Developing Leadership Skills through Games

Paul Bonea

Leadership games, activities and other team building efforts can be a great way to build relationships between students. Not only that, but they’re also good opportunities for students to experience real, goal-oriented teamwork, navigate social relationships in “high-stakes” situations, negotiate social power and more.

The real challenge to leadership games is to keep them light and fun, and prevent them from becoming another “forced activity” they have to do at school.

To this end, it’s best to keep these activities and games short, and not to ask students to overshare details about their private life.

Below is a list of 7 quick and easy leadership games, that can be played with very few resources, little setup but guaranteed to be fun and educational.


Leadership activities and games

The cup stacking game

What you will need: plastic cups, strings, rubber bands.

How it works: Divide students into groups of 4 or 5. Then, attach 4-5 strings on each rubber band.

Students can then pull on the strings to widen the rubber band, or relax the strings to tighten it.

After that, give each group 4-5 cups (or more if you want), and ask them to build a tower, or simply stack the cups one inside the other.

The catch is, the students have to handle the cups by using only the rubber band, and by tightening or relaxing it with their strings.

This mini game requires the cooperation of the entire group in order to successfully pull the string, grab the cup, and then place it. In most groups, leaders will discretely emerge as they direct efforts and coordinate the tightening and relaxing of strings, as well as the moving of the cups.

And because the core mechanic is so simple, the game can be easily adjusted to suit every particular need.


Zoom by Istvan

Zoom by Istvan Banyai is an illustration book, where each drawing is contained by the next one, sort of like Matrioshka dolls.

Either buy the book (it is 7$ on Amazon) or simply all 28 pages by going at the link here.

Then, distribute the pages among the class and ask them to arrange the drawings so that the story makes sense.

Leaders will manifest themselves and quietly organize and direct the efforts to find each page, and its correct location in the sequence.


Navigating the mine fields

A game that places an emphasis on trust and communication, and can be played outdoors or indoors.

The game works by organizing students into pairs, with one student being blindfolded while the other helps him navigate through an obstacle course.

The exact location doesn’t really matter, so long as you have enough space to fit all of the students. If you choose to play the game indoors, then you can take advantage of existing furniture by turning it into obstacles that have to be avoided. If you choose to play outside, you can sprinkle various objects such as balls, bowling pins, cones to act as mines.

This is the basic setup of the game, and it can be adapted according to your needs. For instance, you can choose how much time the pairs have to establish commands, the penalty for hitting an obstacle (points or restarting the course), whether it is a competition with other pairs, how many objects to introduce etc.

Ideally, you’ll want to make sure you have at least two rounds per pair, so that each member has a chance at navigating and walking through the minefield.


The floating stick

A surprisingly simple activity, that requires members of a group to be in tune with one another, and learn how to coordinate properly.

To start, all you need is a very light rod or stick. Then, organize the team members into two rows, each facing one another. Ask the students to hold out their hands, with their index fingers stretched out. After that, place the rod or stick on the index fingers and ask the students to lower it to the ground.

The whole setup should look like this: