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Leadership Academy
The Special Olympics Leadership Academy, established in 2014, is an award-winning program dedicated to developing inclusive and future-ready leaders of the Special Olympics Movement. With a focus on developing inclusive mindsets, providing skillsets, and practical tools, the Academy aims to build capacity and strengthen leaders' abilities to achieve inclusion globally. Leadership Academy forms part of the Special Olympics Learning and Development Strategy Pillar “Advancing” and directly supports Special Olympics Strategic Plan 2021 – 2030 Enabler 4 “Drive Excellence.”



To develop FUTURE READY leaders by equipping them with mindsets, skillsets, and practical tools to ensure growth and sustainability of our Movement.


To support Program leaders and SOI staff with and without IDD on their inclusive leadership journey guided by UNIFIED LEADERSHIP COMPETENCIES.

6 Unified Leadership Competencies

The Leadership Academy focuses on building six Unified Leadership competencies:
  • GRIT
Through a blended learning approach, participants develop these essential skills and qualities to become inclusive leaders of Special Olympics Movement that lead by example.

4-Module Leadership Academy Structure

Leader 1




Leader II




Leader III




Leader IV:

Leading Community (In Development)




Face-to-Face Workshops

interactive, experiential learning workshops for cohorts of up to 30 leaders led by leadership expert facilitators.

Webinar Workshops

live facilitated virtual webinars and learning labs

Continuous Learning

access to Pericpio platform for cutting-edge leadership content available on-demand for self-paced learning

Leadership Coaching

Individual and group leadership coaching tailored to the participant’s learning goals provided by ICF certified leadership coaches. Action plan coaching during workshops to assist participants with developing SMART goals for implementing the learning.

Leadership Academy Features


Blended Learning Approaches

A combination of online and in-person learning methods.

Cutting-edge Curriculum

Access to high-quality materials developed by industry experts and backed by research.

Interactive Experiential Learning

Interactive activities and discussion-based learning experiences for deeper understanding and skill development.

Application via Action Planning

Application of new knowledge and skills by developing personalized practical action plans.

Guest Facilitators and Presenters

Learning from diverse experienced leaders and experts in the field of leadership development.

Peer Learning

Learning from peer leaders and their experiences

Leadership Academy Key Focus Areas

Leadership Foundations

Build a strong foundation with principles and values of self-leadership

Influencing Others

Learn how to influence and inspire others towards a shared vision.

Team Leadership

Develop the skills to lead and motivate diverse teams.

Inclusive Leadership

Cultivate a culture of inclusion and embrace diversity.


Ensure long-term success and growth for your organization.

Strategy Development

Master the skills of strategy development and setting SMART goals for strategy execution.

Leadership Academy Global Impact

New Partnerships

New Reach

New Resources ($ and VIK)

New Roles

Leadership Academy Global Footprint

700+ Special Olympics Leaders Trained

Since its establishment, the Leadership Academy has trained over 700 Special Olympics leaders with and without ID from around the globe, equipping them with the skills and knowledge to drive inclusive change in their communities.

30+ Workshops Delivered

Since 2014, over 30 in-person and virtual workshops have been delivered in 23 countries around the world.

What People Have Said About the Academy

Video Testimonial: Nyasha Derera

Hear firsthand from Nyasha Derera, an SSIGM, as he shares his inspiring journey and how the Academy has shaped his leadership skills and passion for inclusion.

"Thank you for the wonderful leadership training, it was a very energetic workshop. I will definitely apply it and share with other athletes. I will try my best to change. Thank you Special Olympics Pakistan and everyone in the SO movement who gave us Athletes this chance and in believing we can be leaders of tomorrow!"

Jasmine Sharif , Special Olympics Pakistan, Board Member - Co-Chair, Athlete Input Council, SOAP

"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

"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."

Anonymous Evaluation Comments, Special Olympics North America Academy

"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."

Anonymous Evaluation Comments, Special Olympics North America Academy

"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



Learning Modules

The Academy offers continuous learning through Leader I, II, and III modules typically delivered at 1-year intervals. Each module consists of a 3-day workshop, post-workshop virtual facilitated learning, and self-paced on-demand learning opportunities. Some modules include mentorship or leadership coaching elements. The participants are grouped into Special Olympics Regional cohorts of up to 30 people. The workshop content slightly varies by Region to accommodate cultural and language differences.

3-Year Commitment

The Leadership Academy encourages participants to make a minimum 3-year commitment to complete all stages of the program. This commitment ensures participants get the most out of the opportunity and can apply their learning effectively in their leadership roles.

Learning for Impact

Each participant is expected to develop a personal Action Plan applying the learning, to provide annual update on the Action Plan delivery and to report on the Academy impact upon completion of three modules.


Join the Special Olympics Leadership Academy

Are you keen on joining our Leadership Academy? Connect with one of our seven Special Olympics Regional Offices globally, or our Headquarters office. They are responsible for selecting and nominating leaders for the Academy.

For detailed information on the Special Olympics Leadership Academy, please contact:

Svetlana Fenichel

Director of Leadership & Organizational Development, Special Olympics



Academy for All is a series of regular (typically quarterly) virtual learning webinars for staff and Program leaders across all levels of Special Olympics. Academy for All content is structured around Unified Leadership competencies and delivered by experts on the topics.

Academy for All is part of Special Olympics Learning and Development Plan pillar “Advancing” and directly supports Special Olympics 2021-2030 Strategic Plan Goal B "Remove barriers to inclusion and expand reach through digital technology."

Join us on this journey of continuous learning and development with our Academy for All! Contact to be added to the email list for the Academy for All.