The Optimal Leader

We specialize in leadership development, executive coaching, and team optimization. We use a variety of organizational development best practices, productivity tools, and world class assessments to help our clients attain their goals



We use systematic strategies and approaches to enhance organizational productivity and individual well-being. Operating from an “organization as dynamic system” perspective, we offer the following interventions at mid-size to large companies and government organizations:

  • Planning and Strategy

Clarity of purpose is foundational. We offer assistance in the formulation of strategic and tactical plans.

    • Change Management

    Change management involves the continuous process of aligning an organization with its marketplace and doing it more effectively than the competition. We work with our clients to create systematic, planned programs of change that address the continuous synchronization of the key “levers” of strategy, operations, culture, and reward.

    • Retreat Design and Facilitation around Organizational Priorities

    Partner with managers and team in focusing their efforts to optimize expected objective and results through designing, facilitating and evaluating expected outcomes for critical leadership retreats



    Leaders need to use various leadership and relational styles. These improve performance and enhance relationships. We work with individuals to deepen an awareness of the vital skills that are required to move ahead. Executives and mangers learn how to identify and improve leadership gaps – and then create strategies to close them.  If any of the following are areas for development – we can  guide you to success.

    Making the transition into a more senior, strategic role

    Developing new skills for new responsibilities

    Changing leader behaviors to enhance performance

    Improving Emotional Intelligence and managing key relationships

    Building confidence and self-belief

    strongER togetheR


    Is Your Team Cohesive? 

    Understanding how to communicate and how your team members prefer to work is a critical component to team effectiveness. We offer DiSC Workshops to help your team increase cohesiveness, move from unproductive conflict to productive conflict and learn successful methods to influence. Everything DiSC Workplace covers the following:

    Discovering your DiSC style

    Understanding other styles

    Building more effective relationships




    Strategic Planning and Implementation

    • Gain a deep appreciation for the components of strategic planning and implementation in order to achieve strategic results.
    • Focus on leaders’ knowledge, skills, and behaviors in achieving results through understanding and applying key components: external environment, strategic intent, innovation, business model, processes, organization design, workforce talent, and culture.

    Change Management

    • Collaborate with teams and organizations to design, develop, and deliver a change management and leadership plan to respond to external or internal changes impacting the team or organization.

    Retreat Design and Facilitation Around Organizational Priorities

    • Partner with managers and teams in focusing their efforts to optimize expected objectives and results through designing, facilitating and evaluating expected outcomes for the retreat.

    Team building rarely happens by accident. It takes deliberate and conscious effort. A powerful team building program is developed by:

    • Gathering information about the organization and its strategy. 
    • Gathering information about the team and its goals, objectives, strategy, and expected deliverables. 
    • Gathering specific and current data about the team’s strengths, short and long term challenges, and cohesiveness.
    •  Analyzing the data to determine the most critical development needs of the team. 
    • Designing and delivering a practical and interactive team building program with sustainable solutions.

    Each Team Building workshop is custom designed specifically for that team because every team has its own DNA. We have deep experience helping new teams form Team Compacts – stated guidelines which will drive their behavior and create a high-performing team culture. We also use psychometrics in our team building sessions to help teams uncover what their collective strengths are as a team and also where the team might need to consciously focus on improving. Some of the data we may gather to help your team identify sustainable solutions are:

    • Everything DiSC Workplace
    • 5 Behaviors of a Cohesive Team
    • 360 Asssessments


    There is a wealth of unrealized capacity that resides in all of us. We help clients tap into their unrealized capacity to perform at their optimal level and ultimately, lead more fulfilling lives. Our executive coaching services are customized for specific leadership situations to develop current leaders and their capacity to improve bottom-line results.  We target areas such as: strategic problem solving and decision making, interpersonal and leadership style, collaborative relationship strategies, conflict transformation, team development, and work/life balance with a focus on personal success.   We focus on the following results in all of our individually tailored coaching programs:

    • Coach individuals to improve their abilities to lead and manage.

    • Instill the value of innovative leadership within the department.

    • Teach conflict resolution skills to help leaders resolve and mediate conflict, as well as help leaders recognize the potential for conflict before it arises.


    Leadership is an observable set of skills and qualities that are useful whether you are the CEO or a front-line manager. Any skill can be strengthened, honed and enhanced. Leaders are more critical to our organizations now than ever.

    The challenges of today’s rapidly changing business conditions require a cohesive learning and working environment.  At the Optimal Leader, we evaluate leadership potential and design and facilitate targeted training and development solutions that are business-focused, practical and interactive.

    Our custom programs begin with the concept of SELF-LEADERSHIP. Knowing who you are, what you can do and where you are going, coupled with the ability to manage your communication, emotions and behavior on the way to getting there. This leadership competency is about personal mastery and creates a strong attitudinal and skill foundation for effective management and leadership.

    “The most effective leaders are aware of what ‘makes them tick’. Their internal values are demonstrated and communicated through their behavior.”
    Ellen McGinnis

    Another aspect of our leadership development programs is PEOPLE-LEADERSHIP. Optimal people-leaders, get the best from people by connecting their intrinsic motivators with the goals and vision of the organization. Communication is at the heart of a learning organization and this skill develops the ability to communicate even in the presence of conflict and diversity.

    There’s no “I” in Team. Another key element of our Leadership Development Programs is bringing together individuals of different styles and skill to work together towards a common goal.  TEAM-LEADERSHIP is a critical competency which emphasizes bringing people together and empowering them execute the company’s vision, mission and objectives.

    STRATEGIC LEADERSHIP is a fundamental requirement in today’s global economy. Strategic leaders take a larger perspective; utilize critical thinking, planning and make decisions that place the company and their reports in the best position to execute.

    Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.
    John F. Kennedy


    At the Optimal Leader, we use Personality Assessments to help develop people. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses — personality assessments are one way of uncovering those traits with an objective measure.  Once we pinpoint the strengths and areas for development, we can then place our coaches in the right position and coach them on ways to improve.
    What Are Personality Tests?

    Measuring personality (psychometrics) dates back to the early Greeks but it is only very recently that psychologists and management theorists have agreed on what can be measured and its effect in the workplace.

    There are many Psychometric and Personality Tests available in the marketplace and it can be difficult to make a decision as to which one to use. At the Optimal Leader, we have been certified in many assessments and use a few to help our clients optimize their leadership skills.

    The Enneagram

    The Enneagram is a personality typing system that consists of nine different types. Everyone is considered to be one single type, although one can have traits belonging to other ones.

    The nine types (or “enneatypes”, “ennea” means “nine”) are universally identified by the numbers 1 to 9. These numbers have a standard way of being placed around the Enneagram symbol.

    At the Optimal Leader, we use the Enneagram to help our clients to deepen their understanding of their mental constructs to lead optimally. Once we understand out mental constructs (also known as mental models) we begin to determine what beliefs or ideas serve us and help us to become our best selves and what beliefs hinder our growth and development.

    Everything DISC ®

    Everything DiSC is not a test, it’s a personality assessment. This research-validated model helps you understand yourself and others, saving you time, energy, and money. Better employee communication means efficiency on both individual and company levels.

    DISC provides personal insight into behavior preferences and inclinations. The foundation of DISC was first described by Harvard Professor, William Martson as published in his book, Emotions of Normal People (1928).  His theory describes how people respond to their environment.  In the 1970s, John Grier developed an assessment based on Martson’s work, which is still today called the DISC.

    Have you ever wondered why some people just don’t get you? Or ever thought “I cannot even begin to know what my boss needs—even when I ask her, I still don’t know.”

    Most of us have felt that way at one time or another! The good news is there’s a simple tool designed to help you understand yourself AND other people too. Everything DiSC® helps you build more effective working relationships based on an understanding of different behavioral styles.



    Optimize is from the Latin optimus. It literally means “the best.” Ellen McGinnis is passionate about helping leaders and teams become the best they can be. She is the senior principal at The Optimal Leader.  Ellen brings over 17 years of consulting experience from multiple industries. She has held leadership positions at General Electric Capital, ACS, Inc., and Saba Software. In addition to her corporate experience, Ellen has honed her leadership capabilities through personal commitment to self-exploration and personal development. She believes that the most effective leaders are aware of ‘what makes them tick’ and leverage this awareness to help others succeed. Ellen’s education includes an MA in Organizational Psychology from JFK University and an BA from University of Dayton.  She is an ICF Certified Coach and Certified Enneagram Coach. She is qualified in a number of psychometric assessment tools such as MBTI, and DISC.   She currently lives in Zurich, Switzerland and works with clients all over the world. 

    Partial Client list

    • Ariba, Inc
    • Boehringer-Ingelheim
    • City of Mountain View
    • City of Pleasanton
    • Community Presbyterian Counseling Center
    • DigiDesign, Inc.
    • Digital Realty
    • Genentech
    • Hayward Area Recreation & Park Disctric
    • NextGen America
    • Roche USA
    • SANDIA National Laboratories
    • SAP
    • Seiler LLP
    • Workday
    • Univeristy of California

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    We specialize in leadership development, executive coaching, and helping teams optimize. We use a variety of organizational development best practices, productivity tools, and world class assessments to help our clients attain their goals.