Special Olympics is shaping a new understanding of leadership, inspired by our athletes, and unleashing leadership potential in people of all abilities.

Too often, because of negative attitudes and low expectations, people with intellectual disabilities (ID) don’t get an opportunity to show what they can do. Special Olympics has an approach—Unified Leadership—that overcomes this barrier. Building from sport, Unified Leadership teaches leaders of all abilities to value and learn from each other, and create environments where people with ID succeed in meaningful roles.

Special Olympics’ leadership work with athletes starts through sport—teaching life skills such as discipline and teamwork. This is built on through athlete leadership development, and opportunities in health, schools and youth programming.

Our success depends on strong, diverse Board, volunteer and staff leaders. We invest in their development, instilling a culture of learning through online, on-the-job and Special Olympics Leadership Academy experiences to build dynamic leaders with inclusive growth mindsets.

We are committed to using our leadership work to drive change. As Special Olympics athletes teach the world about Unified Leadership, leaders without disabilities learn how to improve their behaviors and practices, adapt from the ‘norm’, and make their organizations more inclusive. The end result is that everyone gains a new perspective on potential, leadership and true inclusion.

To find out more about Special Olympics leadership programming, contact us here.

Text reads: Showing the Way; image is an illustration of three people.
If we want a more inclusive organization and accepting world, Special Olympics athletes must be allowed to contribute in ways beyond the sports field. One of the most powerful ways we do this is through Athlete Leadership, which creates opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities to develop and demonstrate their abilities in leadership roles.
Four adults in Special Olympics branded button downs listening to another man speak while he points at an easel.
The Special Olympics Leadership Academy improves impact and performance of our leaders around the world through support, training, and mentoring.
1 Min Read
10 young adults standing in a semi-circle for a group photo.
Our Sargent Shriver International Global Messengers are chosen from among top athlete leaders around the world. They're athletes, and they're spokespeople for our movement.
Inspiring Words from Our Athletes
"I figured if my story could change a person's mind about another person, or especially a child's mind about another child, then it was the right thing to do."
Haseeb standing on stage in front of an illustration giving a presentation.
Determined to fight for others, Haseeb is actively helping to change the perceptions and mindsets of society so everybody can follow their dreams.
The Special Olympics athlete speaks up for people with Down syndrome following an offensive comedy special.