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Case study:

UK Sport

Empowering global sporting leadership: UK Sport's International Leadership Programme and its impact on Cultural Intelligence

UK Sport



Revitalizing Olympic Success

UK Sport is the government agency responsible for investing in Olympic and Paralympic sport in the United Kingdom. It is an executive non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Following a rock-bottom performance in the 1996 Summer Olympics, UK Sport was created to lead Olympic and Paralympic sports in the UK to world class success. This included International Relations investment to ensure the UK remained world-leading by using their expertise and influence to shape the future of performance sport on the world stage.

To become a major player in the global sporting arena, UK Sport launched its ambitious International Leadership Programme (ILP) in 2006. The three aims of the ILP were to identify ambitious individuals from the UK system who aimed to reach and fulfil senior positions within international sport, to provide relevant and innovative learning and development experience for all participants, and to create and nurture a dynamic ILP alumni community that provided ongoing support for existing postholders and future candidates.

UK Sport

“The International Leadership Programme (ILP) is our flagship international people development initiative. The ILP was developed as a strategically important programme to ensure the UK had a strong, respected and supportive voice in international sport by supporting high calibre British postholders who have the influence and capability to effect meaningful change at the international level.”

Paul Evans, International Relations Advisor
UK Sport


Building CQ Skills

Country Navigator delivered for UK Sport high-impact, interactive workshops designed to increase the cultural awareness levels of individuals taking part in the program. These sessions took place at the annual ILP events, four times a year, starting in 2009 and currently still running.

The workshops had three main learning aims:

  • To learn the essential elements of cultural intelligence (CQ);
  • To use a framework (Worldprism) to increase self-awareness and to explore cultural preferences of other cultural groups;
  • To identify best practices for building trust and negotiating effectively across cultures both face-face and virtually.

A key element in this learning journey was for participants, many of whom were senior officials and successful ex-Olympians, to feel more confident when representing their sport in global federation meetings, where influencing other leaders from different cultures was paramount. Using the Worldprism tool of cultural preferences, Country Navigator enabled learners to explore areas for behavioral adaptation when negotiating in the global business and political landscape, often under pressure to build sustainable cross-cultural relationships.


A Global Voice and Influence

The partnership between UK Sport and Country Navigator has ensured a strong and respected voice for the UK in international sport, with remarkable success:

  • 45 international appointments of ILP Alumni, including two Presidential appointments and nine Executive Board appointments since the program inception;
  • An average member satisfaction score of 4.75 out of 5;
  • 70% of ILP Alumni still actively influencing international sport;
  • The UK consistently being listed within the top-5 most influential nations in the Sports Political Power Index;
  • Numerous examples where ILP Alumni members have influenced more effective international sport governance, promoting ethical leadership and decision-making, achieving gender equality - and wider diversity and inclusion - in sport, supporting environmental sustainability and ensuring the highest standards of athlete welfare.
UK Sport


“I very much recall CN’s involvement as one of our guest speakers at the hugely successful UK Sport International Leadership Programme.  It was fascinating to learn from their experiences around the art of negotiation across borders and how to improve your skills operating outside the UK and in a multi-cultural environment.  I have always remembered the beneficial tips and advice in relation to understanding the additional barriers and challengers that international colleagues may face.  The information they shared most definitely helped me on my own journey throughout international roles to leadership positions.”

Cherry Alexander OBE, European Athletics Vice President



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