers.”

In the first event in the new series on 27 September, Mary Portas, retail expert and one of the UK’s most high profile businesswomen will share insights from her new book Rebuild: How to thrive in the kindness economy, in which she challenges businesses to develop a new understanding of their contribution to building kinder, stronger communities, balancing commerce with social progress.

Then on 18 October, Mary-Ann Sieghart will share her research for The Authority Gap, outlining why women are still taken less seriously than men and highlighting what we can all do to close the gap.

On 15 November, John Amaechi will be welcomed back to the Leading Edge following his talk in 2020.

John will be talking about why now is the time to fill the leadership void by empowering all us to develop our true potential as leaders, the topic of his new book, The Promises of Giants.

The last event in the autumn series, on 6 December, will feature Dr Darren Henley OBE, Chief Executive of Arts Council England, who will share his insights on creativity and the role it can play not only in building incredible art and culture but also in shaping innovative businesses.

Ciara Eastell OBE, Professor of Practice at the Exeter Centre for Leadership and curator of The Leading Edge series, said: “After a successful inaugural Leading Edge series in 2020, it’s great to be back in 2021 with a new series of incredible speakers, who will be sharing with us their thoughts and insights on some of the key challenges facing society today. 

“These talks will stimulate, provoke and inspire you to think differently; they will encourage our students, our alumni and our network of partners and CEOs within and beyond the region, to engage with new ideas and to step out of the immediate challenges they are currently facing within their day-to-day roles.”

She continued: “I’m keen that these talks reach all those who may be interested in what these speakers have to say, so am extremely pleased that most of our series will be open and free of charge for the wider business community.”

The events are designed for MBAs and the wider business community, and provide a unique opportunity to connect with some of the latest ideas from some of the biggest names in leadership thinking.

All attendees will have the chance to have their questions answered, and after each live talk attendees will have the opportunity to explore their reactions with managers from across the globe.

The programme is open to The Exeter MBA students and alumni, University of Exeter alumni and University partners and stakeholders.

A limited number of tickets will also be available for senior leaders from around the world who want be a part of the conversation.

For full details of the programme and booking information, visit

Date: 13 September 2021

Read more University News