How to Use Leadership Activities to Develop Employees

Leadership activities give companies an engaging way to find out important information about the hidden potential of employees.

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Leadership Activities to Develop Employees

Companies of all sizes, across all industries, have one thing in common: they need strong leaders. The ability for your organization to foster and develop leadership skills in your team members can offer valuable benefits — from increasing employee engagement, to reducing turnover, to empowering your entire workforce.

While the preferred leadership style may vary from company to company, certain aspects of strong leadership are valued across the board. High emotional intelligence, creative problem solving, savvy conflict resolution, and strong communication skills are the leadership behaviors and traits that best describe a successful leader. These behaviors can be developed by leadership training programs, through ongoing training, and by one-on-one coaching. Another method used to strengthen leadership qualities among team members is adding leadership activities to your team meetings.

Leadership activities help current leaders identify the leadership qualities in each individual team member by pinpointing each person’s strengths. There are 2 important side benefits as well. Most employees find the exercises interesting, and the activities offer a change of pace. Both of these aspects work to increase and strengthen employee interest and engagement.

Let’s look at several leadership development activities that you can use to develop future leaders within your current employment ranks.

High emotional intelligence, creative problem solving, savvy conflict resolution, and strong communication skills are the leadership behaviors and traits that best describe a successful leader.

Problem-solving leadership activities

All organizations benefit from having leaders who can creatively and effectively solve problems. These leadership-training activities can help to identify savvy problem solvers and can assist each team member in developing the skills needed to further their success.

  • Surviving a plane crash. Split into small teams and share the instructions for the exercise: the team’s plane has crashed and they’ve been stranded on a deserted island. Give the team a list of items from the plane and a set amount of time to make a joint survival plan. As the team members discuss their predicament, watch for the group members who reach solutions creatively and strategically, and take note of the ones who encourage others to share ideas. Once the time ends, one team member should report how the team will use the items to survive.
  • Tallest tower. Split the team into small groups and give them tape, a newspaper, paperclips, and other office items. Give them a set amount of time in which to build the tallest tower – taller than that of any other team. Watch for individuals who look at the task strategically and methodically and for those who offer ideas for progressing the project.

Communication and active listening

Strong communication skills are vital for every successful leader. This is why our next 2 leadership-building activities focus on them.

  • Minefield. Construct a “minefield” from pillows or other items around the office. The members of the team are then blindfolded, and the team leaders verbally guide them through and around the minefield. In this leadership activity, take note of the leaders who communicate well and who stay calm, and look for the blindfolded participants who listen thoughtfully and who take direction well.
  • Active listening challenge. This leadership-building activity requires participants to craft a story and then to read it to other team members. Once a few stories have been read, randomly ask audience participants questions about the stories — and see if they can recall the details. This leadership-building activity showcases specific team members’ ability to both communicate AND listen.

Project planning

These leadership games help you identify team members who can envision, strategize, plan, and execute projects effectively.

  • Escape room. All of the team members are locked in an escape room with clues for how to get out before the time expires. They’ll need to work together, solve clues, figure out puzzles, and relate one seemingly unrelated part of the room to another. Look to see which participants encourage team cohesion, stay calm, think creatively, and never give up.

Look to see which participants encourage team cohesion, stay calm, think creatively, and never give up.

  • Write a company song. Small groups work together to compose a company song. Give them a list of items they should include in the verse, such as the company vision, its core values, slogan, etc. Watch their interactions as they work. Who keeps the group focused? Is there someone who comes up with the ideas? Who listens and writes them down?

Strategic thinking

Practical leadership activities that help employees develop critical thinking skills include these:

  • All aboard. Designate a towel or blanket as a “boat” and have a few team members stand on it. After letting them adjust their stance, add a few more. Keep adding team members until everyone is standing in the boat. Watch for team members who can creatively figure out how to fit everyone “into the boat.”
  • Ripped from the news. The manager reads a real-life business situation and splits everyone into small teams. The teams work together to find a workable solution to the problem. After a set amount of time, they present their solution to the other teams.

Time management

There are lots of impactful leadership activities that can help to determine someone’s time management skills. Here are just a few.

  • Complete a puzzle. Give participants a set time to complete a word or picture puzzle. See how they organize their time, watch to see whether having a set deadline stresses them out, and check to see if they finish their puzzle before time runs out.
  • Round table. Set up a few tables with a team leader at each one. The leader must delegate tasks that participants are required to complete before they can move to the next table. Team members need to visit as many tables as possible before time runs out. This showcases both the team leaders’ communication skills and the team members’ ability to take leadership advice in their quest for success.

Every team-building activity that you offer your employees does 2 things, from 2 different perspectives: it offers insight into the participants’ leadership potential and their prospective leadership style, and it helps team members develop their leadership skills. That’s a win-win, from a simple activity — something that you should consider to help you build both more engaged employees now, and more effective leadership for the future.

The team at Zenefits can help. We are a company that focuses on you, the other 97% of US companies — the ones that power our economy.

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