Sir Steve Lancashire

Check out the introduction to our book: Being the CEO Book (published January 2019)

Check out our article on the 6 differences between an Executive and a CEO: BLOG: 6 things that set the CEO role apart

Check out our video resources: Leadership in Conversation

Take a look at The National #TrustLeaders Conference 2019

Review some of Forum Strategy’s thought-leadership work for the MAT sector: Policy Roundtable

Forum Strategy’s third ‘Being The CEO’ programme begins in March 2020, and will be chaired by Sir Steve Lancashire. The programme is based on Michael Pain’s seminal book, Being The CEO, and designed for those people who are new to, or in the first few years of, the role. For those looking to start or access CPD for Executive Leadership roles, we strongly recommend Inspiring Leaders’ NPQEL programme.

The transition from executive to CEO (corporate leader) is far more challenging and perilous than some anticipated. It has been demonstrated time and again that being an accomplished leader or executive so far in one’s career, is no guarantee of becoming a great CEO. There is a huge transition to be made. The leader must again become chief learner rather than chief expert or adviser. Some have flourished as CEOs, whilst others – mainly through their inability to reinvent themselves as chief learners – have ended up a case study in how not to do it.

Being The CEO, Michael Pain

This programme has been hugely beneficial in the development of my role as a new CEO. The structure of the course is highly effective in allowing space for meaningful professional networking amongst high-quality thought-provoking input from Michael and experienced leaders/CEO’s from a variety of sectors. The 1:1 coaching has really enabled me to challenge my understanding of the role and map out the next steps for our developing Trust. The concepts explored have resonated with all the participants regardless of their current role or experience and I would recommend it without reservation. It has had a huge impact on my leadership style, my role as CEO and the future direction of our Trust.”

Gavin Booth, CEO- Infinity Academies Trust

 have found the ‘Being the CEO’ programme invaluable as a newly appointed CEO of a Catholic multi-academy trust. The programme has offered the opportunity to explore what being the CEO role means in practice as opposed to simply doing the CEO role. The residential, face-to-face days, conference and coaching have provided regular opportunities not only to reflect, take stock and evaluate but also to network and build professional relationships with other CEOS and Executive Leaders. As a participant on the ‘Being the CEO’ programme, I am much better equipped to ‘conduct the orchestra’.

Louise Wilson, CEO

The programme involves:

  • 3 face to face sessions (over 9 months) based on our CEO framework. These take place in Southwell, Nottinghamshire and will be led by Sir Steve Lancashire.
  • A study visit to an established and well-regarded academy trust;
  • An individual subscription to Forum Strategy’s weekly briefings on strategy, leadership thinking, policy, research and funding – for 12 months!
  • Attendance at our National #TrustLeaders Conference in September;
  • Coaching provided by Michael Pain (Forum Strategy’s CEO), David Strudley CBE, or Phil Crompton.
  • Access to Forum Strategy’s extensive resources – including course materials
  • A mock interview led by our recruitment experts, based on the Forum Strategy CEO framework, with feedback and coaching (for those applying to roles)
  • Support with and feedback on applications during your time on the programme.

The themes of the programme are the four foundations of the CEO role, and the following six dimensions:

  • Translating vision into leadership narrative and strategy
  • Building a successful relationship with your board of trustees
  • CEO as Chief Talent Officer and Culture Maker
  • Enabling improvement at scale; improvement as an organisational habit
  • MAT sustainability and growth
  • Building social and professional capital – external and internal relationships


Find our more about Forum Strategy’s National #TrustLeaders conference: The National #TrustLeaders Conference 2019

Who runs the course?

Forum Strategy is one of the country’s leading consultancies specialising in organisational and leadership development for multi-academy trusts. We run six regional CEO leadership networks and an annual CEO conference. We provide strategy consultancy to help organisations grow sustainably and successfully, drawing on research from across sectors. This work includes corporate governance reviews, CEO performance management, business and organisational planning, and marketing and communications.
Michael Pain
Michael Pain is a strategic adviser to CEOs and Chairs, a researcher, and a leadership trainer and speaker. Michael’s career has been dedicated to supporting leaders and organisations to plan ahead – anticipating and managing change with success. Since 2016, Michael has established six regional leadership networks for CEOs of trusts and charities, and he is the author of Being The CEO.
Michael’s career and work is grounded in his unique experience as an entrepreneur, having taken Forum Strategy – in five years – from a start-up business to a national consultancy and training organisation that is highly respected by hundreds of CEOs. He was formerly Special Advisor to the CEO and Head of Policy & Public Affairs at the National College for School Leadership and, before that, Assistant to the Minister for Europe. He is a trained lawyer, having been Called to the Bar in 2007.
Sir Steve Lancashire
Steve is a highly experienced and long-standing CEO, serving as founder and Chief Executive of REAch2 academy trust – one of the largest and most successful primary academy trusts in the country. Steve has sought to establish a family of schools that share his passion and drive to secure the best possible outcomes for primary aged children and to ensure that primary education has a strong national voice. Ensuring there is enough capacity in the education system to enhance existing good schools and to tackle the issue facing failing schools is at the heart of Steve’s vision so that all young people have access to an exceptional education.
Steve was Knighted for services to education in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list in 2016. 

Who has contributed to our previous CEO programmes and networks?

Previous programmes have included contributions and inputs from NHS Improvement, the Chief Constable of Durham Police, CEOs of children’s hospices including David Strudley CBE, Ofsted, award-winning entrepreneurs – including ‘services to industry’ award winner, Kate Lester and Sunday Times Fast-Track 100 winner, Stuart Conroy, and Vanni Treves CBE (former Chair of Channel 4) and many more.

Academy trusts that have contributed include Flying High Academy Trust, Focus-Trust, Chiltern Learning Trust, and many more – reflecting a wide range of sizes, contexts and status of development.

Confirmed contributors to the programme include:

David Strudley CBE

David Strudley CBE

Former CEO of Acorns and Rainbows Children’s Hospices and a former Chief of Staff in the British Army

Emma Knights OBE

Emma Knights OBE

CEO of the National Governors Association and former CEO of the Day Care Trust

Steve Munby CBE

Steve Munby CBE

Former CEO of the Education Development Trust & the National College

Neil Jameson CBE

Neil Jameson CBE

Emeritus Director of Citizens UK and Britain’s most experienced community organiser

Andy Buck

Andy Buck

Best selling author of Leadership Matters and former Director at the National College

Mandy Coalter

Mandy Coalter

Experienced HR director, thought-leader and author

Michael Pain

Michael Pain

CEO of Forum Strategy and founder of the National Trust Leaders Conference and 6 Regional MAT CEO leadership development networks. Author of Being The CEO.

Key dates:

Residential 11th – 12th March 2020 (arrival at 7pm on 11th/ close at 3.20pm on 12th): Southwell, Notts – Course introduction; CE0 framework & the 4 foundations; Translating vision into leadership narrative.

12th June 2020: Southwell, Notts – Building an effective relationship with the board / Being the chief talent officer & culture maker

Early July: Luton – Study visit; Enabling organisational performance and improvement at scale.

24th September 2020 (9.30am – 3pm): Midlands – Forum Strategy’s National #TrustLeaders conference. See more about last year’s event here: The National #TrustLeaders Conference 2019

12th December 2020 (9.30am – 3pm): Southwell, Notts: Leading a sustainable organisation; generating social and professional capital



The cost of the programme is £4950 plus VAT.

Check out an example of our high quality resources: Leaders In Conversation – #MATLeaders resources



To request an application form, please contact . The deadline for applications is 18th December 2019. However, please note that places are extremely limited and demand is high. Successful applications will be progressed on a first-come, first served basis, so we strongly encourage prospective participants to request and complete their application forms as soon as possible. 

Our framework for the programme (designed and developed by Forum Strategy)

Our thought leadership

Check out Forum Strategy’s ‘cutting-edge’ thought leadership and how we are using our voice to inform policy and developments in the sector: 3rd #MATLeaders Policy Roundtable: Successful and sustainable trusts in an age of austerity

Take a look at our YouTube Channel for more resources:


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  • Producing high quality research & communications;
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  • Being truly independent – including, receiving no direct government funding.