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Are Leadership Games Helpful?

Are Leadership Games Helpful?

No matter whether it is a company, a committee, a team, a department or even an entire organization, leadership is always a necessary and valuable skill set to help cohere the group and achieve short, medium and long-term success. Every leader always needs to have a wide range of skills to be successful and these can be often very effectively developed or honed by the use of leadership games.  Such games are often inexpensive and at their essence are largely experiential activities which are designed to expose an individual to experiences in a safe climate that they cannot easily access in any other way. But what kind of games should we choose and are they really helpful?

We are using the pejorative term “games” to mean any experiential development activity. In this respect, most leadership games are designed to develop skills such as team leadership, communicating effectively, managing conflicts, taking reasonable risks, being more creative, solving problems, making wise decisions, fostering collaboration, benefiting from diversity and many others. Listed below are six broad game categories that can be used: 

Pre-designed Indoor team collaboration games

Indoor games can be used in a meeting room, conference room or larger workshop format and usually involve a pre-written leadership game or activity that asks people to work together in a particular way. This allows for specific leadership actions to be undertaken by participants when required and for individuals to evolve or demonstrate various skills within the game context. A good example here would be a game like “Dead News” in which a group has to review clues to reveal who committed a murder (available on the RTM web store).

Pre-designed Outdoor team collaboration games

Outdoor games are usually carried out in a similar fashion to indoor ones but on a larger scale and using the benefits of the outdoor setting. Participants may therefore be asked to cross a river or build something from what they can find in a field and have to communicate, collaborate, conflict avoid and solve problems in order to succeed (as well as carefully plan and organize the task they are undertaking). A good example here would be a game like “Bridge Building” (available on the RTM web store).

Competitive games (indoor or outdoor)

Some leadership games are or can be set up to be quite competitive (to simulate some of what is experienced as a leader in the workplace or commercial business world).  This usually involves a group being asked to undertake a given task and reach a target. This might be something physical with one team competing against another or finding the “right” answer as an individual or a team during the course of the game. A good example here would be a game like “Aeroplane Challenge” in which participants have to build a paper plane and fly it longest and most accurately (available on the RTM web store).

Structured Exercise/Activity

There are many activities that can help develop leaders. These will include structured discussions on a leadership challenge, a brainstorming exercise or an activity which asks a group to develop a solution-such as develop a vision or mission statement for your team.  A good example here would be an activity set like “Communication Workshop Exercises and Activities” (available on the RTM web store).

Case Studies/Simulations

A case study or pre-crafted simulation gives individuals a scenario which needs to be managed and often has several questions which need to be answered which relate to the case study or simulation. These can be short and simple descriptions of a particular set of challenges for  characters in a case study or can be a very sophisticated simulation, even involving the use of computers. A good example here would be a game like “Problem Solving: A Good Practice Case Study” (available on the RTM web store).

Puzzles and Quizzes

Puzzles and quizzes seek to test would be and existing leaders on their knowledge of what they might do given a particular scenario or what answer they would give to one or more questions usually related to specific leadership challenges. A good example here would be a game like “Parody PowerPoint Quiz Show Game” (available on the RTM web store).

What do we want from such games?

What we are looking for in each of the above categories and the games we run in each are a set of behaviors that would be valuable in a leader. Although this is not an exhaustive list, the following are some examples of what we would be pleased to see demonstrated in any game by an individual:

  • Demonstrates humility
  • Extends respect and is courteous at all times
  • Is positive and optimistic
  • Is sensitivity to others
  • Is sincere
  • Is more proactive rather than reactive
  • Is supportive and encouraging of others
  • Praises good performance
  • Delegates effectively
  • Makes effective decisions
  • Leads by example
  • Demonstrates flexibility
  • Listens well
  • Communicates well
  • Remains calm and collected
  • Avoids looking down upon individuals
  • Avoids pointing out mistakes or errors
  • Looks after the best interest of team members
  • Is truthful and honest in all dealings with colleagues
  • Shows personal commitment and determination

In the final analysis leadership games or activities are no substitute for real experience. However, they are a great way to expose individuals to a several situations or circumstances that they may have never encountered before. This will therefore prepare them well when similar situations arise in their real working world.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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