Great leaders matter!
They boost employee engagement and productivity while shaping your workplace culture. And the best leaders are not born but taught via leadership activities or training.
In this post, you’ll learn why leadership activities are important and how they affect leadership within your organization.
Plus, we’ll share 12 fun exercises that’ll help you hone the managers of today and build future leaders.
What are leadership activities?
Leadership activities are typically problem-solving or role-playing games that aid leadership development within a team.
There are different ways to teach leadership development and team building effectively. But exercises typically require everyone in the group to participate at least once.
You can adjust activities based on your goals and the leadership traits you’d like to teach.
Leadership-building objectives can range from team collaboration, improving listening skills, managing conflict, helping managers develop practical problem-solving techniques and identifying leadership skills in employees.
Why are leadership activities important?
Leadership activities are important because they promote leadership best practices throughout an organization.
The right leadership training ideas for managers help leaders develop the traits that boost employee morale and positively impact employee motivation, productivity and overall company success.
The ultimate goal is to teach leaders multiple ways to guide their employees so that they can tailor their approach depending on the temperament of their team or the task at hand.
What makes a great leader?
According to Gallup, great leaders share 7 leadership traits.
- Build relationships
- Develop people
- Lead change
- Inspire others
- Think critically
- Communicate clearly
- Create accountability
Outside of these, great leaders also practice active listening, show empathy, are problem solvers and always lead by example.
By developing these traits, leaders build trust, promote compassion, provide stability, encourage hope for the future within an organization and contribute to positive company culture.
What are some fun & effective leadership activities?
‘What are good leadership activities?’, you ask.
Enter: Our curated list of 12 fun and effective ways to teach leadership in an informal setting.
Each exercise improves one or more critical leadership traits while highlighting existing skills you or your team have.
You can mix and match activities depending on your specific training goals.
1. Hold the rope
‘Hold the rope’ starts with setting the scene.
Ask your group to imagine they have to climb a gigantic cliff face. The rather dramatic catch? All that lies between them plummeting to their death is a rope… held by another person in the group who needs to pull them to safety.
The good news, the rope is secured by pulleys meaning people don’t need to consider weight and strength differences in this activity.
Step 1. Ask the group to write down who they’d like to hold the rope for them.
Step 2. What if the roles were reversed? Ask the group to write down one person they’d want to pull to safety.
Step 3. Ask the group to read their two names aloud and explain their reasoning.
Close the activity with a group discussion mentioning that dependable and trustworthy team members are generally picked to hold the rope.
At the same time, the person at the bottom is typically a key group member.
‘Hold the rope’ is great for creating accountability.
2. What, if?
‘What, if?’ helps you discover how individual team members approach problem-solving.
Introduce the group to a hypothetical workplace problem. It could be a conflict between departments, a customer query, or something else entirely.
Step 1: Ask each team member to write down how they’d solve the problem.
Step 2: Ask each team member to share their approach with the group.
‘What, if?’ is great for problem-solving and identifying different leadership styles amongst employees.
3. What, so now what?
Introduce the group to a hypothetical conflict.
The scenario example could be internal or between internal and external parties. Conflict management is a source of stress for many, but with proper training, you can help your team remain objective, clear-headed and achieve positive outcomes.
Step 1: Ask the group to work together and gather all the facts about the conflict before passing judgment or rushing to find a solution.
Step 2: Create space for everyone’s voice to be heard. Go round the group and ask how people have processed the facts.
Step 3: Work together to create objective and practical solutions.
‘What, So Now What?’ is great for reducing the tension around managing conflict, helping people to stay calm under pressure, and ensuring everyone in the group has space to contribute.
4. Active Listening
‘Active Listening’ introduces team members to active listening and relational coaching methods that help others reach their own solutions.
You’ll need to provide the group with a question to ponder. It could be a work or non-work-related question.
Step 1: Arrange participants into groups of three.
Step 2: Ask the groups to assign the following roles: ‘the subject,’ ‘the listener,’ and ‘the observer.’
Step 3: ‘The subject’ explores the query aloud, ‘the listener’ actively listens, and ‘the observer’ observes the others.
Step 4: Ask the groups to take turns until everyone has ‘played’ each role.
The ‘Active Listening’ exercise is great for improving empathy, teaching and building upon active listening and problem-solving foundations.
5. Race to Leadership
To play ‘Race to Leadership,’ you’ll need to draft a list of leadership traits beforehand, for example, active listener, inspirational, problem-solver, etc.
Step 1: Assign a team member to shout out the leadership traits throughout the game and a few participants to act as impartial judges.
Step 2: Line everyone else up shoulder-to-shoulder.
Step 3: The designated caller can then shout out a leadership quality.
Step 4: If players think they have that quality, they take a step forward and explain why they believe they possess the trait.
Step 5: The panel of judges votes on whether the player has the trait.
Step 6: Repeat the process until all traits from your list are covered. The person who takes the most steps forward is the winner.
‘Race to Leadership’ is great for identifying employees with the most leadership potential.
6. Creative Communication
To play ‘Creative Communication,’ you’ll need a pen, paper and a designated area to draw.
The group will also need to be divided into pairs, and participants must be seated facing each other.
Step 1: Introduce the rules. One person describes an object using only gestures (no words allowed), and the other has to draw what they think the thing is. You’ll also need to set a time limit.
Step 2: Assign an object to the person who will be describing it to their teammate using gestures.
Step 3: Ask the assigned participant to describe the object using gestures.
Step 4: Ask the assigned participant to sketch the item.
Step 5: Ask the gesturing player to reveal the object and the drawing player to reveal their sketch.
End this activity with a discussion, either focusing on how they communicated effectively if they guessed correctly or where the communication broke down if the gestures and drawing didn’t match.
‘Creative Communication’ is great for identifying effective communicators and improving collective problem-solving skills.
7. Leadership Scenario
‘Leadership Scenario’ is a situational leadership team development exercise that explores the five most common leadership styles: authoritative, autocratic, democratic, participative and laissez-faire.
Step 1: Present the strengths and weaknesses of each leadership style.
Step 2: Provide a hypothetical workplace scenario requiring leadership.
Step 3: Ask the group to match the best-suited leadership style to the scenario and explain their reasoning.
Step 4: Repeat a scenario for each leadership style.
‘Leadership Scenario’ is great for discovering your employees’ different leadership styles and improving problem-solving skills in real-time.
8. Observation Challenge
‘Observation Challenge’ helps participants to notice changes (even minor ones) either in the environment or in their teammates.
Step 1: Divide the group into pairs.
Step 2: Set a time limit and ask the pairs to observe each other.
Step 3: Now, ask everyone to change something about themselves. It could be clothing, jewellery, or changing their hair.
Step 4: Ask the pairs to return to their seats and write down any changes they spot. Whoever observes the most changes is the winner!
‘Observation Challenge’ is great for improving your critical thinking, problem-solving and observation skills.
9. Name your leader
To play ‘Name your leader,’ you’ll need to break employees into smaller groups.
Step 1: Ask the groups to discuss leaders that inspire them. They could be from a different industry or company.
Step 2: Ask the teams to write down the leadership traits of their inspirational picks.
Step 3: Ask everyone to consider the traits they have in common with the selected leaders and to note down any characteristics they’d like to develop.
‘Name your leader’ is great for helping employees identify skills they would like to develop and see leaders adopting.
10. Scavenger Hunts
Before introducing this exercise, you’ll have to do some prep work, including choosing landmarks and dropping off items for the team to find.
You can make it much easier by using a workforce management tool like Voilà! to help track GPS locations and set up landmarks.
Step 1: Divide the group into teams of 3-4, explain the rules of the exercise, and set a time limit.
Step 2: Ask the groups to visit the chosen landmarks and collect each item on the list. You can use places around the company site or use virtual reality tech.
Step 3: The team(s) that gather all the items win a prize.
‘Scavenger Hunts’ is great for team collaboration and bonding in an informal environment.
11. 30 seconds to go
’30 seconds to go’ is a 30-second exercise that can double up as an introductory icebreaker.
Step 1: Ask the team members to think of a meaningful story they feel comfortable sharing with the group.
Step 2: Ask a participant to share an essential aspect of their story in 30 seconds or less.
Step 3: Start a group discussion to see whether people understood the main point and why it was meaningful to the narrator.
Step 4: Repeat until everyone has a turn.
’30 seconds to go’ is great for fostering connections, improving time management and being a clear communicator.
12. Marshmallow Challenge
The aim of this leadership activity is to construct the tallest standing structure that can hold a marshmallow without breaking or falling over.
To get started, you’ll need spaghetti, toothpicks, tape, string, wooden blocks, and marshmallows.
Step 1: Divide the group into smaller teams, explain the rules of the exercise, and set a time limit.
Step 2: Ask the group to start constructing their structure.
Step 3: Call time, place the marshmallow on each structure and measure them. The tallest tower that holds the marshmallow is the winner.
The ‘Marshmallow Challenge’ is great for building relationships and encouraging creative thinking.
Leadership isn’t just a title but a gift you can nurture over time with leadership activities.
Leadership-building exercises help your employees develop the traits and skills required for their team and the company to flourish.
You can help your team develop or hone leadership traits by including leadership exercises within your company training sessions.
These activities highlight leadership qualities in your team and help build new ones.