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leadership exercisesWarren Bennis taught us that leadership is not about being a dictator or oppression, but rather, “the capacity to translate vision into reality.” Leadership is about motivating people to do something for the greater good, not for themselves, or for you. Leadership exercises can not only help identify the leaders in your group, but it can also help develop leaders. Check out more leadership tips from Udemy on how to Lead the Way and how to Develop Your Leadership Style.

Labyrinth of Landmines

leadership exercisesThis first leadership exercise is for groups of all sizes and works with young children all the way up to adults. The equipment you are going to need is tape and 30 – 100 objects. These objects can be foam peanuts, tennis balls, paper cardboard rolls, or even objects already in a classroom such as desks, chairs, books…etc. The goal of this exercise is to navigate through the minefield from the start door to the finish door without hitting any objects. This drill helps develop communication, planning, trust and fosters teamwork.

The minefield should be about 10ft by 10ft for a group of about 10 – 14 or bigger for larger groups. You can use the tape to create the box, as well as the start and finish doors. Then, use the objects you have to create “landmines” in the playing area by placing them all over the square. You want to make sure that there is enough room to get through the area, but the more objects you add, the more difficult the game becomes.

Each player is going to need to partner-up and line up on the start portion of the minefield. The challenge is to navigate through the playing area to the other side of the square. You will be working with your partner where one of you is blindfolded (or has their eyes closed) and the other communicates to help coach them through the field. At the beginning, everyone is going to be on the start side of the square. Each team of two can work independently of the other teams. If your partner touches a “landmine,” then you must begin again at the beginning. When the first person in the partnership arrives at the end, the roles switch. No running, jumping, or moving obstacles.

For a variation, you can have one team working from start to finish and another team from the finish side to the start side. This will encourage the teams to communicate more to avoid bumping into one another, as well as possibly having to work in conjunction with an opposing team to reach a common goal.

Pole Placement

This next leadership exercise is for groups from about 6 people to about 20. The equipment you are going to need is an aluminum tent pole, broomstick, plastic flag pole or other lightweight object that is similarly shaped. The goal of this exercise is to lower the object using every member of the group. This drill helps develop communication, planning, focus, problem solving, and fosters teamwork.

The group should be split in half. Half of the group should be on one side and they should face someone else on the team, forming two parallel lines that face each other. Next, everyone is going to hold out their index fingers at waist level. Then, place the object (tent pole) on top of their fingers horizontally and keep your hand on top of the pole until you are done with the directions and the game begins.

As a group, the task is to lower the pole to the ground without any one person ever losing contact with the pole. If someone loses contact, then the group must begin again. Both index fingers must be used and no other fingers or objects can be used in addition. In the beginning, it is likely that everyone will be trying to speak all at once, creating chaos, and ultimately failing. After a few failed attempts, the group will generally elect some type of leader to guide the group. This activity can be surprisingly challenging, so the conflict can intensify if the group is not cohesive. For more ideas on how to deal with conflict and transition, take a look at this course on Leadership and Change.

Laser Tag

If your group is younger, there are quite a few engaging activities that promote leadership. One of these activities is lazer tag. What you want to do is split the group up into two or three even teams. Each of these teams will be given a color for opposing teams at the lazer tag location. The first round there should be no direction, let them play a free for all. After that round, you should suggest them designating leaders of each group that can help plan an attack on the opposing teams and delegate the jobs. Ideally, the each team will bind together in the same way that a swat team would to eliminate the opposing team.

Capture the Flag

Another excellent leadership exercise for younger crowds is capture the flag. You want to make sure you have a group of at least 6 people, but more people is even better. Split the group up into 2 teams. This game is suited for children of just about any age. The only equipment you need is two flags, these just need to be two objects of similar size and shape. If you are playing at night it is best to have something light colored so it can be seen. You want to make sure you choose a playing field with some large obstruction near the center, so no guards can see all the way across the field. It is much better if it is not an open area.

Then, choose boundaries of the game and any other rules that need to be agreed upon. When hiding the flag, each person on the team needs to be able to reach it from the floor, so you cannot hide it up a tree. It must be hidden on the side of the team it belongs to. The flag must be loose and part of the flag must be showing. When both teams are done, then you can start the game. Make sure that the rules are defined before you start the game and be open to compromise, since the teams may not agree completely with the rules.

Each team is going to want a leader to delegate jobs and come up with the mission plan. You might want to make border guards, “sneakers,” reconnaissance teams, and some rangers. Border guards do exactly what the name implies. Sneakers find the flag for the reconnaissance team, which is the 2 or three people that actually get the flag. Finally, the rangers will get people out of jail, chase people who get past border guards, and can replace team members that get put in jail.

If you are on the opposing team and you get tagged on the opposing side, you are frozen in “jail” and you cannot move or throw anything. If you have the flag, you must drop it. Each person should be designated for a job that is based on their strengths and weaknesses. Communication is everything and if you play at night or dusk, it will make the game more challenging and force more communication.

Some of the qualities of a leader that have been identified as most important are honesty, sense of humor, communication, commitment, confidence, positivity, creativity, ability to delegate, intuition, and the ability to inspire. The leadership exercises listed above will help to foster and develop these qualities in your group, as well as other crucial ones. Take a look at our course on Motivational Leadership for more positive coaching ideas.

Page Last Updated: February 2020

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