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Special Olympics Leadership Academy

The academy improves impact and performance of our leaders around the world through support, training and mentoring.


About The Academy

The Academy offers participants a great opportunity to think about their role. It provides leader in the Special Olympics Movement with tools for performance improvement. It gives a unique chance toOpen

The Academy offers participants a great opportunity to think about their role. It provides leader in the Special Olympics Movement with tools for performance improvement. It gives a unique chance to step back from day-to-day work, collaborate with other Special Olympics leaders, and identify how to further enhance positive impact on the lives of athletes, their families and wider community.  See a short introduction video to the Leadership Academy, including comments from Special Olympics leaders who've learned from the experience.

The emphasis of Leadership Academy is on providing useful, practical techniques and tools that can help leaders be more authentic, strategic and effective in making the big changes and accelerating the Movement towards our global vision.

The Academy is made possible by a grant from the American Express Foundation. We receive pro bono help with design of training materials from leading experts in the field of leadership development Goldman Sachs and CEB. CEB provides advisory and leadership development services based on best practices from the world’s biggest companies. We are also partnering with Skillsoft, an e-learning leadership development platform. Through Skillsoft, our leaders gain access to ongoing interactive leadership training modules.

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The Academy is a Transformative Opportunity

The Special Olympics Leadership Academy provides excellent opportunity for leadership development. Academy participants engage in face-to-face workshops, e-learning and receive an on-going support fOpen

The Special Olympics Leadership Academy provides excellent opportunity for leadership development. Academy participants engage in face-to-face workshops, e-learning and receive an on-going support for implementation of professional goals.

The Academy workshops are a mix of interactive leadership development sessions The participants are given an opportunity to engage with high-profile presenters and facilitators from external partners and Special Olympics. Academy Workshop topics include strategic vision, leadership styles, leading the team, influencing others and execution. A brief report with the results and impact of the Leadership Academy in 2015-2016 is available here.

2017 marks third year of Leadership Academy. The Leadership Academy team undertook an extensive evaluation to engage Leadership Academy participants to learn of their experiences, challenges and successes in implementing the leadership content, and their suggested changes for making it stronger. To learn about the findings, impact and projected new directions for the Leadership Academy refer to the full report.

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Our First Workshops

The Academy started in December 2014 in Delhi, India. The opening workshop was very positively received by over 30 emerging leaders who participated from India and the Asia-Pacific Region.The second AOpen

The Academy started in December 2014 in Delhi, India. The opening workshop was very positively received by over 30 emerging leaders who participated from India and the Asia-Pacific Region.

The second Academy Workshop kicked off in May 2015 in Frankfurt, Germany, gathering 27 leaders from the Europe-Eurasia Region. The Frankfurt workshop featured facilitators from CEB, Goldman Sachs and the German Olympic Sports Federation.

The third Academy Workshop for the Africa region was in Johannesburg in September 2015, with 26 participants and facilitators from CEB and GROW Training & Advisory Services.

Special Olympics North America Leadership Academy took place in April 2016 in Philadelphia. The workshop featured speakers from Harvard University School of Business and Law School, Mayer of Philadelphia Jim Kenney, President of Philadelphia Eagles, to name a few.
The first Leadership Academy Workshop in Latin America took place in Mexico City in June 2016. The Workshop agenda highlights included sessions by Franklin Covey consultants and a panel discussion featuring prominent private sector leaders who shared their experiences and best practices.  In this video about the Leadership Academy, people from the Delhi, Philadelphia and Mexico City academies talk about what they learned.  

Upcoming Workshops 

October 10 – 12: Washington DC (SOI HQ leaders)
November 5 – 7: Shanghai (selected Program Leaders from East Asia and Asia Pacific Regions)
December 5 – 8: Baku, Azerbaijan (selected Program Leaders from SOEE Region)

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Stay Connected after the Academy

Leaders who have participated in Academy workshops can continue to stay engaged and share best practices. Sharing is done through Facebook, LinkedIn and WhatsApp groups. Only Academy participants can Open

Leaders who have participated in Academy workshops can continue to stay engaged and share best practices. Sharing is done through Facebook, LinkedIn and WhatsApp groups. Only Academy participants can take part in those groups.

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What People Have Said About the Academy

A team exercise helps the leaders reveal their behavioral styles at a Leadership Academy in Mexico City.

 Dozens of up-and-coming Special Olympics leaders, including athlete leaders have attended leadership academy sessions. Here's a sampling of what they've said.Motivation Beyond Measure "In all my Open

 Dozens of up-and-coming Special Olympics leaders, including athlete leaders have attended leadership academy sessions. Here's a sampling of what they've said.

Motivation Beyond Measure
"In all my 35 professional years of career this is the first workshop...I have attended of this nature. It was very well conceptualized and organized. The sessions and interactions were very interesting and quite unique. I have taken back a huge amount of new knowledge scientifically classified and easy to understand and implement. Above all the motivation that all of you collectively built in me is beyond measure." 

Dr Reena R Kumar 
Special Olympics Bharat 
National Clinical Advisor, Advisory Trustee 
Clinical Director, Special Smiles

Seeing Leadership in A New Light

"The entire academy took me by surprise from the thought-provoking content and lessons learned, to each and every one of you. Not only did I expand my network with incredible new colleagues and friends, but you all truly inspired me through your passion and dedication to our movement. Although I've always enjoyed my position, you all have inspired me to look at it in a whole new light and for that, I cannot thank you enough. Can't wait to hear about everyone's progress in their respective programs." 

Britt Kleine
Special Olympics Pennsylvania 

A Wealth of Knowledge and Inspiration
"The Leadership Academy workshop [was] the most worthwhile and valuable workshop I have been a part of since starting with Special Olympics. I don't think I fully appreciated the wealth of both knowledge and inspiration I received over the three days in Philadelphia until back in the office with time to reflect. There was an excellent balance of networking, sharing, learning and fun which is testament to the team and all the pre-work you must have done to ensure the week was a success. I can confidently say I am coming back to Canada with tools, views and resources that have started me on the journey to becoming a better leader and I look forward to the upcoming year working on the deliverables in the action plan, conversing with fellow academy members, continuing to learn and evolve and whatever else might come our way." 

Tom Davies

Special Olympics Canada
Director, Program Development  

Authentic 
"I thought this was going to make me an outgoing vocal leader. I'm glad it's not what it was about because, frankly, that intimidated me. Knowing that the goal is to be authentic to who I am yet to stretch to others is a much more attainable goal. I learned so much in such a short amount of time and am excited to put the lessons I learned to practice at work and in my everyday life." 

Engaged
"I've taken leadership/management classes but I've never been so engaged and feel like the discussions/materials are actually items I would/am going to use."

Best in 15 Years
"Absolutely best professional development I've experienced in 15 years of SO work. 
Far beyond expectations. I feel I have been privileged to work with and learn from an Academy that will historically change how leaders are equipped in SONA and for the culture of learning being established for staff around the globe."

Anonymous Evaluation Comments 

Special Olympics North America Academy

Wonderful
"This workshop has been one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. It has been helpful to my growth as an individual, as a friend, as a mentor, as a citizen of this world. It has taught me how to identify my strengths and weaknesses and how to maximize the impact of our team." 

Excellent
"This workshop was excellent. I have recognized my own capabilities to be developed from manager to a leader."  

Anonymous Evaluation Comments 

Special Olympics Bharat (India) Academy

Empowering"I had a different vision prior to the workshop. I have come out of it equipped with many innovative ideas and tools for empowering not only my professional life but also persona"
"It gave us tools for improvement and enabled us to better exercise leadership"

Extraordinary"Extraordinary. A very good variety of topics, very practical, excellent presenters, dynamic, interactive, fun. Excellent organization. Impeccable.

Anonymous Evaluation Comments (translated from Spanish)
Special Olympics Mexico Academy 

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Interested? Learn More

Our aim is to cover all Special Olympics regions and hold  5-6 workshops per year over the next three years. We want to reach at least 200 Special Olympics leaders around the world with continuous Open

Our aim is to cover all Special Olympics regions and hold  5-6 workshops per year over the next three years. We want to reach at least 200 Special Olympics leaders around the world with continuous offline and online support. 

How do I apply for the Leadership Academy?

Each of our seven Special Olympics Regional Offices around the world and our Headquarters office identifies and proposes leaders for participation in the Academy. If you are interested in taking part, please contact the relevant Office. 

How do I find out more about the Academy?

The Academy is coordinated by the Organizational Excellence and Regional and Program Operations teams. Please email Denis Doolan, Chief, Organizational Excellence, or Olga Yakimakho, Senior Manager, Organizational Excellence for Special Olympics, if you would like to find out more about it. 

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