He Is “The Gay Leadership Dude®”

Whether you know him as Steven R. Yacovelli, Ed.D., Dr. Steve, “The Gay Leadership Dude®,” or just Steve, if you’ve ever met him, you’ll remember him for a long time to come. Steve has that kind of positive energy, coupled with incredible experience and wisdom that he wants to share with you and with the world. 

Photo Credit: Steven Yacovelli

Steve began his career in software training with adults back in the pre-Windows days of DOS. This was the beginning of his learning how to communicate with adults. After earning a Master’s in Educational Policy and Leadership Development, he joined Disney Cruise Line, working in the areas of leadership, diversity, and inclusion. While at Disney, Steve also started a “side hustle,” TopDog Learning Group in 2002. TopDog remained in the background until shortly after he was laid off. In 2008, Steve went full-time with TopDog and has never looked back. Today, he and his “TopDoggers” (Steve’s affiliates) serve a global marketplace in the areas of leadership and organizational development, change management and resilience, and inclusion and belonging.

Introducing himself as “The Gay Leadership Dude®” on his website, LinkedIn, and everywhere that he appears, Steve takes being out and proud to a level few others do. His business prospects, his clients, and those who walk away from doing business with TopDog have no question about who Steve is. So, it was not surprising to him when one of his clients approached him in 2017 and asked if TopDog would become a Certified LGBT Business Enterprise; simply put, the client wanted to be able to include their spending with TopDog in their overall Supplier Diversity numbers. Steve attributes his ongoing certification as continuing to help support and grow his business. 

When asked how being so clearly out resonates in the marketplace, Steve replied, “Very well. It’s a way to find like-valued clients. I don’t want to fight clients to help them be more inclusive. I want to work with clients who want to do this but don’t know how. I’ve had people ask, ‘Why do the gay thing?’ I don’t do the gay thing. I just happen to be the gay thing.”

In addition to consulting, coaching, training, giving keynote speeches, advocacy, and serving as a “professional podcast guest,” Steve is an author. His most recent book had its genesis at his first National NGLCC conference; he had a chance encounter with Jenn T. Grace (Publish Your Purpose Press). Jenn started talking about her passion as a publisher and Steve began to share the leadership book that was germinating in his mind. 

While it started as “one of thousands of similar leadership books,” as he began to craft the book, “the little Carrie Bradshaw in me popped up. I couldn’t help but wonder whether there is anything in our collective queer experience that has us look at leadership in a different way or have different opportunities than our straight counterparts.” With some research, Steve came to understand that for many of us, our experience growing up has resulted in the development of six critical leadership competencies: Authenticity, Courage, Empathy, Communication, Relationships, and Shaping Culture. He identifies these as competencies that make a leader different. When interviewed for this article, Steve said, “When you look through a rainbow lens, for example, at authenticity, if I am an out professional or trans person being my authentic self, how much more authentic can I be? That can be used to show what an awesome leader you are, foster trust, all that good stuff. We out ourselves constantly to our colleagues, to others, and that takes courage. If we channel that courage into leadership, we can really do magic.” In the book Pride Leadership: Strategies for the LGBTQ+ Leader to be King or Queen of Their Jungle, Steve takes a deep dive into how the reader (or listener; Steve chose to narrate the book himself, ironically done in the quietest place in his home: the closet!) can apply each of these competencies to make a significant difference in the world around them. 

At the end of the day, Steve is (and describes himself as) a catalyst. “If we are going to foster change, we have to be that catalyst. Whether it is someone reading Pride Leadership or someone hearing something I am saying on stage, hopefully whatever I do fosters meaningful, lasting change.” There is no doubt, Steve Yacovelli, “The Gay Leadership Dude®”, is a catalyst on behalf of the entire LGBTQ+ community.

Written by Brian Gorman, an NGLCC member and an International Coach Federation (ICF) certified professional coach. He brings five decades of change experience and study into every coaching conversation. He has served clients as large as Merck Manufacturing, as well as startups and individual leaders. Brian taps into the core of the matter, helping each person maximize their professional and personal potential. Brian works both one-on-one and with teams. In addition to his writing for nglccNY, Brian is a frequent contributor to Forbes online (https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/people/briangorman/#741ca8535c20) and serves as Managing Editor of Change Management Review. Website: www.TransformingLives.Coach Brian@TransformingLives.Coach


Dr. Steve Yacovelli (a.k.a. “The Gay Leadership DudeTM”) is Owner & Principal of TopDog Learning Group, LLC, a leadership, change management, and diversity and inclusion consulting firm based in Orlando, Florida, USA but with affiliates (“TopDoggers”) throughout the globe. Steve and TopDog provide guidance and solutions in leadership and organizational development, change management, diversity and inclusion consulting, instructional design, and custom e-learning creation. Whether it be through providing keynotes and facilitating leadership development programs for Fortune 500 companies like The Walt Disney Company, Bayer AG, or accenture, to providing one-on-one coaching experiences for groups like IBM, Covestro, and The Public Library Association, or creating engaging, effective training solutions for various delivery formats for folks like Tupperware Brands Corporation, The Ohio State University, and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Steve is passionate about helping others be their best selves, in and out of the workplace

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