No one single, simple leadership definition exists as the ultimate key to effectiveness, and in many organizations, leadership is expected from all levels of its employees. At the foundation of many leadership theories are certain skills including being able to empower followers, negotiating conflict and working in teams. Games allow employees to get hands-on leadership experience while learning in a safe and fun environment.
The Bucket Game
The point of the bucket game is teaching how empowerment helps a leader guide her team toward a collective goal. Before the game begins, collect a pile of pennies and set up a bucket toward the end of the room.
One employee is selected to be the leader, and the rest are taken outside of the room and blindfolded. Blindfolded employees enter and are each given a penny. The leader must then direct each member of the group to get the penny into the bucket. Normally, the non-blindfolded leader explains the objective of the game and then immediately starts into an authoritative style such as "do this" or "throw it this way" without additional explanation, cooperation or attempts at encouraging the group. The group typically becomes frustrated and pennies rarely make it into the bucket.
The game's moderator can show participants how a more empowering style such as the leader offering encouragement, working together with his team, describing the layout of the room, or trusting his employees to act in the best interests of the group can help land more pennies in the bucket.
The M&M Game
The point of the M&M game is to teach leaders to harness productive conflict. Before the game, separate all of the blue M&Ms from the bag. Then, fill enough plastic bags with the remaining colors of M&Ms for each group member. Then, take four of the blue M&Ms and put one blue M&M in four different bags chosen at random. To play, give each group member an M&M bag and give the group members purposefully vague instructions: "You must collect as many of one color of M&Ms as possible. You may do this any way you want." The competition created by the instructions will create conflict as group members at first barter, cajole and trade for different colors. About halfway through the game, some group members will learn that teaming up and working in pairs makes it easier to collect colors. Most will not realize that simply collecting the only four blue M&Ms--which is as many of the blue color as possible--would make them a winner. Lessons of this game include illustrating how conflict stemming from vague instructions could help group members solve a problem if they were willing to set aside individual priorities, work together and consider different viewpoints.
The Shipwrecked Game
Teamwork and respecting the values of others can be taught during a simple game where employees are split into groups and told they have been shipwrecked on an island. Each employee must make a list of five items that he considers necessary for survival. Then, each group must hear its members' selections and decide on a final five to represent the entire group, which must be agreed upon by unanimous consent. The first group to reach agreement wins. The point of this game is that employees must work together to narrow the list of items, which requires listening to and understanding different values and viewpoints and is a key element of effective leadership. Members cannot steamroll items through the group since all members must be in agreement to win.
Eryn Travis has over 15 years of freelance-writing experience. She has written for "Aviation News Today" and was the managing producer and host for the cable TV news show of the same name. She has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Maryland and is finishing up a master's degree in communication studies from West Chester University.