Leigh Gallagher is a best-selling author and a frequent on-air guest and public speaker on topics relating to business and the economy. She is currently a Senior Managing Director at Teneo. A veteran business journalist and acclaimed author, she previously served as Director of External Affairs at Google, a role she was recruited to create in 2019 to deepen relationships with top editors, columnists and newsroom leadership while also serving as a source of media intelligence across Google’s global communications team.

Leigh spent the bulk of her distinguished journalism career at Fortune, where she held a variety of leadership roles, including co-chair and Executive Director of the Most Powerful Women Summit, the renowned annual convening of the preeminent women leaders in business and beyond. She also wrote feature stories, oversaw the Fortune 40 Under 40 list, co-chaired Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference, and hosted Fortune Live, Fortune’s weekly news roundup show. 

Throughout her career Leigh has been a sought-after on-air commentator on business and economics issues, appearing regularly on outlets including MSNBC’s Morning Joe, CBS This Morning, NBC’s TODAY, CNBC’s Squawk Box, CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper and a variety of other outlets; for ten years, she was a biweekly guest with Kai Ryssdal on public radio’s Marketplace. Leigh is also a sought-after speaker and moderator at business, economics and leadership events. 

Leigh is the author of two books, The Airbnb Story: How Three Ordinary Guys Disrupted an Industry, Made Billions…and Created Plenty of Controversy, the first book solely focused on the origins and growth, color and controversy of the now-$170 billion disruptive “home-sharing” startup Airbnb, and The End of the Suburbs: Where the American Dream is Moving, published in 2013 and described by the New York Times and others as “prophetic,” “a first-rate social history” and “a steel fist in a velvet glove.”

Leigh is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a past visiting scholar at the Business and Economic Reporting program at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University. Originally from Media, PA, she is a graduate of Cornell University and lives in New York.

Speech topics

Insights From the Front Line of Business

As a former longtime top Editor at Fortune and Director of External Affairs at Google, Gallagher paints a compelling picture of how digital disruption, the future of work, demographics, and seismic economic and cultural shifts have converged to bring more change to Big Business in the last decade than anytime since. Blending a keen eye for connecting the dots and identifying bigger-picture trends, Gallagher identifies the forces and challenges driving the new world of business and delivers valuable takeaways for leaders across industries on how to rise to meet them.

The Downtown-ification of America

In her first book, The End of the Suburbs: Where The American Dream is Moving, Leigh Gallagher documented one of the most profound social changes to hit our country in a generation: a growing dissatisfaction with, and movement away from, American suburbia as we know it. Weaving together ample data and evidence with rich history, her own personal narrative, on the ground reporting and lively anecdotes, Gallagher paints a compelling picture of a shift toward downtown, village-oriented lifestyles—whether they be in cities or in suburbs—as well as the ramifications of that shift on the economy, on individuals, and on big business, whose real estate, headquarters, retail and other decisions have pivoted as a result. In this fascinating, informative, and entertaining exploration of where we live and why, Gallagher also illuminates how the seismic changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic simultaneously completely disrupted and underscored these trendlines– and demonstrates why the post-suburban-sprawl future is not a bleak one but a better one.

Lessons from the crazy, unlikely, against-all-odds success of Airbnb

Renting out space in your house for the night to strangers—what could be more certain to fail? That’s what the founders of home-sharing platform Airbnb were told by investors in 2007. In captivating detail and with plenty of humor and color, Gallagher takes audiences behind the scenes for the inside story of how three broke, unemployed college grads stumbled upon their billion-dollar idea and became one of the biggest Silicon Valley success stories to date—now claiming 4 million hosts, 1.4 billion guest arrivals in almost every country across the globe, a $75 billion valuation in the public markets, and having transformed the way we travel and the way we view space. Gallagher traces the history and growth of Airbnb within the context of the so-called sharing economy; explores the many controversies the company faced along the way; and describes the leadership journey of the three founders–especially the company’s CEO, Brian Chesky, an art student with no previous experience in business now one of the most captivating and highly-regarded CEOs in business. Gallagher extracts compelling observations and lessons for organizations of all kinds from this rags to riches Silicon Valley success story: how seeing old ideas in new ways can lead to breakthrough ideas; the social, demographic and economic factors that created the conditions for Airbnb to strike a chord; for incumbent industries, how to be prepared for digital disruption likely to come from where it’s least expected; and, for anyone, the importance of persisting when others say an idea will never work.

How Women Rule the (Business) World

As a top editor at Fortune magazine and a co-chair of the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit, the exclusive, invitation-only gathering for the top women CEOs and leaders around the world, Gallagher has unrivaled access to the fast-growing group of women increasingly running the world’s largest organizations and some of its most influential startups. She explores the role of women in business today and how it’s changed, both from her own observations and by charting the makeup of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women franchise over the years. She marshals data, evidence and compelling examples to demonstrate the ways in which women lead differently—from decision making to negotiating to strategizing to thinking—and why those differences are precisely what have led women to make such gains in recent years. She also explores the work still to be done, from eliminating the pay gap to removing gender stereotypes at childhood to addressing the alarming persistence of sexism in the workplaceand what, if anything, has changed in the post-#MeToo climate. She concludes on an uplifting note, sharing words of advice from some of the most successful women in business for women at all stages of their careers.


The Airbnb Story: How Three Ordinary Guys Disrupted an Industry, Made Billions and Created Plenty of Controversy

This is the remarkable behind-the-scenes story of the creation and growth of Airbnb, the online lodging platform that has become, in under a decade, the largest provider of accommodations in the world.

The End of the Suburbs: Where the American Dream Is Moving

For nearly 70 years, the suburbs were as American as apple pie. As the middle class ballooned and single-family homes and cars became more affordable, we flocked to pre-fabricated communities in the suburbs, a place where open air and solitude offered a retreat from our dense, polluted cities.

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