Leadership is a quality that some people learn to acquire right away, whereas other people have to work very hard to acquire. Those who aspire to become leaders in the workplace have to start somewhere, and participating in leadership activities gives people the insight they need to apply their skills in positions of leadership.
1. The Leadership Task
When you gather a group of people in the meeting room, short-list a few of them by assigning them to either a debate competition or an essay competition. Name these short-listed candidates leaders of their respective subgroups and allow them to choose teammates to join their team. Once the subgroups are formed, assign them a task. Whatever the task may be, such as setting up a hot dog cart, inform the team leaders of each subgroup what is expected of them in this task. Let them know what their goal for the day is, and establish the rules for this activity. After the task is completed, hold a meeting and discuss the successes and failures of each team leader and their teams.
2. Mystery Drawing
Separate your group into pairs and let each pair decide who will take the role of illustrator, and who will be the director. Each director will receive a simple drawing, and they will be instructed not to disclose the entire drawing to his or her teammate. It is the illustrator’s job to draw what is described to him or her by the director. Give a blank piece of paper and a pencil to the illustrators, and give them time to draw. Directors must give illustrators a step-by-step description of what the drawing is. When everyone is finished, have all pairs compare their drawings. This activity improves a participant’s ability to give and receive directions.
3. Mouse Trap Trust
This pair exercise involves a simple device, a mouse trap. This activity takes up to 30 minutes and each pair of the group will be given their own mouse trap to use. There are 4 steps to this activity. The first step is for the leader of the group to demonstrate how to set a mouse trap. The next step is for the partner to set a trap with his or her eyes closed. The third step is where the group is shown how to safely unset a trap by directly placing your hand on top of it and then taking your hand off the trap. Roles are switched in the fourth step. Communication, trust, planning, and coaching are the skills developed with this activity.
This is a game where the main objective is for pairs to successfully travel through a minefield by cooperating together. The maximum group size you can have for this activity is 50 people, and it takes as long as 30 minutes to complete. A playing area of a 10-foot by 10-foot square is created, using rope or tape to make the square. “Start” and “Finish” sides of this box are made by using 6-inch long strips of tape. Land mines are made by filling the square with objects like tennis balls or pieces of paper. Anyone inside the area must have their eyes closed. Trust, communication, and planning are skills that are developed from this activity.
5. Situation Play
An activity that highlights the different kinds of leaders and the qualities they exhibit, situations are listed for the whole group to discuss and pick apart. One situation you and the group could discuss would be something like “An employee has performed his role at work very well, but he has a poor anti-social attitude. How do you handle him?” You could also discuss this situation; “An important meeting about a business partnership is underway and one of the team members hasn’t shown up for it. How will you proceed with the meeting, and with the missing team member?” Leadership qualities from this activity include making decisions that benefit your organization and thinking rationally in a short span of time.
6. The Thinking Hat
In this activity, every participant will be asked to write down their own personal views about the essential qualities a leader should have. All participants should be given a fixed amount of time to write down their thoughts, and then you will ask everyone to take center stage and verbally express their thoughts with others. They should be allowed to express their thoughts in an innovative way. While one person’s views are being shared on the stage, provide feedback forms to the rest of the group and ask them to rate the person after he or she finishes their speech. Those who have creativity and confidence in a public speaking setting benefit from this activity.
7. Tarp Turn-Over
Fold a tarp (or a blanket) and have everyone in the group stand on it. Provide some extra space while everyone stands on the tarp. Attempt to turn over the tarp without anyone stepping off it. Depending on how much space you want to have for this activity, the size of the tarp you use will vary. Collaboration, communication, and problem-solving are skills that are promoted with this activity. You can set up separate rounds for this exercise by assigning more people to help you turn over the tarp, and on different sides of the tarp.
8. The Leader Role
In the business world, you will discover the differences between many types of leaders and leadership traits. This activity brings this discovery to light. 5 participants are needed for this exercise, and only one person will play the role of a team member. The other 4 participants will act as different kinds of leaders. Have the team play out a situation, such as a team member has been working more hours during the week but is seeking a raise in pay. The 4 leaders will approach this situation differently, taking on roles such as the Aggressive Leader, the Understanding Leader, the Play-By-The-Book Leader, and the Know-It-All Leader. The ability to keep a cool head if the employee creates a scene or tries to get emotional is learned through this activity.
9. All Aboard
One way to encourage teamwork would be to make something out of nothing. In this activity, you divide your team into two groups and then challenge them to build a boat out of the scrap materials that you can find. Make sure that the materials you find are sturdy enough for people to stand on. Once both groups have finished construction, instruct everybody to stand on some part of their creations. Pieces of the boats will then be removed one at a time while team members will try to stay on the boat. Communication, problem-solving and critical thinking are also encouraged through this activity.
10. The Leadership Race
This activity is a simple way of conveying the message of what leadership is about. You will make a handout paper that contains qualities and general statements that talk about the qualities of a true leader. One example: “I learn from my failures as much as I learn from success, and I take responsibility for all of my actions.” These handout papers are distributed to all participants, and they will stand at a common start line for this activity. Have the first sentence of this handout be read aloud and ask all participants to illustrate a short example to support their position. Continue the activity until you have a winner of the race.
11. Pass The Can
A fun exercise where all participants will be made to think before they engage with particular objects. Find a large can like a coffee can and place an object inside, such as a rock, a plastic toy, or a bottle cap. Start by telling a story about how the object has great value or significance. The main goal is to pass the can around from person to person in a circle without dropping it. However, before doing this, a single limitation will be placed on each player such as they can’t use their hands, they must pass the can with their legs or feet, they must close their eyes as if they are blind, or they must use their elbows to pass the can.
12. 30 Seconds Left
Having your teammates bond with each other as a cohesive group matters, and getting to know each other is a great first step. Give everybody in your group a few minutes to think about the best moments of their lives. Emphasize that it could be a professional achievement, an exciting adventure, or a personal breakthrough they experienced. Anything goes, but remind everybody that they will be openly sharing with each other. When everyone chooses a moment to share, ask them to narrow it down to the best 30 seconds. Go around the room and ask each person to describe their moments. This activity allows your group to get a better understanding of the goals and expectations all members have individually.
Asking general questions about your teammates helps everyone to better understand each other, and it also relieves tension. In this activity, each participant must come up with a list of 5 “icebreaker” questions. The kinds of questions you can ask your teammates include “Who is more than 6 feet tall?”, “Who has brown hair?”, and “Who prefers to drink coffee in the morning?” Once everyone finishes making their lists, go around the group and have each participant 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 4 people raise their hand after a question is asked, you count 4 points for the person who asked the question.
14. The Round Table
Set up 4 round tables of the same size, and create a different complex, multi-step task for each table. All employees in your group will be divided into 4 teams, one team for each round table, and one leader will be assigned to each team. The leader is only allowed to communicate, direct, and delegate the work at hand, but they can’t do the work themselves. Record how much time it takes each team to complete the task, and record the results and move each team to the next table. Either keep the same team leaders or assign new ones each time you move. The team with the lowest overall total wins. This activity helps in determining which employee is best suited for particular roles in your company.
Many everyday items are needed for this activity, such as tape, string, blocks, newspaper, toothpicks, and uncooked pasta. You can add your own unique items to make this activity more interesting. A bag of marshmallows will also be needed for the building process in the end. Everyone is divided into 2 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. The skyscraper must stand on its own and must support a marshmallow placed at the very top. The team with the tallest skyscraper wins. Collaboration, problem-solving, and innovation are rewarded by this activity.
16. Game Night Events
It is actually effective to schedule certain nights where your group of employees play either board games, card games, or parlor games. If your group is a bunch of chess enthusiasts, start a small chess club and have nights for playing chess. If your group loves card games, set up a table for cards. Parlor games include Musical Chairs, Charades, and Tiddlywinks. Managing a Game Night Event helps you develop leadership skills because you learn how to better structure your planning, and you get to know your employees better through bonding.
Communication between teammates is key to this activity working as they will work together to achieve a common goal. In this process, one or two leaders will likely emerge to help and guide the team to success. The setup of this activity starts with everyone being arranged 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. Everyone will then be instructed to place their left hand in the left hand of a different person, though that person can’t be standing right next to them. Once all hands are joined, challenge the group to untangle themselves without breaking the chain. If the chain is broken, everyone will start over from the beginning.
18. Over The Fence
If you are outside, tie a rope between two trees, or if you stay indoors, tie a rope between two chairs. The height should be enough to challenge all participants when attempting to go over the rope, but it should still be low enough so that going over it is possible. Challenge your team to go over the fence without touching it. If the fence is touched or broken, start the activity all over again. Planning and collaboration skills are fostered by this team-building exercise.
19. Employee Improvement Book Reading Groups
More than just a book club where your group of employees read any book, you will provide them a book about personal or career growth. Employees will take turns leading discussions about applying what they are learning to their personal, career, or company goals. Specifically, target business-related topics when providing types of books for your employees to read. Have your employees read these books in the same room and interact with each other this way. Fresh, new ideas can be discovered from such interactions.
20. Lunch as a Team Building Exercise
Employees are most likely to relax when they have lunch together. This would be the opportune time to either provide your employees a lunch at your company headquarters, or you can take them out to a local restaurant. Cater to the eating interests of your employees by picking the kinds of foods they can all agree to consume. Seat them at tables as teams and give them some topics that are related to improving the work environment or solving simple problems that arise at work during this lunch break.
21. Group Mentoring
A surefire way of team building is to have a mentoring plan for your employees. There are two effective methods of mentoring. One is where you have a manager or team leader teach employees a new skill to improve their work or build relationships between employees. The other method is where you can assign an employee who is excelling at a particular ability to teach other employees their skills and knowledge. There are other methods of mentoring employees, such as bringing in retired workers, or a successful business person who is in the same industry as you are, who can share their expertise.
You can ask 100 people what makes an effective leader, and you will most likely get 100 different answers. Your company needs activities to keep your employees mentally stimulated and motivated to press forward even if they are having a rough day at work. The true quality of a leader and the capacity to lead is measured by performance and competence, and having activities that can make employees think about the main goals of their company can show you as a leader what skills you need to improve on. You can also apply these activities to everyday situations away from work, and in that way, you can see improvements being made in your personal life.
Keith Miller has over 25 years experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entreprenuer, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.