Leadership Workshop Games

by Hannah Wahlig; Updated September 26, 2017
Develop leadership skills, such as effective communication, through workshop games.

Leadership skills are essential to the effectiveness of a team. An effective leader demonstrates the ability to listen, collaborate, evaluate and implement. Whether you're leading a workshop for high school students or seasoned executives, skill-building games and activities invite participants to define and apply integral leadership skills to accomplish challenging tasks. Games offer an interactive and engaging way to develop transferable leadership skills.

Classic Games

Transform a common household game into a leadership challenge by asking participants to play as teams rather than individuals. For example, ask teams of four players to compete in a round of the classic game "Battleship," in which players strategically call out grid squares in an effort to hit enemy ships. Discuss with participants whether a leader emerged in their team, and whether or not the leadership style was successful. Discuss the differences between playing individually and playing as a team. Other games including Monopoly, Scrabble and Clue also work well for this exercise.

Get teams on their feet with a twist on the game charades. Instead of traditional people, places or things, participants must silently act out traits or situations relevant to leadership; members of their team must guess what the player is demonstrating before the timer runs out. Include terms like power, charisma, compassion or listening. Ask teams to add to the list of items at the end of the game to come up with a sketch of an effective leader.

Physical Games

Physical challenges engage participants in active tests of leadership. Tangled is a problem-solving game in which teams of at least six participants stand in a circle facing each other; each member reaches into the center of the circle and grabs the hands of two other team members so that everyone is connected. The group must then untangle themselves without releasing hands. Discuss with the groups how they developed strategies and listened to one another to complete the task, and how these are signs of an effective leader.

If you have a larger space, consider an outdoor game like capture the flag or even kick ball. Ask two participants to volunteer as captains and instruct them to choose teams, determine scoring and rules for safety, designate roles like refereeing and keep score of the game. As the game progresses, note the the effectiveness of each team captain. At the end of the playing time, ask the teammates to rate their captain on a numerical scale across several traits like communication, goal-setting and encouragement. Discuss ways that the captains were successful or unsuccessful leaders.

Challenge Builds

Building challenges are especially effective for leadership workshops because they require leadership skills as well as critical problem solving and innovative thinking. A basic challenge build involves providing groups with a limited number of simple building materials and instructing groups to create structures able to withstand a number of tests; a bridge may be weighed with pennies to test its strength while a car may race down an incline to test its speed. Teams must discuss the most efficient and effective way to approach the build as well as utilize both time and materials successfully. After the structures are complete, discuss with groups the strategies they used to communicate effectively and accomplish the task; determine how group leaders emerged on each team. After testing the structures, reward the winning team with a prize like a gift certificate.

About the Author

Hannah Wahlig began writing and editing professionally in 2001. Her experience includes copy for newspapers, journals and magazines, as well as book editing. She is also a certified lactation counselor. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Mount Holyoke College, and Master's degrees in education and community psychology from the University of Massachusetts.

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