Unified Leadership

Man speaking into a microphone he's holding in his left hand and his right hand up holding note cards. Spectators are behind him.

Unified leadership focuses on both leaders with and without intellectual disabilities (ID) to develop their mindsets and skills. The goal is to build the best possible environment for people with ID to succeed in meaningful leadership roles and activities. This way of thinking revolves around two main ideas: firstly to educate and empower people with ID and secondly to create a better understanding of people with ID, which in turn creates more inclusive cultures in organizations and in society as a whole.

“People with disabilities can absolutely teach leadership skills that help others. They fundamentally do it by being who they are. They are people who haven’t really fit a world that is built around your education, background, income and looks. A world that essentially is designed to exclude. They truly do value friendship and decency. Why? Because they know at times and in truly horrible ways what it is like to not have these things. They also love to get an opportunity and will cherish it. Why? Because again at times in truly horrible ways they know what it is like to never get in the game. By simply engaging with this, particularly when they get training and support to truly listen and understand, other leaders begin to see and be reminded of things that do truly matter. To me this is about balance. The world needs more of it.”
Ben Haack, Special Olympics Athlete Leader and member of the Board of Special Olympics International

Resources
Jimmy blows a red whistle while officiating a floor hockey game at the 2017 World Winter Games in Austria.
These resources help Programs, volunteers, and Athlete Leaders launch and expand Athlete Leadership in their Programs.
2 Min Read
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.