Olympians, Deloitte Carry Torch of Leadership

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By Deanna C. White

The ceremonial flames for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games in London may have been extinguished weeks ago, but several Olympians and Paralympians are still carrying the spirit of leadership and inspiration to college campuses across the country this fall, thanks to the "It's Your Race, Take the Lead!" road show sponsored by Deloitte and the US Olympic Committee (USOC).

The "It's Your Race, Take the Lead!" road show will run from September 4 to October 9, on the heels of Deloitte's announcement that it has 7,000 job openings for newly minted college graduates and interns, positions it hopes to fill in the coming fiscal year.

During the ten-stop tour, nine athletes, including 2012 Olympic gold medalist Abby Wambach (soccer), 2012 Olympic silver medalist Cullen Jones (swimming), 2012 Olympian and two-time gold medalist Mariel Zagunis (fencing), 2012 Olympian Jonathan Horton (gymnastics), and 2012 Paralympian April Holmes (track and field), will share their personal journeys to success.  

They will share their lessons of leadership with students, speaking about the importance of determination, superior performance, and how to become a leader in a highly competitive environment.

These lessons, Diane Borhani, Deloitte's national director of campus recruiting, said can be applied in all aspects of the students' lives and future careers, including those who might be interested in developing their careers at Deloitte.

"Deloitte's culture really emphasizes a place where leaders thrive. The word 'leader' embodies Deloitte, and the tour is an investment in how seriously we take that philosophy", Borhani said. "These athletes are not only amazing athletes, they are amazing people. They really speak to the fact that success is defined by the individual . . . what you can do if you perform well, if you are emotionally engaged, if you put your mind to something. To succeed in business it takes the same level of engagement, passion, and commitment."

Borhani said this is the third year Deloitte is touring college campuses with inspirational athletes, and students have consistently expressed how motivating their stories are.

"These students see the parallels between athletic achievement and career success, and they have a better understanding of how important it is to find the right fit with an employer who is going to encourage and challenge them to 'take the lead' once they graduate", Borhani said.

The "It's Your Race, Take the Lead!" campaign was born out of an ongoing collaboration between Deloitte and the USOC.

As the US Olympic and Paralympic athletes followed their dreams to London, Deloitte's sponsorship provided the USOC with professional services and insight to help give Team USA the resources and support it needed to compete. Deloitte has been a proud supporter of the USOC since 2009, and recently extended its sponsorship to serve as the Official Professional Services Sponsor of the US Olympic and Paralympic Teams through 2020.

"Deloitte is a great supporter of Team USA, and this program is another example of our commitment to highlighting the dedication and personality of our Olympic and Paralympic athletes", said Lisa Baird, CMO, USOC. "Behind their achievements on the field of play is a tremendous amount of preparation and planning - lessons that will no doubt be valuable to the students reached through this tour."  

But it's not just the stories of grabbing the gold that the students find inspirational. Borhani said it's the stories of how many of these athletes overcame adversity to get to the games that motivates them.

"Several of these athletes talk about hardships or difficulties that they faced . . . something that has happened to them that's out of their control. Some have been paralyzed. Some have faced economic hardships, but once they were handed that deck of cards, they quickly turned it around", Borhani said. "They said here is what I've decided. I'm not going to accept failure or defeat. I'm not going to let this keep me from living a fabulous life with tremendous accomplishments."

That message resonates with students, Borhani believes, because everyone can relate to facing challenges. The athletes' testimony, however, proves there is nothing that can stop someone from achieving their personal best if they put their mind to it.

"Their message is really about setting goals, about being focused, dedicated, and disciplined", Borhani said. "They prove you can overcome any obstacle if you take action and put your mind to it."

It's a philosophy that perfectly mirrors Deloitte's culture of leadership – a philosophy the firm hopes to instill in each of its 7,000 new US hires in fiscal year 2013. 

"Our emphasis on leadership permeates all we do at Deloitte and we want to expose students to that", Borhani said. "The athletes reflect our commitment to community and leadership in action."

The "It's Your Race, Take the Lead!" campus tour is one of many ways Deloitte engages future leaders and offers them a glimpse of the organization's culture. Others include the annual Deloitte National Leadership Conference where, each summer, students hone leadership skills in career development workshops. 

This past July, nearly 400 students participated in the conference, which was held at Deloitte University in Westlake, Texas. Additionally, Deloitte's alternative spring break program, which is presented in collaboration with United Way and Teach for America, allows college students to volunteer their skills in hard-hit communities during their spring vacations. The program is so popular that last year Deloitte received nearly 1,600 applications for the approximately eighty coveted spots.

For Deloitte, Borhani said, these initiatives are an invaluable investment.

"It's absolutely critical and vital to our success that we bring in exceptional people to work at Deloitte", Borhani said.

Visit the Deloitte website to learn more about the "It's Your Race, Take the Lead!" road show.

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