More people want to be a leader in the workplace. But the path to becoming an effective leader is so long, hard and not always straightforward.
Practical leadership activities are a great way of moving toward that path, whether you perform them as a facilitator with your own team or with an external facilitator
Ask 100 people what makes an effective leader and you’re likely to get 100 different answers. But run leadership activities and you’ll be able to see right away who has the skills necessary to step into that position and what you need to do to improve that potential.
In times of change, leaders and their organizations are often faced with difficulties they wouldn’t have encountered in more normal times. The emotional problems executives face can prevent them from finding solutions to these difficulties. Executives who participate in an executive coaching program feel less stress and perform at higher levels as a result.
Leadership Activities Defined
Webster’s Third New International Dictionary defines leadership as:
The quality of a leader and the capacity to lead; the act or an instance of leading.
That’s great as far as a definition goes, but experienced managers know that there’s much more involved than simply possessing the qualities and capacities necessary to lead. A successful leader will exercise those qualities and practice to improve.
Leadership activities provide that opportunity to practice. They are individual or team exercises that allow you to test and improve your abilities (and the abilities of your team) in a controlled situation.
These exercises are very much like the drills that most sports teams run to simulate an actual competition. By running these drills (leadership activities), you and your team can be well prepared for any situation that comes your way.
Examples Of The Great Leadership Activities
1) Survival Leadership Activities
Divide the participants into two teams and present them with a survival situation: a plane crash, a shipwreck, lost in the desert. Then present them with a list of items that might be useful in that situation.
Challenge the groups to choose five items that will help them survive. After the teams finish picking their items, ask them to justify their selections and how they would use those things to overcome their given circumstance.
This leadership activity stimulates critical, creative, and strategic thinking as well as problem-solving skills that can be useful in your business
2) All Aboard
Divide your team into two groups and then challenge them to build a “boat” out of scrap materials you provide.
Once they’ve finished construction, instruct all members of the team to stand on some part of their creation. Then remove pieces one at a time while the individuals try to “stay on the boat” as best they can.
This activity encourages communication, teamwork, problem-solving, and critical thinking.
3) What If
Invite your employees into your office one at a time and present them with a difficult hypothetical situation. Ask them to come up with a solution to the problem.
For example, “What if you lost an important client and cost the company a great deal of money because you didn’t follow procedure? How would you explain your actions and how would you solve the problem?”
This leadership activity demonstrates rationality, analytical thinking, accountability, and problem-solving
For this exercise, you’ll need teams of two, a blindfold, and several “obstacles” (office furniture works well).
Blindfold one member of the duo and task the other member to guide the “blind” person through the minefield of obstacles using only the words right, left, forward, and backward. As an alternative, hold this activity at a park or playground for a nice out-of-office experience.
This leadership activity promotes communication, listening, and trust.
5) Leaders You Admire
First, divide your team into groups of no more than five and position them in different parts of the office (so they can talk freely). Task them with discussing leaders (living or dead) they admire and choosing one to be the representative of their group.
After a preset amount of time, bring everyone together and have each group present the leader they admire. As the organizer of this activity, be sure to ask why they chose the leader they did. Then highlight common traits and desirable leadership characteristics of one or all leaders mentioned.
This leadership activity improves teamwork and engagement and reveals traits and qualities everyone can emulate.
6) 30 Seconds Left
Give your team members a few minutes to think about the best moment of their lives. Stress that it could be a professional achievement, an exciting adventure, or a personal breakthrough. Anything goes, but let them know that they will be sharing with the rest of the group.
When everyone has their moment in mind, ask them to narrow it down to the best 30 seconds. Then go around the room and ask each person to describe the moment.
This leadership activity helps your team get to know one another (and themselves) and encourages bonding as a group.
In this task, each participant must come up with five general “icebreaker” questions (e.g., “Who is more than six feet tall?”)
Once everyone is finished, go around the group and have each individual ask their questions. Count how many people raise their hand. The person with the highest number of points at the end of the round wins.
For example, if one question is, “Who has blonde hair?” and three people raise their hand, that’s three points.
This leadership activity is ideal for relieving tension, developing interpersonal communication, encouraging discussion, and creating a sense of connection between team members.
8) Leader’s Task
This is a three-part leadership activity, so allow plenty of time for participants to complete the tasks. You may even want to spread this activity out over several days. Here’s how it works.
Part 1: Assign your team to write an essay on a given leadership topic or organize a debate on that same topic. Create a rubric you can follow to determine two or three winners.
Part 2: Divide the other members of your team into two or three smaller teams (depending on how many winners you have from part one). Appoint the winners of part one as the leaders of these small groups.
Part 3: Take the leaders aside and give them an assignment. The leaders’ task is to organize their team in order to complete the assigned project successfully.
The leaders can do this however they like, but the first team that manages to achieve the goal wins the reward.
9) Leadership Race
Before gathering everyone together for this leadership activity, write a list of 20 or more leadership qualities in the form of “I am…” statements.
I am comfortable making important decisions with plenty of lead time.
I am comfortable making important decisions with no lead time.
I don’t blame others for my problems.
I am approachable even during stressful times.
I have a positive attitude in the face of adversity.
When it’s time to conduct the activity, line up all of the participant's side by side facing you. Read each leadership quality statement out loud and instruct the participants to take one step forward if the statement applies to them.
Tell them beforehand that they must be ready to explain why they feel that they possess these qualities. Everyone doesn’t need to justify every quality, but as the game progresses toward the end, ask the remaining participants to rationalize their steps forward.
Continue reading statements until you have a winner.
This leadership activity helps your team members get to know themselves and their colleagues better. It can also help you identify those with real leadership ability to whom you can begin to assign more responsibility
10) The Round Table
For this activity, you’ll need four round tables of the same size. Before the activity starts, create a different complex, multi-step task for each table.
Divide your employees into four teams — one for each table — and assign a leader to each. The leader can only communicate, direct, and delegate the work at hand, but they can’t actually do the work.
Begin the activity and time how long it takes each team to complete the task. Record the results and move each team to the next table. You can keep the same leaders or assign new ones each time you move.
Time all teams on all tables and the team with the lowest overall total wins.
For this leadership activity, you’ll need plenty of everyday items, such as:
Find your own unique items to make this activity more interesting and fun. You’ll also need a bag of marshmallows for the building process and for the end.
Divide everyone into at least two teams (depending on how many supplies you have) and challenge them to build the tallest tower possible using only the items provided in a set amount of time (e.g., 15-20 minutes).
The skyscraper must stand on its own and must support a marshmallow placed at the very top. The team with the tallest skyscraper wins.
This activity rewards group communication, collaboration, problem-solving, innovation, and team/leadership dynamics.
This leadership activity depends on how well everyone communicates and works together to achieve a common goal. In the process, one or two leaders will typically emerge to help and guide the team to success.
Here’s how it works.
Arrange everyone shoulder to shoulder in a circle. Instruct them to place their right hand in the right hand of someone on the other side of the circle.
Next, instruct them to place their left hand in the left hand of a different person (can’t be standing right next to them).
Once everyone has joined hands, challenge the group to untangle themselves without breaking the chain. If they break the chain, they have to start over from the beginning.
You can set a time limit on this exercise or allow it to progress to completion.