It’s important for businesses to invest in the leadership abilities of team members to foster a healthy work environment fueled by teamwork, collaboration, and mutual respect. Leadership activities encourage team members to work together as a cohesive unit, and they help each employee develop and enhance their own leadership skills.
Continue reading to learn more about the importance of leadership in the workplace and how team building activities can enhance leadership skills across your team. We’ll share a list of impactful activities for leadership training as well as quick leadership building activities you can complete before in-person or virtual meetings.
While many of the activities we outline below can work for virtual teams, we did a deep dive on remote team building in our article: Remote Team Building Activities: Engaging Remote Employees.
The Importance of Leadership Activities
Strong leaders inspire and motivate those around them. Having strong leaders in your workplace improves productivity, engagement, and the overall wellbeing of your team. These types of leaders are transformational, and they carry a long list of sought-after qualities.
Great leaders are:
- Good listeners
Transformational leaders guide and motivate those around them to be the best versions of themselves. Great leaders aren’t born; they are formed through hardship and dedication—which means anyone can continue to develop leadership skills.
Without leadership, teams can crumble—collaboration slows, trust dwindles, decision making is hindered, and there’s a general lack of enthusiasm or spark that makes people feel good about getting up and going to work each day. Look for signs of unhealthy leadership in your workplace and be proactive about leadership and team cohesion by investing early and often in leadership activities that encourage team building.
Signs of unhealthy leadership in your workplace:
- Disengaged team members
- Lack of trust between team members
- Lack of trust between team members and management
- High turnaround due to unhappy employees leaving for other opportunities
- Slow or ineffective decision making
- Conflict in the workplace
- Anxiety in the workplace
- Lack of innovation or creativity
Leadership Team Building Activities
Team building activities for leadership help hone qualities essential to an effective leader in a lighthearted and fun way that includes the entire team. Everyone, no matter your experience level or how effective you believe yourself to be, has room for improvement. Leadership development activities help to enhance the qualities you already have, and they give other team members who don’t have a lot of experience in leadership positions the chance to flex some of those muscles for the first time.
Ask your team which leadership training activities sound most appealing to them to ensure everyone is engaged and ready to participate to the best of their ability.
Escape rooms bring a team together around a common goal other than work; plus, they cultivate collaboration, critical thinking, and decision making. Since more and more offices are adapting to a remote, distributed, or hybrid workculture, virtual escape rooms make the fun more accessible than ever before.
While escape rooms are certainly entertaining, they’re also opportunities to hone your leadership skills. Your team only has a limited amount of time to complete the challenge; a leader must decisively delegate responsibilities based on the knowledge they have of their team, and they need to make decisions quickly, lest everyone remain trapped.
To keep the focus on leadership, have the team alternate in the role of leader. How can you inspire your team to keep going and assign the right roles to the right people? Ask your team what kind of escape rooms they’re most interested in to keep everyone engaged.
This activity is all about communication and listening closely to someone’s tone of voice. Using only the word cookie,one participant must guide another blindfolded participant through a room full of obstacles—tables, chairs, or other team members. They cannot touch the blindfolded person or offer any guidance other than using the word “cookie” with different variances in their tone of voice.
The blindfolded team member must listen closely to how the person says the word ‘cookie’ in order to discern how they should move throughout the room. Did they mean stop? Did they mean move forward? Did they mean crouch? If the blindfolded person makes it to the other side of the room without touching any of the obstacles, both team members win!
A great deal of information can be communicated through the tone of your voice. How can you use the word cookie to explain to a blindfolded person that they need to crawl underneath a chair? It’s not an easy challenge, and it requires deep, active communication between both participants. For example, you might lower your voice or speak low to the ground to encourage the blindfolded person to crouch, whereas using a stern tone is a clear indication that the person should stop or slow down.
The activity will get team members thinking about their tone of voice and how they communicate as a leader.
Show and Tell
Show and tell isn’t just for grade school. Standing in front of a room of your peers and describing a cherished object’s personal significance is also an effective way to encourage adults to open up and communicate effectively in front of a crowd. Since public speaking is both an essential aspect of being a leader and among the top fears in the US, show and tell is a simple way to hone those skills and grow more comfortable speaking in front of a crowd.
Ask employees to bring a small object of significance to work to describe briefly (1 minute or so) to the rest of the team. Why is this item important? How long have you had it? Where did you get it? Where do you usually keep it? How does it make you feel? This activity from your childhood will help team members open up around each other, and the act of storytelling will hone essential leadership skills.
The Sky’s the Limit Problem Solving
Have your team solve a problem together to promote collaboration, ideation, innovation, and effective decision making. Choose a problem your team will solve using their wildest imaginations. The problem could be something you face in the workplace every day (like how to keep the kitchen clean) or something with a larger impact (like how to solve homelessness in our community.)
Ideate on how you might solve the problem if you could wish for anything. There are no budget restraints or limits—the sky’s the limit, and nothing is impossible! If you could wish for anything, how would you solve the problem? Get creative, and capture all of your ideas.
Once you've captured all of your ideas/wishes, discuss them as a group. What can you learn from assessing your problems without limitations? Did you learn anything new? Are the constraints of your problem actually set in stone? Thinking beyond what’s ‘realistic’ will help you imagine solutions you might not otherwise have considered while giving everyone involved the chance to develop their creativity, adaptability, and critical thinking skills.
Quick Leadership Group Activities
Quick leadership team activities are a great way to start a workday or kickoff a meeting. They only take a few minutes, and they’ll help to break the ice before you get into more serious, work-related conversations. The following activities can be played in person or virtually.
Pancakes vs. Waffles
Pancakes vs. Waffles is a quick game that promotes discussion and discourse between team members. It forces the team to come to a conclusion and make decisions as a group.
The game begins with pancakes vs. waffles. If the world could only keep one, which one should it be? The team gets a few minutes to debate and decide before another option is added. If the team picked pancakes, the next question might be: pancakes or cookies? Which one does the world get to keep, and which one is lost forever?
Continue the game for a few rounds, and don’t be afraid to get creative. You might ask pancakes vs. hot dogs, coffee vs. tea, or kittens vs. pajamas, etc.
Stranded on an Island
If you were stranded on an island, what would you bring? There are a number of different ways to take this game, depending on the size of your team and the amount of time you have.
You can debate as a group what 5 items you should bring if you were stranded on an island, each share one thing you would bring, or break up into smaller groups to briefly discuss and share with the larger group.
The activity is meant to be played fast, which gets people thinking strategically, and forces decisive decision making since only so many items are allowed. For example, what’s more important: a blanket or a form of entertainment? A tent or a fishing rod? Non-perishable food or seeds for growing a garden?
One Word Check-In
One Word Check-In only takes a few minutes and can be completed ahead of a meeting or virtual meeting. Ask each person attending the meeting to describe how they are currently feeling in one word. The key is being open and honest as a team. Make sure everyone knows it’s okay to express mundane or unhappy feelings. It’s a pulse check to better understand where the headspace of your team is before jumping into communication.
Leaders need to be in tune with the mindset and wellbeing of their team as well as with their own changing moods. This small check-in allows each team member to openly express how they are feeling while promoting honesty, empathy, and understanding across the team.
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