14 Leadership Activities for Professional Development

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published May 8, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Improving your leadership skills is essential for career development in any field. Leadership is valuable at any stage of your career and can benefit every member of a team regardless of their role. By conducting research and implementing unique leadership development activities, you can adapt them to suit your needs or the needs of your team members. In this article, we define leadership activities and share a list of 14 different leadership-building activities to consider.

What are leadership activities?

Leadership activities entail active engagement from team members. They frequently involve role-playing and problem-solving situations that people can work together to solve. The purpose of these activities is to assist leaders and managers in developing more effective leadership styles and fostering employee satisfaction and productivity. These activities also contribute to enhanced team building and communication.

Related: Leadership Skills: Definitions and Examples

Leadership-building activities

Here are 14 leadership-building activities you can use to improve leadership behaviour and foster better work relationships:

1. Human Icebreaker

This activity can be used to energize and engage your group. To begin, participants can collaborate to generate a list of generic questions such as, "Who here has a dog?" or "Who drives a red car?" Once they've created a list of questions, you can have them communicate with one another and keep track of how many individuals they spoke with and the number of responses they received for each topic. By the end of the activity, team members can present what they learned about their colleagues. The winner is whoever has the highest number of correct answers for each question.

2. Plane crash

Your team can imagine themselves as plane crash survivors on a remote island in this activity. Depending on the size of your team, you can divide the group into smaller teams. Assign them each the task of identifying a specified number of objects from around the office that they believe might be useful for survival. At the end of the set time, each group can present their chosen items and discuss why they believe they might be beneficial. This is an excellent technique to observe which team members assume leadership roles within their group.

3. Tallest tower

Divide the participants into small groups for this leadership development activity. You can give each group a set length of time to use the materials provided, such as newspapers, tape, toothpicks, and other objects from around the office. The aim of this activity is for each group to work together and build the tallest tower they possibly can. The group with the tallest structure wins.

Related: Ten Common Leadership Styles

4. Minefield

Minefield is a leadership development activity in which participants can create an obstacle course. You can use pillows, office chairs, and other readily available items. Divide people into equal teams and assign each group a leader. The group leaders stand at the end of the obstacle course, on the other side of their blindfolded team members.

The team leader next instructs each member of their team individually on how to move through the course. The leader who successfully gets each member of their team to the other side wins. This is an excellent activity for building communication skills as well.

5. Crocodile river

Create an obstacle course that resembles a river teeming with crocodiles for this activity. You can make this more difficult by establishing a set of restrictions. For example, you might decide that touching the ground requires a restart.

You can also make the task more challenging by allowing participants to cross the "river" using just particular objects. Divide the participants into groups and give each group a set amount of time to cross. This may take collaboration, patience, and excellent leadership to encourage the team. The group that crosses the finish line first wins.

6. Active listening challenge

This practice is beneficial for both leaders and employees. Active listening is the process of actively listening to what someone says while demonstrating attentiveness through eye contact, facial expressions, and certain movements. Ask each group member to stand in front of the group and read a tale that you've created. Include follow-up questions for the speakers. It's the audience's responsibility to engage in active listening during each reading. After each participant has completed their story, have them randomly call on audience members to recollect certain facts or incidents from the story.

7. Human knot

This leadership activity is best with a group of ten or more individuals. Assemble your group in a circle and ask everyone to close their eyes. Then, instruct them to reach their hands into the circle's centre while keeping their eyes closed. Ask participants to locate two other hands to hold onto, excluding the ones directly to their left or right. Once they've got two hands, ask everyone to open their eyes.

Their next job is to unwind the human knot they've constructed and return to a circle, all while holding each other's hands. This activity is excellent for developing patience and team building among leadership, as it's a lighthearted game. This activity also enables members of the group to demonstrate leadership abilities by guiding the group toward a solution.

8. All Aboard

All aboard is a leadership development activity that enables participants to communicate effectively and creatively to achieve their objectives. Begin by having the group construct a "boat" out of office supplies. They can use pillows, office chairs, desks, and paper reams to provide a spot for each team member to stand or sit on the boat.

Tell them that the ground is the "water" and make it a rule that if a team member steps on it, you can automatically eliminate them from the activity. You can then begin removing some of the objects they used to construct the boat. This will require group members to find new locations to stand and challenge fellow team members to problem solve so they can accommodate extra members in a small amount of space.

Related: The Ten Leadership Roles of a Great Manager

9. Your favourite manager

This activity focuses on identifying admirable characteristics that employees value in individuals who lead them. It's critical to highlight that this activity is not aimed at actual company leaders. To do the activity, ask six interested volunteers to read from notecards describing a manager persona. You can prepare these in advance. Next, assemble the remaining participants and ask them to discuss the positive and negative elements of each "manager" and grade them on a scale of worst to best. This is also an excellent approach to determine which leadership characteristics and styles are most effective for your workforce.

10. 30 Seconds left

This leadership activity offers your employees and department leaders a chance to get to know one another on a more personal level. Allow group members a brief amount of time to choose their greatest moment in life so far. This can be a significant professional or personal event that they feel comfortable sharing with the group. Then, have each person choose the best 30 seconds of that moment. They can each take a turn standing in front of the gathering and describing their greatest moment.

11. Leadership coat of arms

Leadership coat of arms is a leadership development practice that promotes creativity and the identification of personal values. To begin, distribute paper, pencils, and colouring instruments to participants. Invite them to create a coat of arms for their leadership style, taking into account the design, mottos, and personality attributes that they believe define their leadership style. After they've created their coat of arms, individuals can present their drawing to the group.

12. Concentration

Divide participants into two distinct groups for this leadership activity. Arrange these two groups in a parallel line pattern facing one another. Ask participants on one side to hold an item of their choosing. Give the opposing side some time to try and memorize which members of the opposing group are holding which things. Then instruct that group to reverse direction. Allow the group holding objects to swap with other members of their group while they are facing the opposite direction.

To add to the difficulty, you can let individuals make additional adjustments such as swapping watches, glasses, shoes, or hairstyles. Once they have completed their cosmetic alterations, instruct the other group to turn around. It's their responsibility to collaborate to reproduce which objects were with which participants.

13. Leaders you admire

This game encourages participants to collaborate to identify previous and present leaders in society. Each organization can compile a complete list of the characteristics that defined these individuals as capable leaders. Its aim is to improve team bonding, communication, and learning leadership skills.

14. What if?

This activity identifies how members of a team problem solve differently. To begin, present participants with a workplace problem and ask them each to write down what they can do to solve it. Next, have each participant read their response aloud. This can help you identify the types of leadership styles that are present among the team.

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