Ryan Leighton


Ryan Leighton has been CEO of Leightons Opticians & Hearing Care since 2011, when he took over from his father Richard. Of course, the family business was a big part of his life growing up, and he still remembers the hours spent in his first role: putting recall letters in envelopes, with the added responsibilities of addressing them, sealing them, and sticking on a stamp.

After earning his degree in Business Management, Ryan left his post room responsibilities behind and ventured into other avenues away from Leightons. However, at the age of 24, he joined the team again, taking on a business development role for the newly established franchise business.

In 2006, recognising the need for a high quality, compassionate audiology service to complement the well-established optical business, Ryan launched Leightons Hearing Care. The rapid growth of the new service meant that by 2011, it became integral to the practice estate, and the new business purpose of “To See. To Hear. To Live.” encapsulated that.

Ryan is proud to be at the forefront of a legacy going back to his grandfather, H. O. Leighton, who opened his first practice in 1928. He is excited by what can be achieved by drawing on the business’ rich heritage and clear values, while working to build a strong future based on a dedication to innovation and constant improvement.

The ongoing growth of independent optometry and audiology is a passion for him, which is clear to see in the ongoing delivery of clinical excellence with highly personalised service. Leightons practices utilise state-of-the-art equipment, a stunning selection of eyewear and the most advanced hearing aid technology. Across the whole estate, this same passion is upheld by teams of dedicated individuals who genuinely care about what they do.

Alongside his role at Leightons, Ryan founded a sister company, The Hearing Care Partnership, in 2017. The Hearing Care Partnership is focused on making expert hearing care accessible to people nationwide, working with independent opticians and healthcare providers throughout the UK.

Outside work, Ryan tries to keep both body and mind healthy, and loves spending time with his wife, Mariska, and their son, Zachary. Together, they enjoy staying active, maintaining a healthy diet, and exploring new places. Reading and taking in business-related podcasts are also some of his favourite ways to unwind.


What are you most proud of at Leightons?

Taking the reins from my father Richard in 2011, to have the privilege of leading the family business established by my grandfather in 1928, was a moment of immense pride. Since then, being part of a dynamic team that has revitalised and realigned the business has been truly rewarding.

However, what truly fills me with pride is successfully uniting the business and our incredible team under a shared purpose: helping customers embrace life to the fullest. Witnessing the transformation in staff engagement and dedication has been a source of constant inspiration, and seeing our purpose in action every day is simply remarkable.


How would you describe the culture you've helped to create?

At Leightons, we've fostered a culture that reflects the best of being human, shaped by our core values: Beyond Great, Be Together, Be True, and Be You. These values resonate with our DNA, encapsulating the essence of listening, empathising, educating, and delighting. This is all deeply connected to how my grandfather wanted to operate with his overarching purpose: “to only be content to provide the best service possible”.

We have always said that our true strength lies in our people. Our exceptional teams embody our values, delivering service and care that creates a vibrant culture aligned with our purpose. We celebrate our people as the driving force behind our success, and it's their dedication that makes our culture unique and that keeps us innovating and growing.


What is the focus today that will help the business continue to thrive over the years ahead?

We are working towards a longer-term vision: to be a world-leader in eye care and hearing, recognised for our unrivalled customer experience and life-enhancing products and services. Our focus isn't about achieving global dominance; it's about setting the world standard in optometry and audiology.

To bring this vision to life, we're deeply committed to nurturing exceptional talent and fostering a learning environment that aligns with our dedication to cutting-edge clinical optometry and audiology. Ultimately, we believe in proactive healthcare, diagnosing issues before they manifest – be it concerning eye health, vision, or hearing. Investing in advanced optical and hearing equipment such as ultra-wide-field retinal scanners from Optos and Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT), tympanometry and video otoscopy is just one example that has become the standard in every practice.

Clinical differentiation will continue to be invested in and developed, and working with our optical and audiology professional services teams, we are constantly looking for new ways to advance our clinical services in patient-centric ways. This could be in terms of myopia control, dry eye or Schoolvision, as well as more advanced clinical optometry and audiology. We are also forming stronger links with ophthalmology and ENT to provide stronger referral pathways and improved treatments. We look to launch new clinical services every year – this might be in pilot practices first, before being cascaded to all practices with the right level of training, marketing and support.

Beyond clinical excellence, we're enhancing our practice environments, seamlessly blending independent eyewear with thoughtfully curated selections from globally acclaimed luxury fashion and eyewear brands. Our aim is to transform our practices into destinations for extraordinary eyewear. This means that our teams of dispensing opticians and optical hearing assistants need to be passionate about the eyewear brands that we curate and be super engaged with our clients so they can really listen and empathise, to help provide products and services that can change our patients’ lives.

Looking ahead, our commitment extends to pioneering new ways to craft the perfect customer experience, empowering more individuals to embrace life to the fullest. We're not just shaping the future of eye care and hearing; we're creating a world where every visit to our practices is a journey towards a brighter, more vibrant life.