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The University of Southampton

Memorial lecture honours former Southampton Chancellor as ‘an ideal leader’

Published: 13 September 2019
ITV Chief Exec Dame Carolyn McCall
Dame Carolyn McCall paid tribute to the integrity and kindness of Dame Helen Alexander.

ITV Chief Executive Dame Carolyn McCall has paid tribute to the integrity and kindness of Dame Helen Alexander, former Chancellor of the University of Southampton during an annual memorial lecture in Dame Helen’s honour.

Now in its second year, the Helen Alexander Memorial Lecture’s overarching theme is ‘Women on Business’ and honours Dame Helen as a pioneering and much-loved figure in British business as well as an endearing ambassador for the University from 2011 until her death in 2017. 

The Lecture, delivered in 2018 by Christine Lagarde, then the Managing Director of the IMF, is supported by Dame Helen’s family and by four organisations with which she was closely associated: The Confederation of British Industry (CBI), The Economist, the University of Southampton and Informa.  This year’s event was held in London by Pinsent Masons.

Speaking on the topic of ‘Trust in Business’, Dame Carolyn used examples from her career at The Guardian, EasyJet and ITV, referencing Dame Helen as a kind leader who had absolute integrity and who instilled trust in everyone she worked with, and with every organisation she was involved with.

Dame Carolyn paid tribute to Dame Helen as a brilliant networker, “largely because she was a great listener".

“This, combined with her open and direct style, meant that people trusted her,” Dame Carolyn recalled. “Collaboration and partnerships depend on trust; Helen achieved that in her business life and it was clear to anyone who knew her that she achieved that in her personal life.

“I’m sometimes asked who inspires me,” Dame Carolyn continued, “and I always say Helen. If we are to increase trust in business, we need more people like Helen in business.”

Dame Carolyn also said that Dame Helen embodied an ideal leader, offering examples of how embedding trust in business practice can yield positive employee culture, profit gains, mental well-being, as exemplified through her own business career.  

Amongst the audience at this year’s Lecture were a group of students from the University of Southampton Business School – Ahmed Darwish, MSc Business Strategy and Innovation Management; Ivan Aleksandrov, PhD candidate in Business Studies and Management; and Melissa Rangarira, BSc Marketing - selected to attend and given the exclusive honour of asking Dame Carolyn direct questions from the audience before meeting her after the lecture.

“I feel very fortunate to have been invited to represent the University at such a prestigious event,” said Ivan Aleksandrov. “It was very interesting to see such influential and inspirational progressive individuals all in one room and with one cause in mind - to remember the great Dame Helen Alexander.”


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Dame Carolyn McCall (third from left) with Southampton students (l to r) Melissa Rangarira, Ahmed Darwish and Ivan Aleksandrov.
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Dame Helen Alexander was Chancellor of the University of Southampton from 2011 to 2017.
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