Leadership Building Activities for Youth

Leaders You Admire. Essentially this activity involves participants divided into groups and discussing leaders they know or know of and why they admire them. Groups come back together for a larger discussion and communication session at the end. An activity that helps define desirable leadership characteristics and improves team bonding.

Round Tables. This activity requires four tables, each set up with a different task. The tasks have to have separate steps that can be delegated among participants. A team leader is selected, who can only communicate and delegate tasks. Each table is timed to see how long it takes to complete the task. This is an activity that helps develop leadership and delegation skills.

Unified Story. This activity requires participants to create a unified story from a set of randomly provided sequential pictures. The participants must find a way to recreate the story’s sequence in the correct order, while never letting go of their assigned picture. This is an excellent activity to encourage communication, tolerance and patience. Examples: Books Zoom (30 pages) and The Red Book (28 pages)

Tallest Tower. For this activity you will need a variety of items to build with, these can be anything readily available, for instance toothpicks, newspapers uncooked pasta, wooden blocks etc. Participants are required to build the tallest freestanding structure from the provided items. This is an ideal activity for creative problem solving and improving collaboration skills.

Plane Crash. This one requires a bit of imagination, participants must pretend they are on a plane that has crashed on a desert island and choose a set amount of items from around the workplace that they think would be most useful to aid in their survival. Each item is ranked in its importance and the entire group has to come to a consensus. An excellent creative problem solving and collaboration activity.

The Human Knot. This brain teaser depends heavily on how well everyone works together. Participants need to stand in a circle, shoulder to shoulder. Then place their right hand in the hand of someone standing across the circle from them. Then place their left hand in the hand of a different person (not standing directly next to them). The participants must then try to untangle themselves without breaking the chain, if broken they must start again. This is a great problem solving and communication activity.

All Aboard. Participants are required to build a “boat” using pieces of wood, mats, or any other materials available, and then all must stand on the “boat” at once. As pieces of the “boat” are removed the team must endeavour to occupy the ever diminishing space as best they can. This activity helps to encourage communication, problem solving and critical thinking.

Minefield. The participants are asked to blindfold one team member and then create a ‘minefield’ of obstacles to negotiate around or over. Using only specified communication techniques, for example only being able to use the words left, right, forward, and backwards, the other participants must guide the blindfolded person through the ‘minefield’. This activity can be set in an elaborate outdoors environment or simplified in a regular office space; it is great for enhancing communication skills and building trust.

The Human Icebreaker. This simple activity is great for breaking the tension in a room and helps encourage discussion and contribution, creating a sense of connectivity. The participants must come up with a series of questions relating to people in a general way, for instance “Who is left handed?” The participants then have to find team members who meet the criteria of the question. The participant with the most answers after 10 minutes wins. This is an excellent activity for developing inter-personal skills and communication.

Leadership Values. Explain that it is important that leaders clarify their own sense of leadership values. Ask participants to reflect upon the values that define their role as a leader.
Then ask everyone to individually circle five values on the paper you give them that best complete the following sentence: “_______________ is a ‘cornerstone’ in my approach to leadership.” (Download handout listing leadership behaviors below). Ex. Adventure, Honesty, Order, Ethics, Trust, Risk, Conformity, Self-Respect….
Have the group discuss how values drive leadership behavior. Ask them for specific examples.
Variation: You may want to pool participant responses to see if there are some common denominators in the group.
Leadership Values Words Exercise Handout

Key Words. In this exercise leaders think about their daily roles and then quickly write down key words that come to their mind when they think of those roles. These key words should reflect how they perceive themselves performing each role. Complete the chart below and then use the key words to write a leadership statement that characterizes their approach to leadership.

Problem solver Motivator
Referee (settles interpersonal conflict) Task Master

Process Manager (ensures that goals are met) Counselor (helps reports with personal issues)

Procurer (finds and manages resources) Risk Taker

Visionary Expert
Crisis Manager (puts out everyday fires)

Variations: You may want to give each participant a blank chart and have the group determine the everyday roles of the leader. Also, you may want the participants to talk about their personal observations rather than write them. This activity is a good springboard to discussing each of these leader roles in depth.