Career Development

4 Leadership Activities to Empower Your Team

January 21, 2021

Leaders are uniquely poised to increase their company’s value by guiding and inspiring employees to attain greater achievements. Leadership activities are exercises that can strengthen and promote these critical skills. In this article, we discuss several useful leadership activities that will help you identify leaders and strengthen your team.

Why is leadership important?

Strong leadership motivates employees to do their best. Leaders initiate action, offer guidance, promote coordination and build morale. An organization with strong leadership will enjoy purposeful forward momentum that helps the company achieve critical goals in a timely manner. Every business needs to identify and position leaders to help guide the direction of the other employees who work with them.

Leadership activities promote skills such as critical thinking, communication and creativity. These activities help existing leaders hone their abilities while identifying leadership potential in other individuals to help position them for future promotions.

Top leadership activities

The best leadership development exercises encourage problem solving and critical thinking. These leadership training exercises place participants in situations that help them expand their thought processes and address topics in original ways that inspire growth and innovation.

Try these four leadership activities to promote positive traits within team members: 

  1. The leaders race
  2. The “blue sky” brainstorming session
  3. The survival challenge
  4. Leadership styles on stage

1. The leaders race

"The leaders race" asks participants to think critically about their skills and achievements. Those who have the strongest skill set or the most experience will reach the finish line first. This creates a rewarding experience for those who succeed while offering actionable inspiration for others. Repeat this activity monthly or quarterly and see how leaders within your team improve.

For this activity, have your participants stand in a line. Prepare approximately 10 statements that describe the ideal leader for an upcoming project or responsibility. Read each statement aloud. Employees who believe it applies to them should take a step forward. Each team member must then explain how that statement relates to them so you can make sure the final standings are fair and accurate. At the end, those who are farthest across the room may get a chance to lead the special project or team.

For example, you’re looking for a leader to oversee a small team in designing a marketing campaign for your new kitchen mixer. One of your statements is, “I’ve baked something from scratch in the last month.” Each employee who steps forward must detail what they baked to substantiate their claim.

Related: Critical Thinking Skills: Definitions and Examples

2. The “blue sky” brainstorming session

Brainstorming can help team members collaborate and develop innovative solutions together. “Blue sky” brainstorming is a collaborative exercise that encourages leaders to work alongside others rather than simply instruct them.

Host a brainstorming session where participants encourage all ideas, regardless of any logistical barriers. Everyone must assume that the suggestion is achievable and work from this premise. You can present an actual challenge that the business has encountered or create a hypothetical situation. This activity will help leaders learn to adjust their thinking processes and approach problems from a different perspective.

For example, you invent a hypothetical situation in which researchers have discovered a new species of domesticated small elephants. Pet owners are eager to adopt small elephants. Your pet supply company must quickly figure out how to meet the needs of these new small elephant owners. Ask your team members what products they would develop, how they’ll market them and what approach will keep them competitive in this new marketplace.

Related: 10 Common Leadership Styles

3. The survival challenge

Critical-thinking and problem-solving skills are valuable in nearly any work environment. The survival challenge tests and improves these skills so team members can apply them to everyday tasks. You can also use the survival challenge as a team-building exercise or an icebreaker, as it encourages collaboration.

Divide your participants into groups of five to 10. Explain that they are stranded in a remote location. Describe the conditions and resources in this location and provide your teams with a list of about 30 items available. Task them with selecting just five items to ensure their survival. Have a second list of subsequent challenges prepared to test each group’s selection.

After each team has finalized their five items, ask them how they will form a shelter with these items. Task them with gathering food and creating a fire. Continue through three to five trials to determine a winning team.

Related: 6 Tips for Effective Teamwork

4. Leadership styles on stage

Leadership styles vary from one person to the next, but a leader should also be capable of changing with the situation. Leadership styles on stage will show how beneficial a new approach can be. This activity gives your leaders insight into how different leadership styles function.

Define three to five prominent leadership styles, such as visionary, autocratic and democratic. Write the styles on cards and ask for volunteers to come to the front of the room or stage. Give each individual a leadership style and assign an additional volunteer to play the employee. Explain that the employee has a potential problem, and the leader must respond. At the conclusion, discuss which styles worked best and why.

For example, you work in a hotel and inform your participants that housekeepers are regularly missing the deadline for cleaning rooms. The volunteer with the visionary leadership card constructs an entirely new way of cleaning rooms that uses revolutionary technology to save time. The autocratic leader constructs a checklist that improves efficiency. After the exercise is over, your team agrees that while the technology would save the most time, it’s not cost effective. The autocratic leadership style saves both time and money immediately.

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