Michelle Oliva, MBA, ACC

Executive/Leadership Coach & Organizational Development Consultant | LinkedIn

Michelle Oliva

Michelle has coached, trained, and advised leaders and teams for over 15 years, partnering with nonprofits, businesses, educational institutions, government, and other mission-driven organizations in the US and internationally. A certified coach with ACC credentials from the International Coaching Federation and an organizational development practitioner, she holds a certificate in leadership coaching from Georgetown University, an MBA from ESADE Business School in Barcelona, Spain, and a bachelor’s degree in music performance from Manhattan School of Music. Since serving as a volunteer in the United States Peace Corps in Ethiopia, Michelle has worked in more than 15 countries across North America, UK and Europe, East and Southern Africa, Central America, and South Asia, and has lived in Argentina, Spain, Kenya, Malawi, and South Sudan.

As a coach, Michelle starts from the assertion that “people are, by their very nature, creative, resourceful and whole” (Co-Active Coaching), and supports clients to uncover, align and fulfill their purpose within. She combines this with a values-based mindset, bringing her experience listening, learning, and adapting to a range of diverse cultures and operating contexts.

As director and principal consultant of Purpose Within LLC, she provides management consulting services to mission-driven partners in leadership coaching, organizational development, strategy and planning, and nonprofit management. Michelle’s consulting approach blends a commitment to service with management acumen, supporting the creation of partner-led strategies and solutions.

She mentors young African leaders through the Mandela Washington Fellowship, and volunteers with Big Brothers Big Sisters and the SPCA, as well as through fun, creative outlets such as Charlottesville Lady Arm Wrestlers (CLAW), and as a guest teaching artist with local music education programs.

Proudest Professional Achievement and Why? 
I am most appreciative of everything I have gained -- the diversity of insights, perspectives, and values – through relationships built while living and working across East and Southern Africa, and elsewhere internationally. In roles supporting the leadership and organizational development of NGOs and businesses, I have learned:

  • To uncover creative solutions, stay resilient and compassionate, and celebrate the small successes while working through complex bureaucratic, political, cultural, and systemic obstacles.
  • The power of the mindset shift from driver to advisor, from knowing to curiosity, seeing the results when an individual is empowered, supported and resourced to succeed.

Proudest Personal Achievement and Why? 
Becoming comfortable walking my own path, slowing down enough to listen to my heart, and balancing the intuitive with the rational mind. One example is returning to music performance after a 20-year hiatus, learning to overcome performance anxiety, to play for the love and joy of the experience, and to express my own musical voice through improvisation.

Three words someone else would use to describe me:
purpose-driven, creative, reflective

I consider a day a success if:
I have made meaningful connections and contributions to loved ones, community, and society….and spent a moment or many outside walking

Favorite Quote:

It all depends on how we look at things, and not on how things are in themselves.
-Carl Jung

Have a sense of gratitude to everything, even difficult emotions, because of their potential to wake you up.  
-Pema Chödrön

Sometimes you have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself.
-Miles Davis


  • Exploring and applying the insights neuroscience and the creative arts can offer us as leaders
  • Mindfulness
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Organizational culture, employee engagement
  • Mission/values-driven leadership
  • Cross/multi-cultural collaboration
  • Team development
  • Assessment instruments such as: The Leadership Circle Profile 360 (certified), StrengthsFinder, Myers-Briggs (MBTI), Social Style Model, FIRO-B, OPM 360, EQ-I
  • Organizational Capacity Assessment (OCA) Tools