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Leading Forward with Strathclyde

By Lena Wilson - Posted on 31 January 2019

As Visiting Professor at Strathclyde Business School, Dr Lena Wilson CBE has been busy curating a speaker series of leading business people. Here she outlines who will feature and what her own inaugural talk will address.

I’ve been fortunate enough over the past 30 years to have an international career which has allowed me a unique insight into great leaders who have transformed organisations as well as countries both in the developed and developing world.

I have also had the privilege of eight years as CEO of Scottish Enterprise where I had the opportunity to get close to thousands of growing businesses and for the past seven years I have served on the boards of large FTSE 100 companies.

I have met so many talented people both in Scotland and beyond. When I was thinking of the contribution I could make as a visiting professor at Strathclyde – a role I was delighted to take on - and how I could build on my own inaugural lecture, I came up with the idea of inviting some of those people to participate in a speaker series which would be both insightful and inspiring.

I wanted to get a perspective from inside Scotland out to the world, and from the outside back in, covering sectors and issues of importance along the way.

I’m excited about the speakers that will follow my inaugural lecture on February 6. The speakers are leaders in their field with a strong voice and contribution that I am looking forward to hearing when I host the sessions.

The first series’ speakers all happen to be women – still an unusual phenomenon – but this is not a “women’s series”, it’s for absolutely everyone.

My lecture on “The Hard Impact of Soft Power” will kick off the series. When I was thinking of what the topic of my lecture should be I decided to reflect on all the exposure I’ve had to so many different environments in my international career. I wanted to bring it together in a common theme covering the areas that time and time again I have viewed as the major differentiator for the success of sustainable transformation - the “soft power” that underpins everything else. This is all the stuff that people can sometimes dismiss as “touchy feely” but which I firmly believe provide the pillars that differentiate the good from the great. 

I chose this because I had - through my role at the World Bank working in some of the most challenging environments in the world - been exposed to the importance of soft power as used in diplomacy and what I saw in those environments very much influenced my own approach to leadership and leading transformation. 

Through the lecture I want not just to convey a set of ideas that I hope will stimulate thinking but also to illustrate that with real life examples which I’ve been involved in over the years. I’ll be specifically covering purpose, resonant leadership and engagement.

After my talk, the Honourable Mary Jo Jacobi will be next up on May 1. Mary Jo is an internationally-renowned expert in reputation, brand and crisis management and a trusted advisor on the complex dynamics of international corporate, economic and governmental relationships. She has been appointed to office by two American Presidents – George H.W. Bush where she was Assistant United States Secretary of Commerce and as Special Assistant to Ronald Reagan. Her talk will be on the theme “Thriving on Disruption”.

Mary Jo will be followed by Jacqui Ferguson, an experienced CEO from the technology industry, speaking on “Technology in the Changing World” on September 25. Jacqui is the former CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Services UK, Ireland, Middle East Mediterranean and Africa, a $3bn P&L and 10,000 people business serving large corporate and mid-sized companies with transformational digital, technology and business process solutions.

Then on November 20 we welcome Deirdre Michie OBE, the CEO of Oil & Gas UK, who will be addressing the topic of “Energy – an Industry in Transition”. Deirdre has extensive experience as a senior business leader in the oil and gas industry; covering upstream, downstream and globally. As well as being a Non-Executive Board member of Scottish Water, she is also a board member of Opportunity North East and Chair of Common Data Access Limited.

So, some fantastic speakers coming up and I hope this series will be the start of something which endures.

As a board member of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, I was thrilled when the Royal Bank of Scotland agreed to partner Strathclyde Business School in mounting what we have called Leading Forward – and I hope in leading this speaker series forward, this will prove to be an inspirational journey for all involved.

Lena's talk is now full but to be placed on the waiting list, please click here

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