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 Leadership Activities Continued


VIII. Key Words 

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 write a personal statement of leadership 

How the author has used this exercise: This is a good exercise to encourage leaders to think about their daily leadership behavior.  

Activity Description In this exercise leaders think about their daily roles and then quickly write down key words that come to their mind when they think of those roles.  These key words should reflect how they perceive of themselves performing each role.  Complete the chart below and then use the key words to write a leadership statement that characterizes their approach to leadership.

Leader Roles

Key Words

Problem solver


Referee (settles interpersonal conflict)


Process Manager (ensures that goals are met)


Procurer (finds and manages resources)




Crisis Manager (puts out everyday fires)




Task Master


Counselor (helps reports with personal issues)


Risk Taker




Options:  You may want to give each participant a blank chart and have the group determine the everyday roles of the leader.  Also, you may want the participants to talk about their personal observations rather than write them.

Added thoughts or considerations:   This activity is a good springboard to discussing each of the leader roles in more depth.

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IX. Walking the Talk 

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 translate stated values into leadership behavior

How the author has used this exercise: It is fun to compare how different leaders translate the same values.  This is good stuff for discussion.

Activity Description: Great leaders have identified and clarified their core working values.  They understand how each of their core values translates into leadership behavior.  Either working individually or in pairs, participants can focus their leadership values by completing the chart below.  You can plug in different values or you can have participants isolate their own set of values for the chart.

Leadership Values

How the value translates into personal leadership behavior









Options:  Use stated organizational values when they are available.

Added thoughts or considerations:   I like to use this exercise to open up discussion about giving power to organizational language.  Often participants feel that organizational values are just something that one sees on company handouts.  Values don't become real until people make an effort to interact with them.

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X. Battling Negativity 

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 identify strategies to deal with negative employees

How the author has used this exercise: One of the biggest problems of leaders is to deal with reports who are excessively negative.  Negativity can corrupt the work climate.  

Activity Description: Ask participants to give examples of the damaging effects of negativity in the workplace.  As a group, discuss the dozen negative “types” listed below.  Then have participants brainstorm ways that leaders can handle each type.  The goal is to end up with a list of helpful leadership strategies for dealing with negativity.

Negativity Types

1.       The Resisters--They rail against anything different

2.       The Wobbly —They are constantly shifting moods and expect others to adjust to them

3.       The Gossipers--They spread rumors and tell inappropriate personal tidbits 

4.       The Blamers—They are constantly blaming others.

5.       The Victims—They believe people are out to get them

6.       The Adhesives--They can’t let go, even things that happened years ago

7.       The Pessimists--They always expect the worst case scenario

8.       The Boilers—They will blow over the slightest provocation

9.       The Complainers—They feel everything is wrong or will soon go wrong

10.    The Choosers—They are constantly pitting one group against another

11.    The Detached-- They feel most everything is dumb or beneath them

12.    The Self-Absorbed--They are constantly grabbing credit or attention

Options:  If you have the time, participants can develop their own list of negative types.

Added thoughts or considerations:   Ask participants to give actual examples where they have used some of the strategies the group identifies.  The conversation will probably move to the question, "What to do with the individual who doesn't respond to the strategies?" 

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XI. Leadership Values 

Author: Tom Siebold is a writer and consultant in Minneapolis.  


Objective (s): To clarify the leadership values that motivate leaders

How the author has used this exercise: This is a good foundational exercise to explore the driving force behind leadership behavior. 

Activity Description: Explain that it is important that leaders clarify their own sense of leadership values.  Ask participants to reflect upon the values that define their role as a leader?  Then ask each participant to individually circle five values listed below that best completes the following sentence:

" _________________ is a ‘cornerstone’ in my approach to leadership."
















































 Have the group discuss how values drive leadership behavior.  Ask them for specific examples.

Options:  You may want to pool participant responses to see if there are some common denominators in the group.  

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XII. Leadership Skills Plan 

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 build a leadership skills development plan.

How the author has used this exercise: This activity can help bridge the gap between talking about leadership and actually doing something to improve leadership skills.

Activity Description: Explain to the participants that they will build a personal leadership development strategy.  Of course take some time to discuss why this is valuable and what they are to do with it.  Then have them study the leadership skills below (provide a handout).  Give the group a chance to add skills to the list.   Once they have discussed the list, ask each person to individually select three that he or she feels need attention.  Plug those three into the chart below and fill in the necessary information – an example is provided on the chart. 

Leadership Skills

üFind a vision

üEstablish team values

üSet norms

üIdentify expectations

üNurture collaboration

üBuild trust

üConduct effective meetings

üMake meaningful decisions

üManage conflict

üProblem solve efficiently

üSet goals

üPlan effectively

üShare information

üCommunicate successfully

üCoach others

üTrain for competency

üGive productive feedback

üMange change

üAssess performance



Leadership Growth Plan

Leadership Skills to Improve

Growth Objective(s) for each Skill


People Who can Help

Indicators of Success



Meeting Facilitation

To conduct team meetings where more people participate

1. Ask selected team members for honest feedback.

2. Have the H.R. Director critique a meeting

H.R. Director & peers

15% increase of team members speaking at meetings by the end of the quarter.

1. Obtain feedback after the first three meetings.

2. Try at least one new strategy every two meetings.



















 Options:  Participants may select a partner to check each other's progress.  This helps people stay on task once the meeting or workshop is over.

Added thoughts or considerations:  Since skill development is ongoing, this sort of simple skills development plan should be repeated every quarter.

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XIII Coaching as Conversation

Author: Bill Gjetson is a consultant and coach specializing in leadership development for Senior Leaders, Managers, and High Potential employees.  His areas of interest are action learning and storytelling.

Objective(s):  Use this activity to identify the appropriate approach to a coaching session with a subordinate

How the author has used this exercise: I have used this activity in supervisor training.  I have found it useful in helping managers decide how to approach a subordinate when an issue surfaces that calls for a coaching response.

Activity Description:   Participants are asked to list three different performance problems experienced by their employees, past or present.  Participants are then asked to briefly describe the nature of the performance problem (what is getting in the employee’s way?) on separate Post-It  notes.  When they are finished, they are asked to place the Post-It notes on one of four flip-charts with a heading that seems most appropriate to the problem: Counseling Approach, Mentoring Approach, Instructional Approach, Feedback Approach.

Participants are then given the opportunity to describe the performance problem and explain how they would approach the coaching conversation based on one of the four choices.  The facilitator raises questions to clarify the participant’s reasoning and intentions.

At the end of the activity, the facilitator reviews the discussion and then explains that “coaching” involves a one-on-one conversation that managers need to prepare for ahead of time.  In preparing to meet with the employee, it is important to know how to “frame” the conversation, depending on the performance problem that has surfaced.  The following handout is then distributed, as a reminder:

Coaching Approach

Outcomes Sought

Counseling: The manager describes the situation as he/she sees it, prompts responses, asks questions, and focuses on listening to understand

The goals are  to define the problem, gain insight into the problem, enable the employee to share strong feelings and gain self-insight, identify a plan of action, and encourage employee to commit to the plan

Mentoring: The manager describes his or her observations of the employee, and explains how the employee’s behavior is interpreted in light of the organization’s political structure, culture, or the biases, likes and dislikes of senior managers

The goal is to increase the employee’s political savvy (awareness of land mines, sensitivity to how decisions are made and work gets done, skill in maneuvering through complex situations) and organizational agility (knowledge of how things function, how to get things through formal and informal channels)

Instructing: The manager provides direct instruction (teaches) or guidance on how to design and implement a performance improvement plan.

The goal is increased knowledge, know-how, and skill.

Feedback: The manager gives objective, behavior-based description of performance deficiencies

The goal is for the subordinate to understand and accept personal responsibility for the performance deficiency and commit to improved performance.

Options:  The handout can be used in one-on-one meetings with managers to help them decide how to approach a problem employee. 

Added thoughts or considerations: The number of problems that participants are asked to list and describe varies with the size of the group and the amount of time available for discussion.  If there are 12 or more participants, for example, you may need to limit the problems to one per participant. 

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XIV Leader as Coach

Author: Bill Gjetson is a consultant and coach specializing in leadership development for Senior Leaders, Managers, and High Potential employees.  His areas of interest are action learning and storytelling.

Objective(s):   This is a three-step process a manager can use to help an employee get “unstuck” and commit to taking action.

How the author has used this exercise: I have used this activity in leadership training to teach managers a simple coaching technique when a subordinate is stuck and unable to take action. 

Activity Description:   Open the workshop with a short story entitled My Best Boss.  In your telling of the story, you explain that a Senior manager was once asked to describe his “best boss” and the manger responded by saying “That is easy to do.  My best boss always gave me work and expected me to do it.  Those expectations drove me to action.  He gave me challenging assignments and showed that he believed in me.  That gave me confidence.  But most of all, he was a wise old owl.  Whenever I got stuck, and could not figure out what to do, he took the time to coach me.  He never gave me answers, he just asked me questions and helped me figure out what to do.  I learned from him.  If I am going to get work done through people, I have to know how to develop people through work.”

The next step is to highlight the importance of knowing what questions to ask  and in what sequence.  With that in mind, I then divide the class into small groups of three or four  and ask them to walk around the room to three separate stations.  At each station they are to generate three or four questions under the following headings:

·         Questions to Clarify the subordinate’s problem or situation

·         Questions to Remove Perceived Barriers that the employee has identified

·         Questions to Create Forward Movement so the employee can take action

  The next step is to reconvene the full group and prompt a discussion on the list of questions: which questions do you like? Find useful? Which questions are not clear to you?  After the discussion I hand out a sheet of paper with the three categories (Clarify, Remove Perceived Barriers, and Create Forward Movement) and ask each participant to record those questions they find most helpful and expect to use in their coaching practice.

  Options:  The handout can be given to a manager during a one-on-one meeting, when the manager is looking for a specific coaching process to use with a subordinate. 

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XV. Leadership Challenged 

AuthorT. Leonard is a business consultant and coach in the Twin Cities. 


Objective (s): To explore leadership at moments of challenge

How the author has used this exercise: I like to approach leadership study by having participants take a serious look at how they lead during times of challenge.  When one is challenged one’s leadership style comes to the forefront.

Activity Description: Begin by asking participants to react to the following quote by Martin Luther King: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”  Divide the group into small groups and have participants give examples of leadership actions that they took during a moment of challenge or crisis.  When everyone has had a chance to give an example, ask the groups to identify leadership traits that came to the forefront during a “moment of truth.”

Options:  Here are some additional questions that you can ask the group after they have exchanged examples:

Were you surprised by your actions?  Did your leadership approach change? Do leaders need to change leadership style to fit specific situations? In retrospect, can you think of a better way you could have handled the situation? How important is it for leaders to be consistent in all situations?

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