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Leadership Activities 

Below you will find a list of activities to BOOST your leadership training.

Click on those activity titles that suit your needs. 

 

 

Activity Listing:

Adapt these activity ideas to your content and audience

1. Stand by Your Quote--Use this exercise to "jump start" leadership thinking. 

2. Reality Check--Use this self-assessment to understand energy distribution

3. Your Leadership Calendar--This is a follow up activity

4. Leadership Dance Card--Use this activity to have the participants share best practices

5. Center Stage--This role playing activity demonstrates different leadership approaches 

6. Leaders to Admire--Use this activity to share personal leadership examples

7. Leadership Swap--Use this activity to build connections between participants

8. Key Words--This activity asks leaders to explore their everyday roles as leaders

9. Walking the Talk--Use this activity to translate values into leadership behavior

10. Battling Negativity--Use this activity to identify strategies to deal with negative employees 

11. Leadership Values --Use this activity to identify values that drive leadership behavior

12. Leadership Skills Plan--This activity builds a skills development blueprint

13. Coaching as Conversation—This activity helps managers prepare for coaching sessions

14. Leader as Coach—This activity provides leaders with a 3-step coaching process 

15. Leadership Challenged--Participants look at their leadership during moments of challenge  


More Free Tools from Workshop Exercises: Leadership Insights

Leadership Tips: Simple, on-the-job self improvement ideas to strengthen your leadership skills

Stress: A dozen strategies to reduce on-the-job stress

Leadership Articles: Leadership and team development insights by Jeff Appelquist

Time Management: Strategies and activities to help business leaders manage their time

Leadership Styles: Overview of the frameworks, theories, and styles of leadership

Delegation: Understanding the skill of delegating effectively

Decision Making: Understanding sound decision making


I. "Stand by your Quote"

Author: Tom Siebold is a writer and consultant in Minneapolis.  He is also co-owner of Collegegrazing.com--a site to help college bound teens to learn more about what they need and want in a college.

 

Objective (s): To introduce leadership discussion and awareness

How the author has used this exercise:  A good facilitator has to get the participant "juices" flowing before discussion begins.  This exercise introduces the topic of leadership and encourages each participant to make a personal statement about his or her understanding of what makes a good leader.  I like the exercise because it gets the participants out of their chairs and on their feet. 

Activity Description: Place thoughtful leadership quotes on the walls--leave plenty of room between the quotes and make certain the the print is large. It works best if the quotes touch on different aspects of leadership; in short, have a variety of different quotes.

Ask the participants to leave their chairs and walk around the room reading each of the quotes (there is no particular order).  Then have them stand by one quote that resonates well with their personal views on what makes a good leader.  When all participants have selected a quote (you can have more than one person by a quote), have each explain to the group why his or her chosen quote is important to them--share a leadership insight.

The facilitator can write key ideas or words on the white board.  These can launch further discussion questions or serve as a "bridge" to additional leadership content.

Options: This activity is adjustable to almost any professional development topic; you simply select quotes that fit your topic.

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II. Reality Check

Author: Tom Siebold is a writer and consultant in Minneapolis.  He is also co-owner of Collegegrazing.com--a site to help college bound teens to learn more about what they need and want in a college.

 

Objective (s): To pinpoint actual leadership behavior and to set behavior goals

How the author has used this exercise:  I have had success using this exercise as a pre- workshop self-inquiry activity.  I have also used it as a homework assignment.  Its strength lies in the fact that it paints a picture of actual behavior and then helps the leader see how he or she can redistribute behavior.

Activity Description:

  • Have the participants think about what they actually do on a daily basis.  Then ask them to draw generalizations about how they spend their leadership time.  Each participant completes the Leadership Behavior Chart below (In blue font).

  • You can follow up with full group or small group discussion.  The central question is this: Is your leadership behavior out of sync with the way that you feel an effective leader should be spending his or her energy?

Think about your daily interaction with the people who you lead.   Generally speaking, determine the actual behaviors that define that interaction.   Using the list of behaviors below, determine the amount of time (in percentages) that you generally spend on each behavior.  Then in the second column, determine what you feel would be ideal distribution of time (in percentages).

Behavior

Percentage of time spent on each behavior

Ideally the percentage of time you would devote to each behavior

Informing

 

 

Directing

 

 

Clarifying or Justifying

 

 

Persuading

 

 

Collaborating

 

 

Brainstorming or Envisioning

 

 

Reflecting (Quiet Time for Thinking)

 

 

Observing

 

 

Disciplining

 

 

Resolving interpersonal conflicts

 

 

Praising and/or encouraging

 

 

Follow Up Questions

  1. Is there a gap between how you should spend your energy and how you actually spend it?

  2. Are there some behaviors that are taking up too much of your leadership time?  Why?

  3. Are there some strategies that you can employ that would move you closer to your ideal distribution of behavior?

Options:  A. Some groups may want to calculate behavior totals to see how their peers are spending their energy. B. From the third column it is easy to move into a discussion about "ideal" leader distribution of energy. C. You may also use this same format with both meeting and team interaction.

Added thoughts or considerations: Since this activity helps participants see what they are actually doing, it helps them translate leadership theory into real behavior.  Once participants review their charts it is easier for them to design strategies to align their leadership behavior. 

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III. Your Leadership Calendar

Author: Tom Siebold is a writer and consultant in Minneapolis.  He is also co-owner of Collegegrazing.com--a site to help college bound teens to learn more about what they need and want in a college.

 

Objective (s): To extend leadership learning beyond the workshop.

How the author has used this exerciseThis exercise is a good follow up or homework activity. 

Activity Description: Ask the participants to mark twelve different days on their calendar spread out over four or six months. At the end of each marked day, participants should write down some leadership behavior (either positive or negative) that they exercised during that day.  Each behavior should be followed by a reaction statement that answers two questions: “How did I feel about my action or behavior?”  and  “How does this action or behavior jive with what I know about leadership best practices?”

Options:  On each marked day, the participant can send his or her personal leadership comments to a selected partner from the original workshop.  This is a good method for accountability and feedback.

Added thoughts or considerations: I almost always use the strategy in the Options section above.  When people leave the workshop, they get caught up in daily maintenance and frequently don't get around to doing the follow up exercises.  By having them contact a selected partner from the workshop, it puts a little pressure on them to follow through.

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IV. Leadership Dance Card

Author: Tom Siebold is a writer and consultant in Minneapolis.  He is also co-owner of Collegegrazing.com--a site to help college bound teens to learn more about what they need and want in a college.

 

Objective (s): To encourage participants to talk to one another about specific leadership best practices

How the author has used this exercise:  Very simply, I use this activity to get participants to share best practices.  This format will work with almost any professional topic.

Activity Description: Each leader has his or her own style of leadership.  Some styles will work for you while others won’t.  In this activity participants mix with the full group and sign up the names of three other participants on their “interview dance card.”  Then during a set period of time (this may be done over an extended break or even a lunch period) participants seek out their "dance partners" to conduct a short leadership interview.  They ask each other a set of questions provided by the facilitator and record the responses.  Below are some leadership interview questions that I have used in this activity:

  1. How do you motivate your reports?

  2. How do you keep your reports meaningfully informed?

  3. How do you maintain your team's focus on specific goals?

  4. How do you set, clarify, and hold your reports accountable to  your expectations?

  5. How do you recognize successful work?

Note: you may want to restrict each interview to one or two questions depending on the amount of time you want to devote to this activity.

  When the full group reconvenes, the facilitator asks participants to share leadership tips and strategies that they picked up in their interviews.  The facilitator may want to make a master list of these to pass out later.

Options:  Have the group brainstorm for interview questions to be used in the interviews.

Added thoughts or considerations: This activity serves many purposes: it gets the participants moving around, it connects people, and it is an efficient strategy to share best practices.

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VCenter Stage

Author: Tom Siebold is a writer and consultant in Minneapolis.  He is also co-owner of Collegegrazing.com--a site to help college bound teens to learn more about what they need and want in a college.

 

Objective (s): To visualize different leadership styles

How the author has used this exercise:  If the group is comfortable with one another, a role playing activity can have some impact.  I have used this activity to set up my  information about leadership styles.   However, this same format can be used with a variety of different topics.

Activity Description: Ask for four volunteers.  One volunteer plays the role of a  team member who recently has missed meetings or arrived late. The other three volunteers each play the role of a different kind of leader.  To save time I usually give the leader volunteers a personality trait from which they can create their persona: the by-the-book leader, the self-absorbed leader, the paternalistic leader, the softy, the blamer, the lecturer, the know-it-all, etc. Allow the volunteers to have some time to think about their role. 

Gather the full group in a circle and place two chairs in the middle.  In turn, have each leader confront the team member.  Explain the situation to the group before the role playing begins: Loren, the late team member, has not only been missing meetings or arriving late, he has also appeared to be very tired and disjointed.  Some team members have suggested that Loren’s wife is ill, but others say the situation is rooted with Loren himself. As a leader, what is a good way to handle Loren?

After all three scenarios have been played out, ask the full group to comment on the different leadership approaches—What worked? What could the leaders have done differently? How would the “ideal” leader handle this situation?

This activity is a good spring board to exploring different leadership styles.

Options:  You may want to have the full group identify three different role playing situations.

Added thoughts or considerations: I try to check with some of the participants before the workshop begins to see if the group would be comfortable or willing to engage in a role playing activity. 

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VI. Leaders you Admire

Author: Tom Siebold is a writer and consultant in Minneapolis.  He is also co-owner of Collegegrazing.com--a site to help college bound teens to learn more about what they need and want in a college.

 

Objective (s): To seek leadership characteristics through personal experience

How the author has used this exercise:  I have found stories to be a powerful way for participants to connect to the workshop subject matter.  Generally people like to tell and hear stories.

Activity Description: Divide the group into small groups.  Ask participants to share a story about the best or most influential leader that they have encountered.   After each story, identify leadership characteristics by asking the question: “What was it that made this person such an effective leader?”  Then as a group, identify the traits that all the leaders seemed to share.  All groups then write the shared traits on a white board.

You can use this traits list as a springboard to explore more about what makes a good leader.

Options:  You can ask the groups to share stories about the worst leaders they have encountered.  You will get some dandy stories.

Added thoughts or considerations: I like to insert an activity like this into a workshop when participants are starting to run a little low on energy.  A good story swap frequently revives energy.  Be sure not to drag this activity out too long.  Encourage the participants to include details in their leadership examples.

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VII. Leadership Swap

Author: Tom Siebold is a writer and consultant in Minneapolis.  He is also co-owner of Collegegrazing.com--a site to help college bound teens to learn more about what they need and want in a college.

 

Objective (s): To exchange leadership ideas and build participant rapport

How the author has used this exercise:  Sometimes it is helpful to allow the participants to have some time just to swap leadership examples.  In short they have some time to portray their own leadership style by giving examples.  

Activity Description: This activity is a structured leadership example exchange.  Divide the group into groups of three.  From the list of "situations" below, instruct the groups to take turns giving examples of something they have done or witnessed.  

Leadership Situations

  • A creative twist on a situation or issue.

  • A clever improvisation--"dancing on your feet"

  • A pleasant surprise

  • An Aha moment

  • Something that generated a great deal of excitement

  • A conflict resolved

  • A breakthrough insight or solution

  • A really tough situation

  • A blindside experience

  • A moving (emotional) situation

Options:  You may want the groups to identify their own Leadership Situations

Added thoughts or considerations: Remember that this is a set up activity, so don't let it go on too long.

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