15 Effective Leadership-Building Activities You Can Do Today

By Indeed Editorial Team

February 22, 2021

You can maintain good leadership habits by participating in activities that foster further leadership development. By researching unique leadership building activities, you can tailor them to fit your company's needs. In this article, we define leadership activities and review fifteen types of activities that you can use within your workplace to promote more effective leadership and encourage team morale.

Related: 10 Common Leadership Styles (+ How To Find Your Own)

What are leadership-building activities?

Leadership-building activities are opportunities that require active participation and often, role-playing and/or problem-solving. Their goal is to help leaders find more effective ways to lead and encourage job satisfaction and productivity from employees.

Related: 4 Leadership Activities to Empower Your Team

Leadership-building activities

Here are 15 leadership-building activities that you can use to improve leadership behaviors and foster better work relationships:

  1. Human Icebreaker

  2. Plane Crash

  3. Tallest Tower

  4. Minefield

  5. Crocodile River

  6. Active Listening Challenge

  7. Human Knot

  8. All Aboard

  9. Your Favorite Manager

  10. 30 Seconds Left

  11. Leadership Coat of Arms

  12. Concentration

  13. Leaders You Admire

  14. Trust Battery

  15. What If?

1. Human Icebreaker

This activity can be used to energize your group and help them participate. First, the activity participants have to work together to create a list of general questions like 'who here has a dog?' or, "who drives a red car?'

Once they have developed a list of questions that follow this format, you can have them interact with one another and record how many people they talked with, and got answers from, for each question. The person with the most answers to each question by the end of the activity wins.

2. Plane crash

In this activity, your team must envision themselves as plane crash victims on a deserted island. Depending on the group's size, you can split them into smaller groups. Have them work together to identify a set number of items from around the office that they think would be practical for survival.

At the end of the allotted time, have each group present the items and discuss why they believe these items would be helpful. This is also a good way to observe which members of your team take on leadership roles within their group.

3. Tallest Tower

This leadership-building activity requires you to split the participants into small groups. Each group has a specific amount of time within which they must use the items provided—such as newspapers, tape and toothpicks or items from around the office—to build the tallest standing tower when compared to the other groups.

4. Minefield

Minefield is a leadership building activity where you must construct an obstacle course. You can use pillows, office chairs and other items readily available to you. Split participants into equal teams and choose a leader for each group. The group leaders should stand at the end of the obstacle course with their blindfolded team members on the opposite side.

One by one, the team leader must instruct their team members on how to navigate around obstacles. The leader that gets each member of their team to the other side first, wins.

5. Crocodile River

This leadership-building activity is similar to minefield but different in the methods used to execute it. For this activity, create an obstacle course that replicates a river filled with crocodiles. You can make this more challenging by creating a set of rules such as 'touching the ground means you have to start over'.

You can also make things more difficult by only allowing certain objects to be used by participants to cross the 'river'. Split the participants into groups and give them a limited amount of time for each of them to get across the 'river'. This will require teamwork and patience, and the team that gets across first, wins.

6. Active Listening Challenge

This activity is useful for leadership roles as well as employees. Active listening is the process by which you listen to what someone says, using eye contact, facial expressions and certain gestures to demonstrate focus. Have each group participant stand in front of group members and read a story that you have put together. Include questions for the speakers to ask following their presentation. It's the audience's job to practice active listening during each individual reading.

After each participant is finished their story, have them call on audience members at random to recall certain facts or events that occurred in the story. This is a good activity for employees to learn better listening tactics but it is also important for department leaders as it teaches them methods to better understand the questions and ideas presented to them by their employees.

7. Human Knot

This leadership-building activity requires you to have a group of ten or more individuals as it is easier to perform this way. Have your group sit in a circle and close their eyes. Then, have them reach their hands into the middle of the circle (still with their eyes closed), and find two other hands to hold, (excluding the ones directly to their left or right). Then, have them open their eyes.

Their next task is to try to undo the human knot they have created and return to a circle, without letting go of each other's hands. This activity can be a great way to practice patience and encourages team-bonding as it is a light-hearted game. However, this activity also allows those within the group to exhibit leadership skills to guide the group toward a solution.

8. All Aboard

All aboard is a leadership building-activity that encourages participants to use good communication and creativity in order to accomplish their goals. Start by having the group build a 'boat' out of office materials. They could use pillows, office chairs, desks, paper reams and other items so that each team member has a place to stand or sit on the 'boat'.

Treat the ground like water, and make it a rule that if a team member steps onto the ground they eliminate their team from the activity. Then, begin taking away certain objects that are being used to create the boat, forcing group members to find new places to stand and forcing fellow team members to problem-solve to accommodate for additional members in minimal space.

9. Your Favorite Manager

This leadership-building activity is focused on identifying admirable qualities that are valuable to employees when it comes to those who lead them. It is important to note that this activity should not be centered around actual leaders within your company.

Rather, have six willing participants read from notecards that describe a manager persona. (You should create these beforehand). Have the remaining participants work together to voice the positive and negative aspects to each 'manager', and rate them from worst to best.

This is also a great way to identify the leadership traits and styles that work best for your employees.

10. 30 Seconds Left

In this activity, you are providing your employees and department heads with the opportunity to get to know one another on a more personalized level. Allow group participants a short amount of time to think about one of the 'best moments of their life', that they will be willing to share with the group.

This could be a professional or personal event that was extremely meaningful to them. Then, have each participant narrow down that moment to the best 30 seconds. One by one, they should stand in front of the group and describe their 'best moment'.

11. Leadership Coat of Arms

Leadership coat of arms is a leadership-building activity that encourages creativity and the identification of personal values. Provide participants with paper, pencils and coloring utensils.

Ask them to draw their leadership coat of arms, considering design, mottos and personality traits that they think make up their leadership style. They should each present their code of arms drawings to the group.

12. Concentration

This group activity requires you to split participants into two distinct groups. Have these two groups stand facing one another in a parallel line formation. Give one side items to hold. Allow the other group a moment to try and memorize who is holding which objects in the opposite group. Then, have that group turn around.

While they are facing the other direction, allow the group holding items to switch with other people in their group. To add to the challenge, you can allow those holding the objects to also incorporate other changes like swapping watches, glasses, shoes or changing their hairstyles.

Once they have completed changes to their appearance, have the other group turn back around. It is their job to work together to recreate which items were with which participants.

13. Leaders You Admire

This game requires participants to work together to come up with past and present leadership figures in society. Each group should create a comprehensive list of the traits that made these figures good leaders.

14. Trust battery

This activity is focused on identifying the types of things that team members trust one another with, on a daily basis. Have each participant name coworkers they count on for information that helps them do their job.

Related: 10 Ways to Build Effective Leadership Behaviors

15. What If?

This activity identifies how members of a team problem-solve differently. Present participants with a workplace problem, and have each participant write down what they would do to solve it. Then, have each participant read their response aloud. This can help you identify the types of leadership styles that are present among your employees.

Browse more articles