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The Ultimate Guide to…
Leadership in Project Management
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What is Project Leadership?
What is a project leader, 6 ideas to strengthen as a project leader, how to lead a project with project management tools, top 6 leadership theories, leadership vs. management: what’s the difference, how to lead by example, 5 inspiring leadership quotes.
A leader is like a rudder on a boat steering the ship and keeping it on course. But the boat wouldn’t float without a sound hull, it’d coast aimlessly without sails and wouldn’t be able to catch the wind if it had no crew.
That’s just another way of saying that leadership isn’t barking orders. In project management a leader is part of an integrated team with the shared responsibility of the team and stakeholders to deliver a project on time and within budget.
Project leaders rely on data, and use tools like dashboards, Gantt charts and time tracking software to achieve project success. ProjectManager offers all of these features and more—and project leaders love to use it.
ProjectManager’s dashboards and live data help project leaders make the right decisions at the right time – Try it free
Leadership is often misunderstood in general and in particular in project management, yet it’s one of the most important positions on the project team. If you’re looking to run a more effective project, then you need to define leadership in project management.
Leadership isn’t one thing. There are many different styles and combinations of those types. We’ll go into more detail, but these are the most common forms of leadership.
- Leader-Member Exchange
Project leadership, most simply, is the act of leading a team towards the successful completion of a project. But of course, it is much more than that. It’s about getting something done well through others. But project leadership requires skills in both managing people and tasks. It is a soft skill; part art, part science.
If you’re a practical-minded person you might not like such an open-ended definition. But the first mistake in trying to define leadership is thinking that it’s one thing. You must be willing to think broadly and accept that there are many different types of leaders in the world and even in the more rarefied world of project management.
Different Leadership Styles
Look over the management style of anyone in charge of any project, and you’ll find a myriad ways in which they accomplish their goals and set a tone of leadership. Much of these differences are based on the person’s personality and what style of leadership they naturally gravitate towards.
That’s where a project leadership matrix comes in handy. It is a tool that tells you what type of leader you are, and with that knowledge you can tweak your technique to become a better leader. The leadership matrix is made up of four parts:
- Reactive people-leadership
- Reactive task management
- Proactive people-leadership
- Proactive task management
It’s unlikely that you sit only in one quadrant, since most of us are a sampling of all of these parts. However, the best project managers are those who emphasize a proactive leadership style.
A project leader is someone who leads a project, but that doesn’t really get to the bottom of this seemingly simple title. There are project managers, who are responsible for many of the aspects that we associate with leadership. They assemble the team, devise the plan and manage resources to maintain the schedule and keep within budget.
But leadership is a quality that should be expressed by everyone. It’s not just leading by example, such as the project manager rolling up their sleeves and joining in on the work as needed, but everyone on the project team must take a leadership role. They need to own their responsibilities and manage the tasks assigned to them. The last thing anyone wants is a team of robots who can’t make a move without being directed.
That said, there is a project leader and their job is different than that of the team they manage. They have to straddle many worlds being both technically organizationally adept, able to engage effectively across boundaries, connecting talent with key challenges. Think of a project leader as the consummate integrator. They help others succeed.
What Makes a Good Project Leader?
Project leadership is difficult work, and while most project managers are adept at leveraging the tools and processes of the trade, there’s no single body of knowledge to learn and pass a test on when it comes to leading successfully. It’s the ultimate school where learning by doing is the only way forward.
However, if you look over the way successful leaders work there are commonalities. What most leaders share are these following 10 attributes:
- They are grounded and centered
- They are aware and mindful
- They create solutions
- They are analytical
- They can evaluate risk
- They can generate a sense of urgency
- They are insightful
- They build cohesion
- They motivate people
- They achieve results
These are not chiseled in stone, of course. Leadership is fluid. Just as dealing with people requires nuance, so does determining what makes up a good leader. Still, these 10 points are pillars on which you can build project leadership.
A good place to start is with project leaders you respect, who have experience and have lead projects in ways that you wish to emulate. Seeking out help from a mentor is recommended, because they can add a depth of dimension to the process that all the books in the world can never touch.
Another thing to do is keep in mind these six concepts that are like a leadership workout. Practice them and you’ll strengthen your leadership muscles.
1. Mind the Gap
Take time to explore the gap between navigating and leveraging the tools of the trade and leading others. It’s leadership in a classic sense, with the goal to bring to life a group of individuals that coalesce as a team and pursue high performance. Easy words, tough tasks, but worth the investment in time and attention.
2. Reframe Your Challenge: It’s Not the Project, It’s the Team
The issue you face isn’t project execution, it’s team development. If you take care of the team and ensure that you form and frame the right environment, the team will take care of the initiative.
3. Let the Team Define Your Role
Perform a pre-post mortem on your role as leader. Ask your team: “At the end of this project when we are successful, what will you say that I did?” Listen carefully and you will hear many of the raw ingredients of high performance teams. From alignment on the purpose of the project to treating team members with respect to ensuring fair and even accountability to setting expectations high to not micro-managing, this question will prompt a torrent of important answers. Take notes. These define the raw content of your job description as project leader.
4. Teach Your Team How to Talk
In my many observations of teams struggling to perform, one of the common performance killers is an inability to navigate the swirl of emotions, biases, opinions and agendas that invade all of our group discussions. Spend time focusing on strengthening your facilitation skills.
5. Teach Your Teams How to Decide
Teams succeed or fail based on how they navigate moments of truth in the form of key, often irreversible decisions. And while strengthening your team’s ability to talk as outlined above is important, supporting the development of effective decision-making processes is mission critical.
Given the complexity of group decision-making, including our tendency to draw on our own unique prior experiences and to unknowingly impose our biases on a decision-choice, helping a group develop effective decision-making processes is no small task. You need a process. Look for the one that works for your organization and team.
6. Everyone Communicates, Leaders Connect
The people on your team are neither resources nor automatons. Great leaders at all levels strive to connect with team members on something a bit more personal than status meetings and reports. They take the time to engage and where appropriate, they strive to learn about the aspirations and even personal interests of their team members.
ProjectManager is an award-winning tool that helps project managers organize their plans and teams, fostering leadership through practical means that lead to projects coming in on time and within budget. The cloud-based software gives managers transparency into their team’s work while allowing teams to collaborate and work better together.
When you use this project management tool you’re able to provide detailed directions on executing tasks and give teams the freedom to manage their own work. The lines of communication are always open with real-time data that keeps everyone updated. Here’s how it works:
Make a Plan
Plans are the backbone of your project. They hold everything together. Without a plan to schedule tasks and resources, no amount of leadership is going to help you.
Create a plan on an interactive Gantt chart, import tasks, add them manually or use templates to get started. They will populate a project timeline where you can see everything in one place. Use a scope of work document to assist in your planning.
Schedule the Work
Once in a Gantt chart, you can organize your tasks into a schedule, with due dates, dependencies, milestones, etc. This places it within a specific timeframe.
Add due dates and priorities to each task to show teams what must get done and by when. Add task descriptions and files to the tasks. Teams can comment at the task level to collaborate.
Balance the Workload
Leaders have to assign and then make sure teams have the capacity and resources to execute those tasks according to the schedule. Keeping the workload balanced adds productivity.
Check your resources on the software. The workload chart, which is color-coded, shows who has too many tasks. Then reallocate their work from that page and balance the workload.
Track the Progress
Leaders don’t just plan, they have to make sure things are proceeding as planned. That means monitoring and tracking progress , so they can adjust resources as needed.
View your progress as it happens with a real-time dashboard that calculates data it automatically collects and displays for an instant status report on time, costs and more.
Report to Stakeholders
Gathering accurate data helps project managers make better decisions. It’s also a communication tool to keep stakeholders with a vested interest in the project in the loop.
Generate reports with just one click and filter them to see just the information you want on timesheets , tasks and more. Then easily share at stakeholders presentations.
Everyone has a theory on what makes a great leader, and with good reason. Leadership is a quality that’s important for success and yet so difficult to define. But great leadership isn’t subjective. People have studied leadership.
A strong understanding of leadership provides us with a variety of legitimate options for different scenarios, and helps a person set up themselves, their team or company for success. People are more intentional than reactional when it comes to leadership.
The origins of how we have come to define leadership have historic roots. Many might remember the great man theory, which dates back to the 1800s and speaks to men with dominant personalities. They were destined for greatness due to having innate characteristics that made them leaders.
The idea of a born leader, and that leaders are born male, is obviously outdated and has since been challenged. Today, there are many theories of leadership that attempt to explain what makes a great leader. Let’s look at six of these leadership theories:
James MacGregor Burns was a political sociologist in the 1700s, who saw leadership qualities falling under two types. Transactional leaders are those who influence others by what they offer in exchange for their help.
Transformational leaders are connected to their followers in such a way that it raises the level of motivation and morality, committed to a collective good. Four factors play into transformational leadership: idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation and individualized concern.
2. Leader-Member Exchange
This is a leadership theory based on that there are two groups in opposition, the in-group and the out-group members. Think of it like high school, where there’s the popular kids and the outcasts.
Project managers can favor and trust certain members of their team, giving them more responsibility, while others they might not think well of and so these team members get the more mundane tasks. How these relationships are formed is at the heart of this theory.
An adaptive leader is one who can mobilize people to act on tough challenges, even if the solutions to those challenges are not readily apparent.
This type of leadership is all about adapting and thriving in a challenging environment. This is done by gradually, but meaningfully, accepting a process of change both individually and collectively.
The belief that it’s individual strength that leads to successful leadership; when people use their strengths and competency to lead, they’re sure to do a good job.
It is a method that works to maximize the efficiency, productivity and success of a project by focusing on your strengths and continuing to develop them. It’s basic tenet is that people can grow exponentially by building on their strengths rather than weaknesses.
Popularized by Robert Greenleaf, the servant leadership theory places the needs of others over their own self-interest. The idea is that you serve first, shifting the power to those who are being led.
- Bureaucratic (Transactional): Leadership through normative rules, regulations, strict discipline and systematic control.
- Traditional (Feudal): Leadership over followers who believe in the legitimacy of governance, personal loyalty and faithfulness.
- Charismatic (Transformer): Leadership that is characterized by dedication, illumination and heroism, where followers have personal trust in a leader’s charisma, vision and mission.
The transactional leader motivates teams mostly through appealing to their self-interest. Therefore, a transactional leader’s power is directly related to their formal authority in the organization.
Is leadership good and management bad? Of course not, both are important. But there is a difference. There are many who stand on one side or the other of the great divide between leadership and management, demonizing one and praising the other.
You don’t have to look far to find examples of either persuasive leaders who have done terrible things or efficient managers who lack the soft skills to lead and inspire. Let’s start by looking at the differences between the two and why a combination of both is ideal.
Leaders inspire others to share their vision, they motivate others to act on that vision, encourage others and help them overcome obstacles in pursuit of that vision.
Here is a list of some of the core values of a strong leader.
- Communication: The ability to disseminate information and listen actively.
- Motivation: Getting people to want to do what you need them to do.
- Delegation: Knowing that you can’t do everything and trusting others to help you carry the load by completing assigned tasks.
- Positivity: Keeping a positive attitude, regardless of the situation, helps with morale.
- Trustworthiness: People aren’t going to listen to you or do what you ask if you don’t first instill a sense of trust.
- Creativity: There will always be problems that can’t be solved by rote; you must think creatively and be open to taking chances. Employ divergent thinking to find unique solutions.
- Feedback: Leadership doesn’t take place in a vacuum. Listen to your team, stakeholders, advisors, mentors, etc., and take their opinions seriously.
- Responsibility: You can’t expect people to follow you if you’re not taking responsibility for the bigger picture and your behavior.
- Commitment: You also cannot expect to lead others if you are not committed to the project.
- Flexibility: Things change, and rigidity can ruin a project, so you must be willing to adapt and not hold too tightly to anything.
What is management ? It’s the process of dealing with or controlling things or people. But the emphasis does tend to be on things rather than people.
Managers are people who plan, organize and coordinate. They are methodical and are always reassessing their process to make sure they’re progressing as planned. If not, they tweak to get back to their baseline assessment .
Here are 10 of what are considered the most important skills for any manager to have:
- Interpersonal Skills: While managers aren’t exclusively dealing with people, they still must interface with them, and the better they do so, the smoother the management process.
- Communications: Being able to manage is being able to communicate what you need to who needs to do it.
- Motivation: The same is true for motivating people to follow your management lead.
- Organization: You must be organized. Management is made up of many parts, and they cannot be handled on the fly.
- Delegation: No one can manage everything themselves, and if they try, they’re going to fail. So, share responsibilities and delegate tasks to others.
- Forward Planning: A manager is a planner who looks towards the future and how to set themselves up for it today.
- Strategic Thinking: Part of that planning is thinking strategically about the project, the organization and how to align them moving forward.
- Problem Solving: Managers face issues daily, and they must think creatively to solve them.
- Commercial Awareness: Managers are not working in a vacuum and need to have a keen sense of the business and commercial environment in which they operate.
- Mentoring: In order to get things done, sometimes a manager must become a mentor, offering guidance or training where it’s needed.
Why Leadership and Management Skills are Both Important
From the description of both leaders and managers, it’s clear that project managers must be a blend of both disciplines. Managing a project requires leadership skills to inspire your team and have a vision to lead the project to success.
But there are also many managerial aspects to project management, which are outside the purview of leadership. For example, balancing a budget, creating feasible schedules and contracting with vendors and outside contractors.
A project manager can be thought of as wearing many hats. The best know this and shift from leaders to managers many times during the day, doing what it takes to move the project forward. By doing this they set an example for the team, which benefits everyone.
If you want to encourage, inspire, motivate and fuel your team, leadership by example is one of the best ways to get buy-in and build trust. What are the practical things people can do to encourage, inspire, motivate and fuel their teams to complete more project tasks.
This leads us to talk about transformational leaders. What transformational leaders have in common are the following traits.
- Fought for a humanitarian cause
- Declared an unthinkable goal
- Maintained integrity
- Walked the talk
- Went to bat for people
To become such a leader requires action. These are some of the steps you can take to help your team through leading by example.
- Support the vision/mission of your company.
- Support your team, such as offering training if needed.
- Get the facts straight before doing anything.
- Be early, not just on time, to meetings, etc.
- Pay attention to details.
- Always follow-up and follow-through on what you say.
What Not to Do
It’s just as important to point out some things not to do if you’re looking to become an effective leader. These are examples that can stymie progress and undermine your leadership.
- Don’t brag about your achievements; it’s in bad taste and those accomplishments are never yours alone.
- Don’t talk about others; it will come back to them and erode loyalty.
- Don’t take credit then issue blame; the credit is the team’s, but the blame is likely yours. In other words, beware of self-serving bias.
Pro Tip: When leading by example, it’s important that it’s authentic leadership. That means you can’t just put it on like a fashion, but must feel passionate.
If Thomas Edison was right when he said, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration,” then consider these leadership quotes the one percent. Because sometimes, you just need that little bit of inspiration to get over those humps as a leader in project management.
1. “Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.” – George S. Patton
George S. Patton was a general, which is a job you don’t get unless you’ve proven your leadership skills. He was responsible for the lives of hundreds of thousands of soldiers during WWII. If his leadership faltered, more than just a project was at risk. He understood that once you have assembled a crack team of experts and provided the right tools for the job, just give them goals and let them get there. That’s what they’re trained to do.
2. “Keep on going, and the chances are that you will stumble on something, perhaps when you are least expecting it. I never heard of anyone ever stumbling on something sitting down.” – Charles F. Kettering
Inventor, engineer and head of research at General Motors for decades, Kettering was responsible for innovations such as the electrical starting motor and leaded gasoline. He’s a bit long-winded here, but he wasn’t a writer. The gist of it is that you should never give up. It’s in the work where solutions are revealed.
3. “Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else.” – Sara Blakely
Sara Blakely founded the shapewear company Spanx. She understands that not knowing something isn’t ignorance if you’re willing to learn. While you might not approach the subject in the traditional sense, that isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it could be good. You can discover new solutions others never thought of because they were too wedded to doing things a certain way.
4. “You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you” – Walt Disney
You might not expect the man who came up with Mickey Mouse and the happiest place on earth to choose such violent imagery. But it’s only a metaphor for failure, which is part of any creative process, and often just the sobering event needed to recalibrate and continue to succeed.
5. “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in the moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
While most managers are not likely to face the moral and ethical issues that Martin Luther King, Jr. faced in his battles for civil rights, the sentiment he shares is relatable. You don’t judge a leader when things are running smoothly. Anyone can lead a project when it’s running like clockwork; it’s when the problems come that the real leaders show themselves.
Good leadership is supported by many things, from teams to tools. Once you know how to lead and manage a project, you’ve assembled a great team, then it’s time to get great tools to help them and you. ProjectManager is a project management software that has the features you need: a real-time dashboard, online Gantt charts and tools to foster collaboration. Make a leadership decision today and try it for free with this 30-day trial .
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PSYCH 485 blog
Leadership in Group Projects
June 1, 2016 by Mandee
A great leader must be able to bring a team together to reach a common goal through the process of applying skills and behaviors to create a solid group relationship for any given situation. It seems to be a universal feeling that when you start a new course and the professor mentions there will be group work, everyone tends to get distressed. Northouse (2016) describes a team as a group of interdependent members working towards a common goal through coordinated activities.
When it comes to team work, establishing a common goal seems to be the easiest part. These are typically assigned by the instructor of the course, or project manager, who divides you into your designated groups or teams. This is also the time for you to discover your team. I have been in a variety of group projects in my schooling and professional careers ranging from committees to essays, and on a variety of different subjects. Every team member has a variety of different ways to contribute to the team, some in more productive ways than others.
Coordinating activities in an academic setting proves to consistently be the difficult part of group work. In an academic setting, such as World Campus, you have to utilize various communication channels while dealing with individuals all over the country to guide the group towards the established goal. My experience has nearly always been negative. Without fail, there is at least one team member who doesn’t communicate or pull their weight, making it difficult for all other members. I found myself always promoting a highly directive, or task, relationship with my team without overstepping the bounds of supporting their insight into the project, which Northouse (2016) classifies as falling in the realm of coaching or directing leadership styles. Being directive, I took the lead in establishing “what is to be done, how it is to be done, and who is responsible for doing it.” (Northouse. 2016. p.94) However, I have always considered myself a good leader in deciding “how much task and how much relationship is required in a given context or situation” (Northouse. 2015. p.109).
Recently, during a group project, I found myself needing to adapt my leadership style. I was fortunate enough to have a team member who also proved to have strong leadership abilities in our situation. This individual contributed a different level of skills than I. Where I tend to excel in human skills, commonly referred to as “people skills” (Northouse, 2016, p.45), this person excelled in the technical skills, which is defined by Northouse (2016) as having “knowledge about and proficiency in a specific type of work or activity” (p. 44). I was able to adjust my typically directive leadership style for group projects, to accommodate this other individual and assist in leading from a more supportive and less directive role, classified as “supporting” in the situational leadership model (Northouse, 2016, p.95).
For group work, it is important to be able to adjust ones leadership style according to those skills displayed by other individuals in your group. A great leader must be able to bring the team together to reach their common goal through a process of applying skills and behaviors to create a solid group relationship for the given situation. Complimenting ones abilities with those of other group members can create and maintain a cohesive and complimentary team environment.
Northouse, P. (2015). Introduction to leadership concepts and practice (3 rd ed.) . Thousand Oaks, CA. SAGE Publications, Inc.
Northouse, P. (2016). Leadership: Theory and practice (7 th ed.) . Thousand Oaks, CA. Sage Publications, Inc.
June 5, 2016 at 2:22 pm
There is nothing scarier in the world of online courses as the words “group project” and I’m sure we’ve all been there. Group projects are difficult enough in a face to face class where we can physically see each other and get together easily, and in one place. Working online just knocks the anxiety up a peg or two. We have no idea of the other people’s abilities to lead or follow, or their work ethic in getting an assignment done on time and with integrity. But it’s amazing how much we can learn about that person within the first few days of an assignment. Group work lends itself naturally to the situational approach of leadership. According to Norton (2016), “a leader must evaluate her is his followers and assess how competent and committed they are to perform a given goal”. (pg.93) That defines exactly what you did in your group work mentioned. You determined that in order to do your project, you had to adapt your people skills to accommodate the other person’s technical skills, which enabled you to complete the task. It is important to know the value of the supportive role within a group as communication skills is just as important as technical skills. Taking on this role shows that you feel comfortable with yourself, your group members, and the task you are about to undertake. (Northouse, 2016)
Within the academic setting, I also see this type of leadership with our instructor. At the beginning of this course, he sent a survey for us to fill out asking about our time zones, work schedules, and our self-perceived levels of leadership. I feel that he did this in order to “assess how competent and committed they are to perform a given goal”. (Northouse, 2016, pg. 93) He was using the survey to assess us and use the information to put us in the appropriate group, giving us the best chance of success. He then provides directive behaviors in accomplishing those goals by giving directions to assignments and establishing timelines for completion. It is then up to us within the group to set further directives as well as the supportive directives to get things done. (Northouse, 2016)
Northouse, P. (2016). Leadership: Theory and Practice. Thousand Oaks, CA. Sage Publications, Inc.
June 3, 2016 at 5:21 pm
I agree with you on how linked together situational leadership within group projects. I feel that every single group project we are put into; we have to continuously change our style. If we are so accustomed to only one style, then the group won’t work together right. As stated in the Northouse text; “To determine what is needed in a particular situation, a leader must evaluate her or his employees and assess how competent and committed they are to perform a given task.” (Northouse, 2016, p.99). As you said, without fail there is usually always one person that does not help the group out. If we could determine a way to encourage these people, what would it be? This is where I see situational leadership come into play. We need to determine this situation through that aspect. This could also be categorized under specific situations. The Blanchard Model (1985), was made up of specific sector where the group members and leader was present. SLII model was made up of S1 (directing), S2 (supporting), s3 (coaching) and lastly S4 (delegating). The most important one I see in this situation would be S2 where you have high- supporting and high- directing. With this, you can show the group member that they are important enough along with showing them what they need to do. This would be the part where the whole group can work together since they have a specific task to do. I believe that this has taught me a great deal in group projects and something that should be more prevalent. I really enjoyed this post and cannot wait to use what I found from it to use in my future experiences.
Northouse, P. (2016). Leadership: Theory and practice (7th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA. Sage Publications, Inc.
June 3, 2016 at 12:38 am
Mandee, I love this blog post. I can relate to the experience you relay and, likely, in particular to this experience. I also excel at social skills and am often a person who brings the group together to accomplish the shared goals.
In a situation that is very similar to yours, if not the actual situation, it became clear to me that my outside obligations limited my ability to lead. I was in the very fortunate situation of not only be able to defer to one but two very strong leaders. It was actually nice to play my role and to focus on delivering as asked. I am so grateful for this experience as it reminds myself that there is more than one role to play in a team setting. There are no leaders without followers.
I will disagree with you on one point though. You mention that the goal is set for you in these situations. I would counter and say class assignments set parameters and it is up to us as a group to set the goal to achieve an outcome. In the case it is essential for the leader to work with the group to influence them to reach a mutually agreed upon outcome. (Northouse, 2016, p. 6) That process of influence is even present in our group assignments.
Sincerely, I was so appreciative of your and others leadership to keep us on target.
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- Leadership for Dummies: A Capstone Project for Leadership Students
Lori L. Moore, Summer F. Odom, Lexi M. Wied 10.12806/V10/I1/IB2
Introduction and Conceptual Framework
Within the leadership education literature, the goals of leadership educators have been well documented. According to Huber (2002), “As leadership educators, we help people to understand what it means to be a leader” (p. 31). To that end, we generally hope that at or near the end of their undergraduate education, our students are able to synthesize what they have learned about the various aspects of leadership. Many in higher education incorporate capstone assignments and courses into the curriculum to accomplish this goal. In fact, Morgan, Rudd, and Kaufman (2004) found that leadership faculty considered a capstone experience to be an essential component of leadership programs. Furthermore, Cannon, Gifford, Stedman, and Telg (2010) noted that leadership educators should not overlook the importance of providing leadership students with a meaningful and valuable capstone experience. While capstone experiences have been defined in many different ways, many have noted that capstone courses provide students the opportunity to synthesize the prior knowledge and make connections between the various parts of their education (AAC, 1985; Schmid, 1993; Steele, 1993).
For several years, many have advocated the need for students to develop strong synthesis abilities, such as those developed in capstone courses and assignments. According to Cleveland (2002), “The trouble is, our whole educational system is still geared more toward categorizing and analyzing the patches of knowledge than to threading them together – even though it’s the people who learn how to thread them together who will be the leaders of the next generation” (p. 215).
Pink (2006) further argued that success in today’s world requires a more creative or artistic mindset than what has previously been required. According to Pink, “The last few decades have belonged to a certain kind of person with a certain kind of mind – computer programmers who could crank code, lawyers who could craft contracts, MBAs who could crunch numbers. But, the keys to the kingdom are changing hands. The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind – creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers, and meaning makers” (p. 1). He suggested such people as “artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers – will now reap society’s richest rewards and share its greatest joys” (p. 1).
Based on his work as a psychological researcher, Gardner (2008) published the book 5 Minds for the Future in which he identified “minds” he believes individuals should develop to command a premium in the years ahead. These minds are (a) The Disciplined Mind, (b) The Synthesizing Mind, (c) The Creating Mind, (d) The Respectful Mind, and (e) The Ethical Mind. Below are brief descriptions of each of these “minds.”
- “The disciplined mind has mastered at least one way of thinking — a distinctive mode of cognition that characterizes a specific scholarly discipline, craft, or profession” (Gardner, 2008, p. 3).
- “The synthesizing mind takes information from disparate sources, understands and evaluates that information objectively, and puts it together in ways that make sense to the synthesizer and also to other persons” (Gardner, 2008, p. 3).
- “Building on discipline and synthesis, the creating mind breaks new grounds. It puts forth new ideas, poses unfamiliar questions, conjures up fresh ways of thinking, arrives at unexpected answers” (Gardner, 2008, p. 3).
- “The respectful mind notes and welcomes differences between human individuals and between human groups, tries to understand these ‘others,’ and seeks to work effectively with them” (Gardner, 2008, p. 3).
- “The ethical mind ponders the nature of one’s work and the needs and desires of the society in which one lives” (Gardner, 2008, p. 3).
Gardner’s minds served as the conceptual framework for the development of a capstone assignment to help students develop the new ways of thinking needed by tomorrow’s leaders.
Description of the Project and Learning Outcomes
A quick trip through any book store shows a thriving self-help market. Numerous books are readily available as references and resources for readers. The “for Dummies” series of books is especially popular. Within this series books range from leisure activity books such as Facebook for Dummies (Pearlman & Abram, 2010) and Sewing for Dummies (Maresh, 2010) to fitness books such as Yoga for Dummies (Feuerstein & Payne, 2010) to more academic books such as Psychology for Dummies (Cash, 2002) and Chemistry for Dummies (Moore, 2003). And yes, there is even a Leadership for Dummies (Loeb & Kindel, 1999).
These books offer many things to many people, not the least of which is a synthesized view of a particular topic from which readers can make meaning.
Wren (1994) noted that students in leadership courses “should have enhanced powers of analysis, and increased capabilities in oral and written communication” (p. 77). Coupling this notion with the popularity of the “for Dummies” series, the authors developed the Leadership for Dummies capstone project.
The primary learning outcomes for this project were centered on the first three of Gardner’s (2008) minds . The first three minds deal primarily with cognitive forms while the last two deal with our relations to other human beings. While all five are no doubt important, this capstone project requires students to focus on the first three. Specific learning outcomes include:
- Using their disciplined mind , students should reflect on their study of leadership as a discipline within the major. In order to accomplish this, students must have completed or be enrolled in at least four of the five foundational leadership courses included in their degree plan. Students then select three facets of leadership that they consider to be the most fundamental and powerful concepts impacting leadership.
- Using their synthesizing mind , students assimilate what they learned about each facet of leadership and put that into their own words. They are not to regurgitate the information from the course(s); rather they are to teach it to an individual who is unfamiliar with leadership jargon.
- Using their creating mind , students then write an 8-10 page “chapter” appropriate for a Leadership for Dummies book for each of the facets of leadership they selected. Students are asked to add clip art, graphics, pull quotations, spotlight sections, and other relevant items to enhance the overall presentation of their final product.
To accomplish these learning outcomes, the following items were identified as required components of the project:
- A creative title for each chapter, based on the course/content of the “chapter” (related to the concept that inspired the chapter).
- A quotation related to the concept, to be used as the sub-title.
- Important, pertinent information related to each of the concepts selected. NOTE: This information must be in the student ’ s own words – they are the author/expert. In cases where information is cited directly or indirectly from a source then they are to use proper citations.
- Examples of how the material was learned and how it is relevant to everyday life.
- Students may reference (or use excerpts from) assignments completed in their courses as an example for the readers, but must also include a reflection related to that assignment, describing its importance in helping others learn about that particular facet of leadership.
- There may be no more than two typed pages (total) of excerpts or examples of course assignments completed for that particular concept.
- Examples from famous leaders/leadership styles or real-life leadership examples from the student’s life that illustrate the idea of the chapter.
- A discussion of how readers can apply this information to their lives.
- At least five action items for readers to practice in their own lives (the “now what”).
- Images, additional quotations, and even more creativity to support chapter content.
- A “Top 10” list: At the end of the chapter on each respective topic, a list of the “Top 10” things to remember about that particular facet of leadership. This list includes the “nuggets” of information most important for readers to take away from the chapter.
Discussion and Conclusions
Crunkilton (as cited in Andreasen & Trede, 2000) identified six educational outcomes of capstone courses. These outcomes included:
- Decision making.
- Critical thinking.
- Collaborative/professional relationships.
- Oral communications.
- Written communications.
- Problem solving.
The authors believe the Leadership for Dummies capstone project helps students not only use their disciplined mind, the synthesizing mind, and their creating mind, but also meet several of Crunkilton’s educational outcomes (e.g., decision making, critical thinking, and written communications).
In his discussion of capstone courses Wagenaar (1993) noted that students in his capstone course should view material from a holistic, synthetic perspective. Wagenaar noted, “It might even be conceptualized as an “advanced introductory” course. The introductory course exposes students to the basics of the discipline. The capstone course revisits these basics” (p. 211). The authors kept this notion in mind as they developed the requirements for “the Dummies” assignment. Students must decide on the most fundamental and powerful concepts they found related to their courses, perhaps even the introductory and survey courses.
Furthermore, anecdotal evidence suggests students enjoy being able to choose what to write about as opposed to being assigned specific topics. This freedom encourages students to take ownership of their own learning.
In writing their “chapters” the students essentially provide their own definition of leadership and explicit knowledge related to it. According to Cartwright (2002), “A key aspect of leadership education is that everyone has his or her own definition of leadership, most often at the tacit level. We all know what a leader is, but we find definitions and explicit knowledge hard to come by” (p. 70).
The authors also discussed timing of this assignment within the undergraduate program. Dickinson (1993) noted the effects of senioritis as an issue for having capstone courses. “In their last semester, perfectly good majors mysteriously weaken and become reluctant to engage in serious work, especially if they have already secured a job or a place in graduate school ” (p. 218). Sargent, Pennington, and Sitton (2003) also found evidence of the senioritis syndrome in their study. Based on such findings, the authors of the Leadership for Dummies assignment arrived at the requirement that four of the five foundational leadership classes must be completed or currently in progress. Because three of the four classes are not offered to students until they are juniors, the majority of students would not be able to complete this assignment until the end of their junior, probably the beginning of their senior year.
The authors have just begun using this capstone project on a trial basis with a limited number of students. The purpose of this pilot test is to gain feedback from students prior to determining if it should be implemented as a required assignment for all students. Anecdotal evidence suggests the project is helping students make meaning out of their undergraduate experience. One student who has completed the capstone project commented that “the assignment helped me further understand all of the leadership concepts that I chose to write about. It did this because in order to explain and relate it to real life situations I had to grasp the concept and really apply it. It did help me gain a greater knowledge of leadership because now I know the different types of leaders, styles of leaders, and how they may differ.”
The authors further hope that a project such as this will provide valuable feedback about the program as a whole. As Steele (1993) noted, “The capstone course cannot correct the deficiencies in a department’s curriculum or teaching. It can, however, enable faculty members to identify and address such deficiencies, and it can enable students to see themselves as rooted in an important tradition of social analysis” (p. 244).
Andreasen, R. J., & Trede, L. D. (2000) Perceived benefits of an agricultural capstone course at Iowa State University. NACTA Journal, 44 (1), 51-56.
Association of American Colleges. (1985). Integrity in the college: A report to the academic community . Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges.
Cannon, K. J., Gifford, G. T., Stedman, N., & Telg, R. W. (2010). Preparation for full time employment: A capstone experience for students in leadership programs . Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the Association of Leadership Educators, Milwaukee, WI.
Cartwright, S. (2002). Double-loop learning: A concept and process for leadership educators. Journal of Leadership Education, 1 (1), 68-71.
Cash, A. (2002). Psychology for dummies . New York: Hungry Minds. Cleveland, H. (2002). Nobody in charge: Essays on the future of leadership . San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Dickinson, J. (1993). The senior seminar at Rider College. Teaching Sociology, 21 (3), 215-218.
Feuerstein, G., & Payne, L. (2010). Yoga for dummies (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Gardner, H. (2008). 5 minds for the future . Boston: Harvard Business Press. Huber, N. S. (2002). Approaching leadership education in the new millennium. Journal of Leadership Education, 1 (1), 25-34.
Loeb, M., & Kindel, S. (1999). Leadership for dummies . Foster City, CA: IDG Books Worldwide.
Maresh, J. S. (2010). Sewing for dummies (3rd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. Moore, J. T. (2003). Chemistry for dummies . New York: Wiley.
Morgan, A. C., Rudd, R. D., & Kaufman, E. K. (2004). Elements of an undergraduate leadership program: A Delphi study . Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the Association of Leadership Educators, Memphis, TN.
Pearlman, L., & Abram, C. (2010). Facebook for dummies (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Pink, D. H. (2006). A whole new mind: Why right-brainers will rule the future . New York: Riverhead Books.
Sargent, S. D., Pennington, P., & Sitton, S. (2003). Developing leadership through capstone experiences . Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the Association of Leadership Educators, Anchorage, AK.
Schmid, T. J. (1993). Bringing sociology to life: The other capstone mandate. Teaching Sociology, 21 (3), 219-222.
Steele, J. L. (1993). The laden cart: The senior capstone course. Teaching Sociology, 21 (3), 242-245.
Wagennar, T. C. (1993). The capstone course. Teaching Sociology, 21 (3), 209- 214.
Wren, J. T. (1994). Teaching leadership: The art of the possible. Journal of Leadership Studies, 1 (2), 73-93. doi:10.1177/107179199400100208
35 effective leadership activities and games
Good leaders can make or break a team. While more and more people are being asked to step into leadership roles, the path to becoming a good leader is long and not always straightforward . This is where leadership activities come in.
Leadership activities are a great way of developing the skills and competencies needed to be an effective leader . It's not easy to learn these skills, especially when so many leaders don't receive effective training or support. In this article, we'll explore the leadership activities you should master in order to lead a high-performing team and become a better leader!
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Learning the why and how of being a great leader alongside practical techniques and frameworks is one of the easiest ways to become a better leader.
Anyone in a leadership role has both a big influence and responsibility for their team. Some of the aspects they need to pay attention to in order to be a good leader are:
- Setting the climate of a workplace
- Making decisions
- Inspiring team members
- Setting values for their team
- Improving team spirit and cohesion
- Being responsible for their team’s communication and wellbeing
- Developing leadership skills in other team members
There are a number of tools to help you with leadership development. Coaching, peer support circles, and leadership development workshops can all help one to become a better leader.
Leadership activities such as those featured here are also effective at introducing leadership concepts and learning how to solve common leadership challenges .
In this guide, we’ve grouped leadership activities by these core competencies, so you can choose the right activity to help yourself or others develop their leadership skills. Let’s dive in!
What are leadership activities?
Leadership activities are exercises designed to help develop leadership skills and enable leaders to be more effective in their roles. They can include activities that help train new leaders and improve core leadership skills like problem-solving, active listening, or effective group management.
You’ll also find that the best leadership development activities give leaders tools and techniques they can use on the job. It’s one thing to know that leaders need to be good listeners, but quite another to be given a framework and toolkit that means you are a great listener who always helps their team feel heard and understood.
The exercises below are not only great to use when training leaders, but they are practical techniques leaders can use with every team member immediately, whatever their leadership style.
What are leadership activities used for?
While managers might approach tasks differently based on their leadership style, there are skills and competencies that all leaders should learn in order to be the best they can be. Learning how to be a good leader on the job can be difficult, so using exercises and activities to improve leadership skills experientially can help leaders be more effective in their role.
If you’re running a leadership development program, you might use these activities during the training program. For example, after conducting a self-assessment and deciding how they want to develop as a leader, participants might work on improving a problem area with these activities.
Whether you’re running such a program and developing managers internally with workshops or simply want to brush up on your own leadership skills, these exercises are a great place to begin.
Leadership activities for setting a great workplace climate
Leaders are role models to their colleagues and organization. Their leadership styles, principles, and values determine the culture that drives their organization’s behavior.
That is why a competitive, paranoid leader can easily create an organization where team members are similarly competitive and less open to collaboration. While a leader who is open and inclusive will create a climate of openness and inclusiveness. How they behave, and what they consider the norm, also affects which kinds of behaviors are enforced and celebrated and which behaviors are punished.
The following leadership activities can help you in recognising important leadership behaviors that result in a productive workplace. They can also be used by leaders to set the stage for team bonding and a great workplace environment with their team. A must for all leaders!
Leadership games like this help groups translate abstract leadership principles into practical on-the-job behaviors. Participants work in groups to come up with real-life applications of different leadership principles.
The groups conduct multiple rounds of discussion to build upon each others’ ideas, and in the end, evaluate the best ideas to identify the most useful behaviors. This is also a great activity to run with all your team members. Seeing how they consider and respond to different leadership styles can help you focus on the right approach as a leader!
Leadership Envelopes #leadership #issue analysis #thiagi Leadership exercise in groups, working with practical leadership principles. This activity helps groups to translate abstract leadership principles into practical on-the-job behaviours. Participants work in groups to come up with real-life application of leadership principles. The groups take multiple rounds to build upon the ideas of each other, and in the end, evaluate the best ideas to identify the most useful behaviours.
Your Favourite Manager
In this activity, participants take on three different employee personas and list the behaviors of a positive leader or manager and a negative one from the perspectives of those employees. After some individual reflection, participants compare their lists, first in pairs and then in groups. Finally, they collect the ultimate do’s and don’ts for managers and leaders.
Any activity that encourages deep reflection on your own leadership style and those of your role models is a wonderful way to grow. I’ve been especially inspired by how some of my old bosses approach problem solving while I was a team member working beneath them.
My Favourite Manager #management #leadership #thiagi #teamwork #remote-friendly Participants work individually, assuming the roles of three different people and brainstorming their perceptions of three most favourite managers and three least favourite managers. Later, they work with a partner (and still later, in teams) to prepare a list of dos and don’t-s for improving employees’ perception of a manager’s style.
This leadership development activity offers a self-assessment framework for people to first identify the skills, attributes and attitudes they find important for effective leadership, and then assess their own development in these areas. This framework is also a great tool to set individual leadership development goals in a coaching process.
We love activities that allow team members to reflect on different leadership styles and assess their own skills and preferences. The visual format makes it easy to share and reflect on leadership styles later too!
Leadership Pizza #leadership #team #remote-friendly This leadership development activity offers a self-assessment framework for people to first identify what skills, attributes and attitudes they find important for effective leadership, and then assess their own development and initiate goal setting.
Heard Seen Respected
Standing in the shoes of others, practicing empathy and ensuring that everyone on a team is able to be heard is a necessity for great leaders and your team in general. In this activity, participants shift between telling stories where they were not heard, seen or respected and then being listeners who do not pass judgment.
Remember that leadership training should often start with the fundamentals of respect and empathy. If you can’t respect and empathize with your team members, how can you expect them to do the same for you? Keeping things simple with an activity like Heard Seen Respected can be an especially effective option whether you’re working online or offline.
Heard, Seen, Respected (HSR) #issue analysis #empathy #communication #liberating structures #remote-friendly You can foster the empathetic capacity of participants to “walk in the shoes” of others. Many situations do not have immediate answers or clear resolutions. Recognizing these situations and responding with empathy can improve the “cultural climate” and build trust among group members. HSR helps individuals learn to respond in ways that do not overpromise or overcontrol. It helps members of a group notice unwanted patterns and work together on shifting to more productive interactions. Participants experience the practice of more compassion and the benefits it engenders.
Leadership activities for better decision making
An important aspect of leadership development is learning how to make informed and intelligent decisions while also ensuring you listen to your team. A leader who bulldozes their team into a decision without first listening to their expertise is not going to make their team feel valued.
The outcomes of uninformed decisions are often poor or frustrating for those involved too. While leaders are justifiably responsible for making final decisions, it’s integral to find methods to do so in a well-reasoned way.
These leadership activities are useful when it comes to making good decisions while involving your team members in the process and developing a leadership style that creates space for others.
When solving problems as a team, it’s common to have various options for moving forward. As a leader, it often falls to you to make the decision for which solution or direction to pursue. But how can you do that while also creating space for the opinions of your team to be heard?
Dotmocracy is a tried and tested facilitation method for making informed decisions with the help of your team. After presenting the available options, give everyone on your team a number of dots to indicate which option they prefer. You’ll want to adjust the number of votes based on the number of options there are to choose from. A good rule of thumb is to have fewer dots than there are options, giving just a few for every team member.
Leaders want to be on hand to break any ties and to facilitate discussion around what is chosen, but when it comes to making decisions with your team, this method is hard to beat.
Dotmocracy #action #decision making #group prioritization #hyperisland #remote-friendly Dotmocracy is a simple method for group prioritization or decision-making. It is not an activity on its own, but a method to use in processes where prioritization or decision-making is the aim. The method supports a group to quickly see which options are most popular or relevant. The options or ideas are written on post-its and stuck up on a wall for the whole group to see. Each person votes for the options they think are the strongest, and that information is used to inform a decision.
Impact and Effort Matrix
The hallmark of a good decision making process is transparency. Leaders should know why a decision is made and should be able to clearly explain their thinking to team members. As such, the best decision making activities make the process open and easy to understand.
Start this activity by creating a 2×2 matrix and then place possible options on the matrix based on the expected impact and effort it would take to achieve them. This makes it easy to prioritize and compare possible decisions while also including team members in the process.
An inclusive leadership style means bringing your own knowledge to the table while also listening to the opinions of the team. When running this activity, be sure to combine these aspects to ensure items are placed in the appropriate place on the matrix.
Impact and Effort Matrix #gamestorming #decision making #action #remote-friendly In this decision-making exercise, possible actions are mapped based on two factors: effort required to implement and potential impact. Categorizing ideas along these lines is a useful technique in decision making, as it obliges contributors to balance and evaluate suggested actions before committing to them.
Level of influence
Making the right decision is often a process of weighing up various factors and prioritizing accordingly. While there are many methods for doing this, being an effective leader often means making this as simple as possible.
We love this decision making activity because it asks the group (and its leader!) some simple questions to narrow down possible options and makes it easy to prioritize too. Start by asking the level of influence a team has to make possible actions happen and ranking them accordingly.
Next, choose those items that you have the most influence on and then prioritize the ones you really want to happen. This simple, two-step process is a great activity for leadership development as it is something any leader can use with ease!
Level of Influence #prioritization #implementation #decision making #planning #online facilitation This is a simple method to prioritize actions as part of an action planning workshop, after a list of actions has been generated.
Leadership exercises for improving team collaboration
Whether you’re leading a small group or working across a massive organization, part of your role of a leader is to help their team work together more effectively. Removing any obstacles to effective collaboration and creating frameworks for better teamwork is something you’ll be doing as a leader.
Use the activities below to develop the skills necessary to facilitate team building and bring team members together to collaborate effectively.
Circles of Influence
Effective teamwork is often about identifying where each member of a team can have the most impact and use their skills best. Leaders often need to find ways to identify where to direct their team and consider how different skills and working styles fit together to make a cohesive team. This activity makes it easy to facilitate this process and encourage employees to reflect and be proactive too!
We love that this leadership exercise encourages every team member to take responsibility and action. When looking for leadership qualities in a group and considering who you might want to develop into a future leader, this is also a great place to start!
Circles of Influence #hyperisland #team #team effectiveness A workshop to review team priorities and made choices about what to focus on individually and collectively. The workshop challenges members to reflect on where they can have the most impact and influence. Use this workshop to refine priorities and empower ownership among team members.
Team of Two
Whether you’re leading a team of just a few people or hundreds, the reality is that many of your discussions and interactions with the people you will lead will be interpersonal and one-on-one in nature. Developing the skillset you need to solve issues in your team when they arise and finding ways to ensure these conversations are productive is one of the most important things you can do as a leader.
Use Team of Two whether working online or as part of an in-person session to help your working pairs and interpersonal relationships go from strength to strength. By articulating needs and consequences clearly, this leadership exercise helps people communicate efficiently and see the results they need – a must for anyone in a leadership role!
Team of Two #communication #active listening #issue analysis #conflict resolution #issue resolution #remote-friendly #team Much of the business of an organisation takes place between pairs of people. These interactions can be positive and developing or frustrating and destructive. You can improve them using simple methods, providing people are willing to listen to each other. “Team of two” will work between secretaries and managers, managers and directors, consultants and clients or engineers working on a job together. It will even work between life partners.
What I Need From You
One of the most important leadership skills to cultivate is clarity: being clear in what you expect and need from others in your organisation or group is an integral component of high-functioning teams. With What I Need From You, each team member involved in the exchange is given the chance to articulate their core needs to others and respond in a structured way.
This kind of clear, direct action is great at unblocking conversational roadblocks in both large and small groups, and is something all leaders should have in their toolkit.
What I Need From You (WINFY) #issue analysis #liberating structures #team #communication #remote-friendly People working in different functions and disciplines can quickly improve how they ask each other for what they need to be successful. You can mend misunderstandings or dissolve prejudices developed over time by demystifying what group members need in order to achieve common goals. Since participants articulate core needs to others and each person involved in the exchange is given the chance to respond, you boost clarity, integrity, and transparency while promoting cohesion and coordination across silos: you can put Humpty Dumpty back together again!
When it comes to enabling true collaboration throughout your organization, it pays to involve your team members in helping shape the way you want to work together. Different leadership styles may call for a different approach to this process, but it’s always helpful to see a complete example of how you might define your team culture and working processes.
In this workshop template, you can see a complete agenda for a team canvas workshop. This will take a team through a process of co-creating and defining everything from your goals, values, assets, and rules. Effective leadership often means tapping into group intelligence and enabling your team to take shared ownership of their success. Team Canvas great way of achieving this!
Team Canvas workshop
Leadership activities for inspiring others
Great leaders inspire others. However, there are many different reasons why someone will find a leader inspirational. Developing the skills to inspire team members and lead with this energy is important, whatever your leadership style.
In order to grasp what facilitates inspiring leadership, try the following exercises. You’ll be surprised at how thinking more deeply about your own role models or what your values can help you in all of your leadership interactions!
Leadership Advice from your Role Model
Everyone is asked to think of a role model they look up to and ask themselves: If a young person would ask these role models for leadership advice and what kind of advice that would be.
Facilitate a group conversation where these pieces of advice are shared and contradicting points are discussed and reconciled. Given diverse enough responses, this structured sharing activity might be a good introduction to the concept of situational leadership.
Leadership Advice from Your Role Model #skills #leadership #thiagi #role playing This structured sharing activity provides a faster, cheaper, and better alternative to buying and reading a lot of books: You tap into the wisdom of the group—and of their role models.
Living Core Values
The core values of your organization are a great place to look when you want to inspire your team members. Leaders should be involved in defining and exemplifying their core values and also helping create space for the team to share how they’re living those values. The result is an inspiring leadership exercise that allows a leader to help the group celebrate their wins and also suggest places for improvement.
Start by choosing one of your core values and asking activity participants to share a story of how they have been practicing this core value. After sharing, ask the team to reflect on what inspired them from the story. As with any leadership development game, be the first one to share a story to help guide the discussion. Running this exercise will not only help inspire a team to greater heights but also surface any areas that need improvement – it’s a great method to have in your leadership toolbox!
Living Core Values #culture #values #core values, #connection #inspiration #virtual_friendly #team #team alignment #energizer #remote-friendly For use with a team, organization or any peer group forum. Can be done in person or virtual This is designed to create a conversation that brings Core Values alive. This is great for a team that knows what values they stand for. Through this exercise they will celebrate their values in action and therefore be energized to magnify them further. It will also help bring along anyone that is new so they can understand that the group really walks the talk
Throughout human history, stories have been a consistent source of inspiration. Whatever your leadership style, finding time to share more about your own story and create space for others to share theirs can be massively useful as a leader.
In Campfire, start by creating a selection of 10-20 sticky notes relating to a concept you wish to explore with the group. Put these on the wall and then invite your group to review them and consider stories they might tell related to one of those words. Start the storytelling session yourself and think about how you might inspire and elicit further stories from the rest of the team before passing the torch to the next person around the campfire!
This is a great activity to run during leadership training or when team building. Creating safe spaces for people to share their experiences is a leadership skill you absolutely want to cultivate and practice!
Campfire #gamestorming #team #remote-friendly #storytelling Campfire leverages our natural storytelling tendencies by giving players a format and a space in which to share work stories—of trial and error, failure and success, competition, diplomacy, and teamwork. Campfire is useful not only because it acts as an informal training game, but also because it reveals commonalities in employee perception and experience.
Letter from the Future
Leaders are often called upon to inspire their team members about the future of their product or organization. Employees who are excited about where you’re going are more likely to work together well and be energized to see results. This activity is useful for helping inspire a team, or even just to inspire yourself as a leader and get your vision for the future down on paper!
Begin by asking your team to speculate on what the world will look like in five years. Next, ask them to write a letter from the future detailing what the group has accomplished in that time and how they overcame any challenges.
Share the results to inspire the group for what you might accomplish and also start creating plans for how you’ll create your desired future. You might even find that running this activity solo is effective when thinking about how you want to develop as a team leader!
Letter from the Future #strategy #vision #thiagi #team #teamwork Teams that fail to develop a shared vision of what they are all about and what they need to do suffer later on when team members start implementing the common mandate based on individual assumptions. To help teams get started on the right foot, here is a process for creating a shared vision.
Leadership activities for personal development
A good leader is one who helps uplift and upskill the members of their team. These leadership activities are designed to help you encourage participants to be more autonomous, take initiative and work on their personal development.
If you’re new to a leadership role or trying on various leadership styles, these can also be great activities to practice on the road to leading a team. Growth and development is a vital aspect of employee happiness and fulfillment – be sure to bring ideas for enabling others to your leadership role.
Roles in a meeting
Learning by doing is an important aspect of effective leadership. Sometimes, you have to try something new and approach the task with an open mind while working to the best of your ability. This simple method is a great way of encouraging participants to take an important role during a meeting and also take part in developing and refining those roles.
If you’re running a leadership development program and want to start upskilling participants, this is a great way of delegating some simple leadership roles. Plus, it helps encourage the group to contribute and engage with how a successful meeting is put together too!
Roles in a meeting #meeting facilitation #remote-friendly #hybrid-friendly #skills Organize the day’s meeting by co-creating and assigning roles among participants.
Alignment & Autonomy
One of the most impactful things a leader can do is get out of a team’s way and allow them to perform more autonomously. Doing so effectively means people can take ownership of their work, be more invested, and develop their skills too. But how can you do this without creating chaos or misalignment?
In this activity, you first help every team member align on your goals and then reflect on where they can take more ownership and be more autonomous in their work while still contributing to the goals of the team. Not only is this a great way to help your team develop, but it also takes work off your plate as a leader and can enable you to get out of the trenches if necessary.
Alignment & Autonomy #team #team alignment #team effectiveness #hyperisland A workshop to support teams to reflect on and ultimately increase their alignment with purpose/goals and team member autonomy. Inspired by Peter Smith’s model of personal responsibility. Use this workshop to strengthen a culture of personal responsibility and build your team’s ability to adapt quickly and navigate change.
One of the biggest barriers to personal development is being overwhelmed by what you need to do to achieve your goals. As a leader, you can help your team by enabling them to take the small, important actions that are within their control.
Start by asking participants to reflect on where they have the discretion and freedom to act and how they might make a small step towards a goal without needing outside help. By flipping the conversation to what 15% of a solution looks like, rather than 100%, employees can begin to make changes without fear of being overwhelmed.
15% Solutions #action #liberating structures #remote-friendly You can reveal the actions, however small, that everyone can do immediately. At a minimum, these will create momentum, and that may make a BIG difference. 15% Solutions show that there is no reason to wait around, feel powerless, or fearful. They help people pick it up a level. They get individuals and the group to focus on what is within their discretion instead of what they cannot change. With a very simple question, you can flip the conversation to what can be done and find solutions to big problems that are often distributed widely in places not known in advance. Shifting a few grains of sand may trigger a landslide and change the whole landscape.
The GROW Coaching Model
The best leaders are often great coaches, helping individual team members achieve their potential and grow. This tried and test method is a wonderful way to help activate the development of everyone from a new start to an established leader.
Begin by teaching your mentee or group the GROW acronym (Goal, Reality, Obstacles/Options, and Will.) and guide them through a process of defining each section and collectively agreeing on how you’ll make progress. This is an effective leadership activity that is great for leadership training and is equally useful when it comes to help any team member grow.
The GROW Coaching Model #hyperisland #coaching #growth #goal setting The GROW Model is a coaching framework used in conversations, meetings, and everyday leadership to unlock potential and possibilities. It’s a simple & effective framework for structuring your coaching & mentoring sessions and great coaching conversations. Easy to use for both face-to-face and online meetings. GROW is an acronym that stands for Goal, Reality, Obstacles/Options, and Will.
Leadership exercises for setting team values
Usually, the values of a leader are mirrored in the organization. If shortcuts are common practice for the leader, then she will see shortcuts made by her team members all across their projects. But if learning and self-improvement are important to the leader, then this will be a good foundation for these values in the whole organization, too.
To be more aware of your own values as a leader and then bring these ideas to your team, try these leadership exercises!
Explore Your Values
Explore your Values is a group exercise for thinking on what your own and your team’s most important values are. It’s done in an intuitive and rapid way to encourage participants to follow their intuitions rather than over-thinking and finding the “correct” values.
It’s a good leadership game to use to initiate reflection and dialogue around personal values and consider how various leadership styles might chime with some values more than others.
Explore your Values #hyperisland #skills #values #remote-friendly Your Values is an exercise for participants to explore what their most important values are. It’s done in an intuitive and rapid way to encourage participants to follow their intuitive feeling rather than over-thinking and finding the “correct” values. It is a good exercise to use to initiate reflection and dialogue around personal values.
Your Leadership Coat of Arms
In this leadership development activity, participants are asked to draw their own coat of arms symbolising the most important elements of their leadership philosophy. The coat of arms drawings are then debriefed and discussed together with the group.
This activity works well with equally well with leadership and team members. Creating a visual representation of what you stand for in the form of a coat of arms can help create a memorable asset you can refer to and rally behind in the future.
Your Leadership Coat of Arms #leadership #leadership development #skills #remote-friendly #values In this leadership development activity, participants are asked to draw their own coat of arms symbolising the most important elements of their leadership philosophy. The coat of arms drawings are then debriefed and discussed together with the group. After the exercise you may prepare a coat of arms gallery, exhibiting the leadership approach and philosophy of group members
Team Purpose & Culture
Ensuring all group participants are aligned when it comes to purpose and cultural values is one of the jobs of a leader. Teams and organizations that have a shared and cohesive vision are often happier and more productive and by helping a group arrive at these conclusions, a good leader can help empower everyone to succeed. Even with multi-discipline teams and organizations with different leadership styles, this method is an effective way of getting everyone on the same page. This is a framework you’ll likely use again and again with different teams throughout your career.
Team Purpose & Culture #team #hyperisland #culture #remote-friendly This is an essential process designed to help teams define their purpose (why they exist) and their culture (how they work together to achieve that purpose). Defining these two things will help any team to be more focused and aligned. With support of tangible examples from other companies, the team members work as individuals and a group to codify the way they work together. The goal is a visual manifestation of both the purpose and culture that can be put up in the team’s work space.
Leadership games for team building
Every leader has an integral role in the formation of the teams they work with. Whether you are consciously working on it or not, your attitude and actions as a leader will significantly influence team cohesion, communication and the team spirit of the people you work with.
This comes through in small everyday actions, the way you share responsibilities, the way you empower colleagues, and the way you foster a cooperative work environment as opposed to a competitive one.
Sometimes, it can also be effective to run team building activities with your company that are expressly focused on helping teams come together and bond. Try using the following team building activities with new teams, or groups that need to spend a little time getting to know each other better.
The Marshmallow Challenge is a team-building activity in which teams compete to build the tallest free-standing structure out of spaghetti sticks, tape, string, and the marshmallow that needs to be on the top. This leadership activity emphasizes group communication, leadership dynamics, collaboration, and innovation and problem-solving.
It’s a wonderful game that allows participants’s natural leadership qualities to shine through, and it helps teams have a lot of fun too!
Marshmallow challenge with debriefing #teamwork #team #leadership #collaboration In eighteen minutes, teams must build the tallest free-standing structure out of 20 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of tape, one yard of string, and one marshmallow. The marshmallow needs to be on top. The Marshmallow Challenge was developed by Tom Wujec, who has done the activity with hundreds of groups around the world. Visit the Marshmallow Challenge website for more information. This version has an extra debriefing question added with sample questions focusing on roles within the team.
The Crocodile River is a team-building activity in which group members need to support each other in a task to move from one end of a space to another. It requires working together creatively and strategically in order to solve a practical, physical problem. It tends to emphasize group communication, cooperation, leadership and membership, patience and problem-solving.
Crocodile River #hyperisland #team #outdoor A team-building activity in which a group is challenged to physically support one another in an endeavour to move from one end of a space to another. It requires working together creatively and strategically in order to solve a practical, physical problem. It tends to emphasize group communication, cooperation, leadership and membership, patience and problem-solving.
Chinese Puzzle (Human Knot)
This is a simple game to help team members learn how to work together (better). It can also focus on the group’s understanding of communication, leadership, problem-solving, trust or persistence. Participants stand in a circle, close their eyes and put their hands into the circle to find two other hands to hold. Then they open their eyes and the group has to try to get back into a circle without letting go, though they can change their grip, of course.
Chinese Puzzle #energiser #icebreaker #team Have your group stand up in a close circle (10 to 16 people is best). They close their eyes put their hands into the circle and find two hands and hold on. Then they open their eyes and the group has to try to get back into a circle without letting go, though they can change their grip, of course.
Leadership activities for better communication
Leaders are usually viewed as the parents of the organization. It is expected from them that they take care of their people and make sure that proper norms and rules are followed. One of the key areas where a leader has a large influence is the style and amount of communication between people.
Active Listening and giving effective feedback are critical skills to have as a leader but are also crucial for your team members. In fact, the issue that leaders rank as one of the biggest barriers to successful leadership is avoiding tough conversations, including giving honest, constructive feedback .
Develop good communication practices with the following leadership games and activities.
This activity supports participants in reflecting on a question and generating their own solutions using simple principles of active listening and peer coaching. It’s an excellent introduction to active listening but can also be used with groups that are already familiar with this activity. Participants work in groups of three and take turns being “the subject” who will explore a question, “the listener” who is supposed to be totally focused on the subject, and “the observer” who will watch the dynamic between the other two.
Active Listening #hyperisland #skills #active listening #remote-friendly This activity supports participants to reflect on a question and generate their own solutions using simple principles of active listening and peer coaching. It’s an excellent introduction to active listening but can also be used with groups that are already familiar with it. Participants work in groups of three and take turns being: “the subject”, the listener, and the observer.
Every time you work together with someone, your trust battery – the trust you have towards a certain person, or the ‘emotional credit’ that person has in your eyes – either charges or depletes based on things like whether you deliver on what you promise and the social interaction you exhibit. A low trust battery is the core of many personal issues at the workplace.
This self-assessment activity allows you and your team members to reflect on the ‘trust battery’ they individually have towards each person on the team and encourages focus on actions that can charge the depleted trust batteries. It also works great when promoting virtual leadership and working with online teams!
Trust Battery #leadership #teamwork #team #remote-friendly This self-assessment activity allows you and your team members to reflect on the ‘trust battery’ they individually have towards each person on the team, and encourages focus on actions that can charge the depleted trust batteries.
Feedback: Start, Stop, Continue
Regular and constructive feedback is one of the most important ingredients for effective teams. Openness creates trust, and trust creates more openness. This is an activity for teams that have worked together for some time and are familiar with giving and receiving feedback. The objective of Start, Stop, Continue is to examine aspects of a situation or develop next steps by polling people on what to start, what to stop and what to continue doing.
For those in charge of online leadership, it’s vital to find ways of having difficult conversations in constructive ways virtually – try this method when working to resolve issues with your distributed team!
Feedback: Start, Stop, Continue #hyperisland #skills #feedback #remote-friendly Regular, effective feedback is one of the most important ingredients in building constructive relationships and thriving teams. Openness creates trust and trust creates more openness. Feedback exercises aim to support groups to build trust and openness and for individuals to gain self-awareness and insight. Feedback exercises should always be conducted with thoughtfulness and high awareness of group dynamics. This is an exercise for groups or teams that have worked together for some time and are familiar with giving and receiving feedback. It uses the words “stop”, “start” and “continue” to guide the feedback messages.
All leaders know the value of structured and considered reflection. Teams that take the time to reflect and improve are those that can grow and by creating an environment of reflection, team leaders and managers can help their group move forward together. This method is effective for both offline and virtual leadership development. It helps a group progress from individual reflection through to full group discussion in a way that encourages constructive thought and minimizes potential frustration or antagonistic conversation.
Reflection: Team #hyperisland #team #remote-friendly The purpose of reflecting as a team is for members to express thoughts, feelings and opinions about a shared experience, to build openness and trust in the team, and to draw out key learnings and insights to take forward into subsequent experiences. Team members generally sit in a circle, reflecting first as individuals, sharing those reflections with the group, then discussing the insights and potential actions to take out of the session. Use this session one or more times throughout a project or program.
Leadership activities for resolving team conflicts
One of the most important leadership skills you’ll want to develop is the ability to mediate and resolve team conflicts. Even the most connected and effective teams can run into conflict and it will fall to managers and team leaders to help get things back on track.
Even for established leaders, navigating conflict can be difficult! These leadership development activities are designed to help groups manage and resolve conflicts more effectively.
Giving leaders a framework they can trust and use with their team right away is always a good use of time, and we’d recommend teaching these methods to all new leaders!
What, So What, Now What?
It’s easy to get lost in the woods when it comes to managing conflict. Helping a group see what happened objectively and without judgment is an important leadership skill, and this framework helps make this process easy.
Start by working with the group to collect facts about what happened before moving towards making sense of them. Once everywhere has been heard and given space to process these facts, you can then move towards suggesting practical actions. By following this kind of framework, you can manage a conflict in a pragmatic way that also ensures everyone in a group can contribute.
W³ – What, So What, Now What? #issue analysis #innovation #liberating structures You can help groups reflect on a shared experience in a way that builds understanding and spurs coordinated action while avoiding unproductive conflict. It is possible for every voice to be heard while simultaneously sifting for insights and shaping new direction. Progressing in stages makes this practical—from collecting facts about What Happened to making sense of these facts with So What and finally to what actions logically follow with Now What . The shared progression eliminates most of the misunderstandings that otherwise fuel disagreements about what to do. Voila!
All of us can be guilty of handling conflicts in a less than ideal manner. Part of developing as a leader is identifying when something didn’t go well before finding ways to do things better next time.
In this leadership activity, ask the group to provide examples of previous conflicts and then reflect on how they handled them. Next, ask everyone to reflect on how they might change their behavior for a better outcome in the future. As a leader, use this opportunity to lead the way and be honest and vulnerable. It’s your role to provide a model for interaction and its always worthwhile to see how you can do better as a people manager dealing with conflict too!
Conflict Responses #hyperisland #team #issue resolution A workshop for a team to reflect on past conflicts, and use them to generate guidelines for effective conflict handling. The workshop uses the Thomas-Killman model of conflict responses to frame a reflective discussion. Use it to open up a discussion around conflict with a team.
Bright Blurry Blind
Finding opportunities to reframe conflict as an opportunity to solve problems and create clarity is a very useful leadership quality. Often, conflict is a signifier of a deeper problem and so finding ways to surface and work on these issues as a team is a great way to move forward and bring a group together too.
In this leadership activity, start by asking the group to reflect on the central metaphor of bright to blind issues or topics, based on whether the problem is out in the open or unknown. Next, invite small groups to ideate on what issues facing the team are bright, blurry, or blind and then discuss them as a group. By working together to illuminate what is blurry or blind, you can create a one-team mentality and start resolving problems that can lead to conflict too.
Bright Blurry Blind #communication #collaboration #problem identification #issue analysis This is an exercise for creating a sense of community, support intra and inter departmental communication and breakdown of “Silos” within organizations. It allows participants to openly speak about current issues within the team and organization.
The Art of Effective Feedback Workshop
All leaders will need to give effective feedback in order to help their team develop and do great work. The best leaders also solicit feedback from their direct reports and use this is an opportunity to grow. But how can you teach these feedback skills and help leaders develop this important skill?
Check out our Effective Feedback Workshop template for a complete agenda you can use to develop this leadership skill. You’ll find a ready-to-go workshop with a guide and PowerPoint presentation you can use to help anyone in a leadership role give and receive better feedback.
Leadership games for developing leadership skills
When it comes to developing leadership skills, you can go the obvious route of training courses, books and development programs. These work and you should absolutely use them.
But what if you want to try identifying future leaders in a more light touch, experiential way? How about if you want to help teams develop skills in leadership while also having fun? These leadership games are ideal for identifying and growing leadership skills among team members and are often a lot of fun too!
Blind Square Rope Game
This activity is a tried and tested game that asks teams to communicate well and solve a problem as a team. Not only is this a fun team building activity, but it’s a great way for potential leaders to step up and help their team win! Start by tying a length of rope into a circle and then instruct participants they will have 20 minutes to turn it into a square, with fifteen minutes to plan their actions and five minutes to implement. Here’s the catch – no one may touch the rope until you begin, and every team member is blindfolded during implementation. This is an effective leadership game that is great with both small groups and larger teams separated into breakouts.
Blind Square – Rope game #teamwork #communication #teambuilding #team #energiser #thiagi #outdoor This is an activity that I use in almost every teambuilding session I run–because it delivers results every time. I can take no credit for its invention since it has existed from long before my time, in various forms and with a variety of names (such as Blind Polygon). The activity can be frontloaded to focus on particular issues by changing a few parameters or altering the instructions.
Tower of Power
All leaders need to work closely with other members of their organization in order to succeed. This leadership game encourages groups to work together in order to build a tower with specific (and sometimes tricky!) rules before than reflecting on what worked, what didn’t and what they would do next time.
It’s a wonderful activity for leadership training, as it provides an experiential way to explore leadership concepts, all wrapped in a fun game!
Tower of Power #team #teamwork #communication #leadership #teambuilding #skills This teamwork activity requires participants to work closely together to build a tower from a set of building blocks. The players need to coordinate their actions in order to be able to move the wooden blocks with the crane they have, and this can only be solved by precise planning, good communication and well-organised teamwork. You may use this exercise to emphasise the following themes and outcomes: In Leadership training : identifying interdependencies in systems, leadership communication, dealing with risk, giving feedback In Team building : communicating effectively, cooperating, being an active listener, maintaining the balance, working with values In Project management : simulating strategic planning, working under time pressure In Communication training : meta communication, facilitating, dealing with different perspectives
When teams work together well, something magic happens. But what elements constitute a high performing team? As a leader, how can you help ensure those conditions are met? In this leadership game, participants must work together to get every team member across an obstacle while blindfolded.
It’s a simple concept that creates a perfect space for exploring how teams operate and the role leaders have within them. Bring plenty of fun obstacles (squeaky toys are best) and encourage groups to think strategically for best results!
Minefield #teampedia #teamwork #action #team #icebreaker A fun activity that helps participants working together as a team while teaching the importance of communication, strategy and trust.
Workshop design made easy
Designing and running effective workshops and meetings is an important leadership skill; whether it’s staying organized and on time during your daily stand-ups or planning more involved sessions.
With SessionLab, it’s easy to create engaging workshops that create impact while engaging every member of your team. Drag, drop and reorder blocks to build your agenda. When you make changes or update your agenda, your session timing adjusts automatically , saving you time on manual adjustments.
Collaborating with stakeholders or clients? Share your agenda with a single click and collaborate in real-time. No more sending documents back and forth over email.
Explore how you and your team might use SessionLab to design more effective sessions or watch this five minute video to see the planner in action!
Now over to you…
I hope you have found some useful tips for leadership development workshops above. Now we’d love to hear from you!
What are your favorite leadership workshop ideas and training exercises for leadership development? Did you incorporate any of them into your facilitation practice?
Have you tried any of the activities above? Let us know about your experiences in the comments.
Thank you for sharing such great activity ideas. It is greatly appreciated and a perfect example of how the internet can and does serve the greater good!
Thank you, Jeanne! Great to see that you have found some useful ideas here!
Thank you this is very helpful in building new activities and revitalising teaching.
You’re welcome, Christine! Great to see that you’ve found the post helpful!
Thank you for the magnanimity of sharing these activities. We will choose and run and I am sure they will be very effective.
You are welcome, Roofi – enjoy using these activities at your sessions!
Thank you for sharing such great activity ideas. I will use in my leadership training programme
You are welcome man, happy to see that you’ve found some useful inspiration in this post!
Awesome resources for leadership coaching. Thank you so much! Cheers Marion (From Australia)
You’re welcome, Marion! I’m happy to hear you’ve found interesting the techniques above :-)
Thank you so much . I am really having a hard time thinking about what activities to include for my leadership training talk . This is of great help .
That’s nice to hear – I hope your training talk with go great! :-)
These exercises sound great. Does anyone have any feedback as to how these exercises have worked with their teams? Thanks!
Thank you for the question, Jennifer. We’ve used some of these activities at our own team meetings at SessionLab, and I’ve used other ones earlier on at different training workshops. Which one would you be interested to hear more about?
Thank you for these activities, I have used some of them already in my classes when teaching about leadership and leadership styles. Köszönöm!
That’s great to hear, you’re welcome, Réka! If you have any suggestion on how to tweak or run better these activities, we’d love to hear your thoughts :-)
Thank you for these activities. I was struggling to find activities to work on with groups as small as 1-5, but this should work well.
You’re welcome, Albert – Indeed, most of these activities do work well in small groups as well. Wishing best with your next sessions!
wow! this great! very helpful for trainers like me…. thanks you for sharing …
You’re welcome, I’m happy you’ve found these activities useful!
Hi I am trying to find an online simulation for a course I am designing for a college in Ontario, Canada. I am hoping to find something like your Leadership Envelope but in a virtual format or game. The ’rounds’ aspect is particularly interesting as I would like the students to work with one team over 14 weeks and then submit assigned work based on their experiences related to the course concepts.
Please let me know if you provide something like this or can help in any way.
Hey Rick! Thanks for your comment :)
Leadership Envelope is a great method! Sadly, there’s nothing quite like it in our remote-friendly section of the library currently, though there are a heap of virtual team building activities that could be adapted to go for multiple rounds.
We did have some thoughts on how you might perform the Leadership Envelope in a remote format, which I hope will help!
– Use breakout groups in Zoom for each group. – Have each team pass their virtual “envelope” with responses to the facilitator, either over Slack, PM or email – The facilitator then “passes” the leadership principle to the next team, though keeps the responses back – Play continues, with the facilitator collecting the responses under each leadership principle for later distribution – we’d recommend setting these up in an online whiteboard such as Mural or a Google Doc so teams can review them during the evaluation round – In the evaluation round, share the online whiteboard/Google Doc with the teams – they can then score them in the shared online space and present back to the group from there :) – For the final round, everyone returns to a single Zoom session, each team reclaims their cards (or the facilitator can distribute them back) and then you can debrief :)
Hope that helps, Rick! Using a shared online space such as Mural is also a great shout for an ongoing course, as you can collect and display artifacts generated by the teams throughout :)
Let us know how you get on!
Thank you for having the time and effort on sharing this amazing blog with us! I’ll probably read more of your articles.
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83 Leadership Activities, Building Games, and Exercises
Leadership activities are associated with benefits to business, including increased performance and productivity.
However, perhaps the sign of a truly successful leader is a happy, healthy workplace. Interested in what leadership activities can do for your workplace or school? Read on.
With the activities below, there may be some overlap with activities found under certain headings – for example, activities suitable for adults may also be useful for groups, or with employees.
Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Positive Leadership Exercises for free . These detailed, science-based exercises will help you or others adopt positive leadership practices and help organizations thrive.
This Article Contains:
What are leadership activities, what are they used for, 8 examples of leadership activities, 4 leadership workshop ideas, 2 activities that showcase different leadership styles, 3 situational leadership activities and scenarios, 8 games and activities for kids to learn leadership skills, 6 leadership development activities for teens and youth (pdf), 3 classroom leadership activities for students in elementary and middle school, 6 leadership activities and games for high school students, 3 activities and exercises for college students (pdf), 7 leadership games and activities for adults, 5 leadership group and team activities, 8 leadership training activities for employees, 5 leadership building exercises for managers, 11 leadership exercises for team building in the workplace, a take-home message.
Increasingly, people are assuming positions of leadership in the workplace (Cserti, 2018). However, the journey to becoming a leader is lengthy (Cserti, 2018). Leadership activities are valuable on the journey to becoming an effective leader , and also develop confidence in leadership teams (Cserti, 2018; Stepshift, 2016).
Leadership activities may be conducted on or off site, and be physical or sedentary (Stepshift, 2016). Leadership activities can either be performed by a leader in their own team, or with an external facilitator (Cserti, 2018). They may take the form of specially organized themed events, such as scavenger hunts (Stepshift, 2016). Or, they may be smaller, office-based tasks built into an ordinary workday.
For example, leadership activities could consist of meeting openers or conference break activities (Stepshift, 2016).
Leadership activities can be an effective way for individuals to practice and strengthen their leadership and team-building skills (Cserti, 2018). They can also be fun!
The structure of leadership activities is essential. It is important that the participants can relate the activity to the workplace setting (Stepshift, 2016).
The working style, principles, and values of a leader is a crucial aspect in determining the behavior within an organization (Cserti, 2018). Leadership training can help leaders become role-models (Cserti, 2018). The behavior of leaders and what they consider the “norm” determines which behaviors are enforced and those which are punished (Cserti, 2018).
Given the importance of a leader’s behavior, it is also essential that they learn skills, such as:
Leaders need to develop the ability to clearly, succinctly explain to employees everything from the goals of a company to the details of specific work-tasks (Doyle, 2019). Many components are important for effective communication , including active listening, reading body language and written communication such as emails (Doyle, 2019).
Leaders need to inspire employees. They may do this by increasing worker’s self-esteem , by recognizing effort and achievement, or by giving a worker new responsibilities to further their investment in the business (Doyle, 2019).
Leaders can achieve this by identifying the skills that workers have, and as such assign tasks to each worker based on the skills they have (Doyle, 2019).
Being positive helps develop a happy , healthy work environment, even when the workplace is busy or stressful (Doyle, 2019).
By demonstrating integrity , workers will feel at ease to approach their leader with questions or concerns (Doyle, 2019). Building trust is one of the most essential leadership skills.
Good leaders are willing to try novel solutions or to approach problems in a non-traditional way (Doyle, 2019).
Leaders are constantly on the lookout for opportunities to provide team members with information about their performance, without ‘micromanaging’ their work (Doyle, 2019).
A good leader accepts mistakes or failures and instead look for solutions for improvement of a situation (Doyle, 2019). This skill also includes being reflective and being open to feedback (Doyle, 2019).
A leader should strive to follow through with everything that they agree to do (Doyle, 2019). It also involves applying appropriate feedback and keeping promises (Doyle, 2019).
Leaders need to be able to accept changes and creatively problem-solve, as well as being open to suggestions and feedback (Doyle, 2019).
While these skills are explained in a workplace context, they can easily be applied to other leadership situations such as sports or community groups.
Now that you have more clarity as to what leadership activities are, and what they are used for, let us look at a wide selection of activities. While some of the activities and games may not immediately appear to be ‘leadership activities,’ the chosen activities might develop and promote the leadership skills outlined above.
Here are eight such activities:
- Sports Sports provide the experience of being a team member and developing leadership skills (Flavin, 2018).
- Cross-cultural experience Experiences with a different culture provide new, potentially uncomfortable situations and help develop communication skills that may not be learned elsewhere (Flavin, 2018). Overseas travel, or working with a different cultural group within your community can provide an opportunity to learn new skills, or may involve barriers that must be overcome – all teaching leadership (Flavin, 2018).
- Social groups Involvement in social activities helps potential leaders develop a well-rounded, confident personality which enhances their capacity to lead a team (Flavin, 2018).
- Internships Taking an internship position demonstrates initiative in finding opportunities to learn and seeking practical work – valuable skills in leadership (Flavin, 2018).
- Volunteering As well as showing ambition, volunteering shows that you are willing to commit yourself to something that you are passionate about (Flavin, 2018).
- Student government and organizations Specifically considering students, being involved in co-curricular organizations help individuals develop leadership (Flavin, 2018). Being involved in student government or organizations can provide opportunities to demonstrate leadership and have an impact on those around you (Flavin, 2018).
- ‘Passion projects’ Showing commitment to a passion for better communities; for example, mentoring shows that you are likely to focus on the greater good for a team (Flavin, 2018).
- ‘Teamwork’ This can be anything at all, from helping out with planning a family event or participating in a volunteer day, will demonstrate and develop leadership skills (Flavin, 2018).
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Effective leaders are aware that continuing professional and personal development is the key to ongoing success (Higgins, 2018). As such, they recognize that leadership workshops are important (Higgins, 2018). What activities can be used in such a workshop?
Here are four suggestions:
Idea 1: ‘Tallest Tower’ (from Stepshift, 2016)
Participants are provided with everyday items such as toothpicks, wooden blocks, uncooked pasta and so on. The task is to build the tallest possible free-standing structure from the materials provided. This activity is designed to encourage creative problem-solving and developing collaboration skills.
Idea 2: ‘Centre Stage’ (from Higgins, 2018)
Select four team members as volunteers. One team member plays the role of an employee who has missed meetings or been late to work in recent times. Each of the other three participants demonstrates a different style of leader (to save time, nominate the particular personality trait). Ask all participants to form a circle, and put two chairs in the middle of the circle.
After each demonstration of how to deal with the employee, ask the whole group to reflect on the different leadership approaches. For example, the group could consider what worked and what did not. Finally, to conclude this activity, ask the group to consider what the ‘ideal’ leader would do in the scenario.
Idea 3: ‘Minefield’ (from Stepshift, 2016)
This activity helps build trust and improve communication skills. It involves participants working in pairs, with one team member being blindfolded. Then, using only specified communication techniques, the pair negotiate their way around or over a ‘minefield’ of obstacles.
So, for example, the participants may be told they are only able to use commands such as the words ‘left’ or ‘right,’ ‘forwards’ or ‘backwards.’ The aim is to help the blindfolded team member to navigate the ‘minefield’.
Idea 4: ‘Magic Carpet’ (from Higgins, 2018)
Provide a small tarp or rug, which has enough room for all workshop participants to stand within its boundaries. Then, inform the group that their task is to work together to flip the rug or tarp over without any participant stepping off. If (or when) a participant steps off the teams have discussed all of the paragraphs or tarp, the team must begin again.
These are: autocratic (also known as authoritarian), delegative (also called ‘free reign)’ and democratic (which is also called participative) (Clark, 2015; Johnson-Gerard, 2017).
An autocratic leader makes decisions without first consulting others, while a delegative leader allows the staff to make the decisions (Johnson-Gerard, 2017). Finally, a democratic leader consults with the staff in making workplace decisions (Johnson-Gerard, 2017).
Here is an excellent resource for exploring different leadership styles.
The workbook also provides some helpful worksheets.
The following two activities help participants think more deeply about styles of leadership. The group should be divided into small groups of 3 – 4 participants. The participants work in groups for the first activity, and then they work individually on the second activity.
Activity One (Clark, 2015)
Provide a list of approximately 10 – 12 scenarios displaying the three different leadership styles. For example, “a new supervisor has just been put in charge of the production line. He immediately starts by telling the crew what change needs to be made. When some suggestions are made, he tells them he does not have time to consider them”.
The group then works together to figure out which leadership style is used in each scenario and to talk about whether it is effective, or if a different style could work better.
Encourage participants to think about themselves in a similar situation and their reaction to the particular leadership style.
Activity Two (Clark, 2015)
Provide participants with the statement ‘consider a time when you, or another leader, used the authoritarian (autocratic), participative (democratic) or delegative (free reign) style of leadership’.
Ask participants to reflect on the statement and make a few comments, such as: was it effective? Would a different leadership style have worked better? What were the employees’ experiences? Did they learn from the leadership style? What was it they learned? Which style is easiest to use (and why)? Alternatively, nominate the style which the participant prefers (and why).
To conclude these two activities, come together as a whole group and discuss what was learned about the three styles of leadership.
Leadership building activities – Project management training – ProjectManager
Situational leadership is when a leader is flexible in their approach and uses different leadership strategies depending on the situation (Johnson-Gerard, 2017). The following three games, from Johnson-Gerard (2017) provide an opportunity to explore situational leadership:
1. ‘Jumping Ship’
The aim of this game is for participants to reflect upon different leadership styles and come up with a list of actual workplace scenarios which would need a leader to abandon a natural leadership style for one that is more effective (i.e., to ‘jump ship’).
Each group is given three large pieces of paper. Ask the teams to write one style of leadership on each (i.e., autocratic, delegative, democratic). Then, allow the groups 45 minutes to come up with real work situations for which employing the particular leadership style would be disastrous.
Ask the groups to place the sheets of paper up on the wall, and to discuss the sheets as a team. As a whole group, review the posters.
2. ‘Who Ya Gonna Call’
Each participant begins by writing a one-paragraph description of a work situation that is not going well. Collect these, and at the top of each page, number them in consecutive order. Then, divide the participants into two teams.
Give each team half of the paragraphs. Then, ask the teams to choose the style of leadership that would be the least and the most effective in solving the problem. Have the teams note their answers on a piece of paper, being sure to identify the paragraph number on the top of each page, and their choices.
Then, ask the teams to swap paragraphs and repeat the activity.
When the teams have discussed all the paragraphs, discuss the scenarios and review the choices as a group. Where the team’s choices are different, discuss as a group.
3. ‘Ducks in a Row’
This particular activity enables participants to devise a 3-to-5 step decision-making process they can use when challenging leadership situations occur.
Ask participants to form pairs. Then, ask them to come up with the steps that an effective leader goes through in order to work out how to manage a difficult situation. After about 30 minutes, ask each pair to review the steps they have come up with for the group, and to write them on a large piece of paper.
Ask every pair to review their process, and after all the pairs have done so, have a group discussion that enables a consensus to be reached about the three to five most effective steps to take in a difficult leadership situation.
Edsys (2016) provides eight suggested activities for children to learn leadership skills:
1. ‘Create a New You’
Provide children with materials such as textas, crayons, poster/construction paper, magazines, and scissors. Then, ask them to draw themselves, using things that clearly show that the picture is theirs – such as using cut-outs of their most favorite things to do, foods they like, pets, and whatever else makes them unique.
Once the children have finished their posters, they can show their completed work to the other children – helping kids to improve their confidence to lead.
2. ‘Same or Different’
The children sit in a circle. Ask the first child to point to another child in the circle who is similar to them, either in appearance, hair-style or clothing color. Then, when the child has chosen someone, ask them to note other differences and similarities they have with the child they have chosen.
3. ‘Move the Egg’
Ask children to form groups of four or five. Then, have the children select a leader for their team. Each participant is given a spoon and an egg. The leader has the task of finding an effective way to move the eggs from one point to another. For example, one option may be for children to form a line to pass each egg along.
Another leader may suggest forgetting about the spoons altogether and merely tell their group to make a run for it. The winner of the game is the group that can get their egg safely across the finish in the most creative way.
4. ‘Lead the Blindfolded’
This game requires a large indoor or outdoor area. Divide the children into two groups and give them enough blindfolds for everyone except one member to put on. The teams are placed at opposite sides of the space. The child who is not blindfolded is required to lead their team to the other side of the designated space, using clear commands.
Ensure that each member of the team has an opportunity to lead their team. The winner is the team that sees its members successfully cross the finish line.
5. ‘Charity Support’
Help children support a charity by organizing a fundraiser. Each child can have a different task. For example, one child may select the charity, another may find a suitable space to hold the fundraising activity, and another child can collect donations.
6. ‘Planning Strategies’
Teach children to divide a large task into smaller steps. Set the children a large task, such as holding a class function. Show the children a plan that enables them to achieve the task step by step. This activity can involve a number of children sharing tasks. Suggest to the children how they may be able to improve.
7. ‘Volunteer Roles’
Volunteering plays a role in leadership. Discuss with children how they would like to help someone in need. Older children may be interested in taking a role in an organization in their community. The children should be helped to select a volunteer opportunity that gives them a chance to practice leadership and work with other children.
8. ‘A Quick Quiz’
In this task, ask students to be prepared to evaluate an experience when it is over. Then, after the experience, ask the child questions. For example, inquire “Do you remember the name of the dog we saw?”, “What was it?”, “Did you touch the dog?”, “What is the owner’s name?” and so on.
This is an excellent introduction to leadership for kids in grades 4 – 6 (children aged approximately 9 – 12 years).
The following resources are appropriate for helping teens and youth to develop leadership:
1. “Leaders are, can, and think”
This looks at what a leader is, and what their role can and should be.
2. “Who do you admire and why?”
This worksheet examines leadership role models and the qualities we see in them that we want to develop in ourselves.
3. “4 Ways leaders approach tasks: Leaders Motivation”
This handout focuses on leadership attitude.
4. “Lesson Planet”
Links to 45+ reviewed resources for teen leadership which can be accessed free by registering your details.
5. The Women’s Learning Partnership
This partnership has created a comprehensive manual for promoting leadership for teens aged 13 – 17 years. The manual outlines a number of sessions which guide leadership development activities.
6. “I Care Values Activity”
This is a fun, engaging and introspective activity . It is suitable for students aged 13 and upwards, so it can be used with older students or adults too.
Examples of such activities are:
1. ‘Just Listen’ (Edsys, 2016)
Make an agreement that you and the student(s) will refrain from talking about yourselves for a whole day. Ask them, rather, to listen to others, and if they do talk to another person, it should be about the person whom they are talking to. This game helps children to learn how important it is to focus on other people rather than themselves, which forms the basis of ‘relational leadership’.
2. Silence Classroom Leadership Game (Stapleton, 2018).
To begin the activity, the teacher divides students into two teams, and the teams move to either side of the classroom. The desks may be pushed aside to create more space. The teacher instructs the students to, for example, ‘line up according to the first letter of your surname’ or ‘arrange yourselves into age order by the month your birthday is in’. The students then follow the directions without speaking a word to one another.
Students are permitted to use hand signals, or even write instructions down on paper. The teacher’s instruction to the students is that they are not allowed to talk. The winning team is the one that completes the task successfully.
3. ‘The Cup Game’ (Tony, 2018)
Divide students into pairs and select one student to be the leader. Each team should face each other standing up, with a plastic cup in the middle. The leader calls out simple directions, such as ‘touch your knee’, ‘close one eye’ and so on.
When the leader calls out “cup” the students should try and be the first to grab the cup. The player who successfully grabs the cup should pair up with another player who also got the cup. Those without a cup sit down and watch.
Once the new teams of two have formed, the cup is put in between the players and the game begins again. This process continues until only one person is left standing – and the resulting winner becomes the new leader… and play can begin all over again.
By high school, students are more sophisticated. Here are some interesting activities for high school students to develop leadership.
1. Brainstorming for change (Stapleton, 2018)
The teacher puts students into groups of 4 or 5. The goal is for students to come up with possible solutions to social, political or economic problems. Working together, students brainstorm both small- and large-scale solutions to a given problem topic.
Once the groups have finalized their list of detailed solutions, the teacher facilitates a discussion with the whole class, and together they examine which of the identified solutions could be a viable option and why.
2. Leadership characteristics (Stapleton, 2018)
The teacher puts students into pairs or groups of three. Then, each group member shares a story about someone whom they consider to be an influential leader. After each story has been shared, students discuss the characteristics that they think made the person in the story an effective leader.
Once each student has shared a story, students compile a list of all the characteristics of an influential leader they identified. Post these characteristics on the walls around the classroom.
3. Blindfold leader game (Stapleton, 2018)
The teacher arranges the students into a single line, and comes up with a starting point and finishing point. Then, the teacher places a blindfold on every student except for the student who is at the front of the line.
The teacher tells each student to put their left hand on the left shoulder of the person in front of them. Next, the teacher says “go”. The aim is for the leader (who is not blindfolded) to walk towards the finishing point, providing instructions to students behind, who are blindfolded.
An extra challenging game sees the teacher putting obstacles in the path – the leader must direct followers on how to avoid the obstacles and successfully reach the finish line. When this goal is achieved, a different student takes a turn of being the leader.
4. Buckets and balls (Cohen, 2017)
This game aims to move all the balls from one box to another. The catch is, team members cannot use their hands or arms. In equal-sized teams, players choose one ‘handler’ per team. This is the only person who can touch the balls with their hands.
The handler must remain behind the start line throughout the game. Team members attempt to get balls from their bucket at the finish line, and get them to the team’s handler without the ball touching their hands or arms.
The handler places the balls into the empty bucket at the start line. If a team member touches the ball, they are disqualified and can no longer participate. Give teams a 5-minute time limit. All teams play at the same time, and the team that has the most balls in the handler’s bucket at the end of the game wins.
5. Team jigsaw (Cohen, 2017)
Two teams have to complete a jigsaw puzzle within a 20 – 30-minute time limit. Give each team a box containing a puzzle. At first, A body will assume that their task is to complete the puzzle. As they work on it, however, teams will realize that the puzzle is missing some of its pieces and has some additional pieces that do not fit their puzzle.
Teams then have the task to communicate with one another, and they will eventually realize that they need to work together to complete the puzzle. Teams are only allowed to exchange pieces of the puzzle one at a time.
6. ‘Sneak-a-peak’ (Cohen, 2017)
Divide participants into two teams. Build a structure out of Lego. Make it complicated, but able to be replicated. Ensure that there is sufficient Lego left to build two similar copies of the structure.
Make sure that this structure is kept out of eyesight.
A player from each team is allowed to see the structure for 10 seconds. Then, the players will return to their respective teams and have 25 seconds in which to give his/her team instruction as to how to build the structure. Then, the teams have 1 minute to build the structure.
When that minute is up, another team member takes a look at the structure for 10 seconds and has a further 25 seconds to deliver their instructions to their team.
This process continues until all the team members have had a chance to examine the structure and provide instructions. The team that successfully built the structure is the winner.
- “ The Leadership Training Activity Book ” by Lois. B. Hart and Charlotte S. Waisman (2005) contains 50 handouts for leadership activities that would be suitable for college students. Find it on Amazon .
- This resource provides helpful leadership tip sheets that are suitable for college students. Examples of tip sheets are “ten keys to effective listening” and “basic confrontation guidelines”.
- Another valuable resource that can be used to develop team-building – an aspect of leadership.
A wide range of leadership activities are suitable for adults:
1. The Marshmallow Challenge
In this activity , teams use spaghetti sticks, tape and string to construct the tallest free-standing structure. They are given one marshmallow, which must be placed at the top of the structure. Devised by Tom Wujec.
2. ‘Stand up’ (Landau, 2018)
This game is convenient in that it requires no materials. It involves two people. They sit on the floor, facing one another. They hold hands, and the soles of their feet are placed together. Then, the task is for both people to stand up at the same time. This game builds trust and teamwork, and also develops skills in problem solving and collaboration.
3. Zoom (Stepshift, 2016)
A set of randomly provided sequential pictures are given to the participants. The task requires participants to put the pictures in the correct order to recreate the story, without knowing which pictures the other participants have. This activity can be an effective way to improve communication, patience, and tolerance.
4. ‘You’re a Poet’ (Landau, 2018)
To harness creativity and reflect on leadership concepts, one activity for adults is to write a poem. This activity can be done individually or in small groups. The aim is to consider leadership in creative ways to find new perspectives.
5. ‘Leadership Pizza’ (Cserti, 2018)
This activity can help adults develop leadership. It does so by providing a self-assessment tool. People begin by identifying the skills, attitudes, and attributes that they consider being important for successful leadership. The individual then rates their own development in the defined areas. The framework can also provide a helpful tool in assisting adults in identifying their leadership development goals in a coaching session.
6. Leadership advice from your role model (Cserti, 2018)
Each participant considers a role model who they admire. They then think about a young person they know. If the young person was to ask the role model for leadership advice, what kind of advice would the role model give?
In groups, discuss and share the sort of advice identified and talk about contradicting points and how they can be reconciled. This sharing discussion may be a practical introduction to the idea of situational leadership.
7. ‘Crocodile River’ (Cserti, 2018)
This outdoor activity challenges a group to physically provide support to the group members’ behavior move from one end of a designated space to the other.
Participants are told to pretend that the whole team must cross a wide river which contains dangerous crocodiles. Magic stones (which are represented by wooden planks) provide the only supports to be used to cross the river (which has ‘banks’ that are marked out by two ropes).
These ‘stones’ only float on the water if there is constant body contact. These ‘stones’ (i.e., the wooden planks) are placed next to the ‘river bank’ – there should be one less plank than the total number of participants. As part of the game, if a participant’s hand or foot touches the ‘water’, it will be bitten off (if this happens during the challenge, the participant must hold the hand behind their back).
The facilitator then pretends to be the ‘crocodile’, keeping a close eye on the group as they attempt to cross the river. When one of the stones (the planks) is not in body contact, it is removed. When participants mistakenly touch the ground with their hands or feet, tell them that the limb has therefore been bitten off and the player must continue without using it.
This activity continues until the group succeeds in getting all group members to the other side of the ‘river’. If anyone falls in, the group is deemed to have failed, and they must begin the river crossing attempt again.
1. ‘Feedback: Start, Stop, Continue’ (Cserti, 2018)
Openness creates trust, which then promotes further openness. This activity is designed to be used by a group that has spent sufficient time together in order to have a range of shared experiences they can draw from when they are providing feedback.
Each participant takes a post-it and writes the name of the person who they are addressing on it. Then, they write on the post-it:
“To…. Something I would like you to START doing is…. something I would like you to STOP doing is…. something I would like you to CONTINUE doing is……Signed: ___________”
In groups of around 4 to 6 people, participants complete these sentences on one post-it for the other participants in their group.
If they cannot think of relevant feedback for one of the prompts (i.e., start, stop, continue), they do not need to include it. Once the group has finished writing, they provide the feedback verbally, one at a time, and afterward hand the post-it to the relevant person.
2. Round Tables (Stepshift, 2016)
Four tables are set up with different tasks. Each task has separate steps that participants can be responsible for carrying out. The group select a team member, who is only allowed to communicate and delegate tasks but not take a part in the task. Each table is timed to record how long the task takes to be completed. Round Tables improves leadership and delegation skills.
3. ‘Pass the hoop’ (Landau, 2018)
This game requires participants to stand in a circle and hold hands. One person in the group has a hula hoop around their arm. The game aims to pass the hula hoop the whole way around the circle.
As well as promoting teamwork and problem-solving, this game develops communication skills. Being able to communicate effectively is a crucial skill for any successful leader to have.
4. ‘Improv night’ (Landau, 2018)
One key responsibility of the leader of a team is to encourage team bonding. One way to facilitate bonding is improvisation. ‘Improv’ develops skills in communication – helping teams to listen and pay attention. It also builds self-awareness, self-confidence, and creativity.
Arrange the group into ‘audience’ and ‘performers’. Then, members of the audience take turns in calling out the specified location, profession, and scenario (e.g., coffeehouse, cop, and purchasing a donut). Chosen suggestions are fun and should promote creativity.
5. ‘Shape-Shifting’ (Landau, 2018)
This game requires a rope that is tied at both ends to form a loop. The loop needs to be big enough for all group members to hold onto with both hands as they stand in a circle. The group is instructed to make a chosen shape (e.g., circle, square, triangle). The group attempts to create the shape on the floor.
Progressively, ask the group to make more complex shapes – e.g., a dog, or a tree. To add another layer of difficulty, instruct the team to communicate without talking – i.e., to rely on hand gestures. Afterward, have the group reflect on their experience and discuss the importance of communication.
Leadership is an integral feature of any workplace. Here are some activities to promote leadership in employees:
1. Your favorite manager (Cserti, 2018)
To begin this activity, employees individually take the role of three different people and brainstorm the particular behaviors that each person’s most favorite and least favorite managers demonstrate, from the chosen person’s perspective. After the employees have had the chance to reflect, the participants compare their list of behaviors – in pairs, and then subsequently, in groups.
The teams then prepare a list of ‘dos and don’ts’ for developing better employee perceptions of the leader’s style.
2. Explore your values (Cserti, 2018)
The values of a leader are reflected in their organization. In this activity, each participant writes ten things that they value most in their lives, each one on a post-it. Then, ask the employees to spread the Post-its in a way in which they can see them all clearly. Then, explain to them that they will have 30 seconds to select the three Post-its that are of least importance to them.
It is essential to time strictly, so that the participants rely on their gut feelings.
Repeat the process, this time allowing participants to have 20 seconds to discard two more values. Finally, give the participants a further 20 seconds to throw another two away. Participants should have three Post-its in front of them, showing their top three important values.
Following the activity, have participants reflect individually for about 15 minutes about what was found, and then to discuss reflection questions in pairs or groups of three.
Because this activity is done quickly, participants are encouraged to follow their own intuition – rather than over-thinking and finding what they perceive to be the ‘right’ values.
3. ‘Leadership Coat of Arms’ (Cserti, 2018; Landau, 2018).
Each leader has their own values and the things that they consider valuable and important. These values guide the behavior of the leader and make up a person’s unique leadership philosophy.
This activity sees participants drawing their own ‘leadership coat of arms’ embodying their leadership philosophy.
Individuals have 10 – 15 minutes to draw their coat of arms. They can divide the coat of arms (or ‘crest’) into four sections. To fill each section, consider the categories of leadership skills, values that help influence others, recent achievements/accomplishments and what you like most about your current work.
They should be encouraged not to be overly concerned with how visually appealing their picture is but rather that it expressed what they personally believe to be important aspects of a leader.
Once the drawings are complete, the participants can show their drawings to the others in the group and explain their unique coat of arms. It is also helpful to reflect on the activity – consider which section was easiest to complete and whether your crest reflects your company’s values.
4. Communication: Coach the Builder (Goyette, 2016)
Divide employees into groups of four to seven people. Each group should be given two sets of blocks (such as Lego). Each set should have a minimum of 10 blocks.
Beforehand, you should construct a sample object (e.g., a house) from one of the sets of blocks. In each group, select a leader, a delegator, a builder and a note-taker. The note-taker watches and records the group’s behavior during the task. They take note of what appeared to be done well and how employees could improve.
The leader is given the item that you built – however, they are the only group member to see the object. Set a timer for ten minutes. To begin with, the leader describes to the delegator how the builder should build a replica of the item. However, the delegator does not see the object, and at this stage of the activity, the builder should not hear the instructions.
The delegator can speak with the leader as often as necessary during the 10 minutes. The builder attempts to build the same item that the leader can see. However, they are only relying on the delegator’s instructions. At this stage, the delegator should not see the object that the builder is constructing.
When the time is up, reveal both objects to all participants and see how closely they match. Finally, to wrap up the activity, employees can discuss what was either frustrating or easy about the process and discuss how they may do things differently in order to achieve better results.
5. Accountability (Goyette, 2016)
Begin a meeting by saying to the group – “the seating arrangement is totally wrong for today’s meeting. You have 60 seconds to improve it”. If the employees ask further questions, only repeat the instructions. While some employees may continue asking questions, others may start moving the furniture around straight away. Observe the team and what they do without giving any further information, feedback, or instructions.
After 1 minute, let the employees know to stop. Then, ask them whether the objective was achieved, and how. Discuss with employees how and why a lack of clarity makes it challenging to complete a task.
Then, discuss who asked for clarification and how they felt when the leader refused to give further details. Use this opportunity to highlight to employees how if they fail to ask questions, and when the person in charge of a project doesn’t provide the necessary clarification, the whole team is at risk of making mistakes or even not completing a task.
Finally, ask how the time pressure affected behavior. Discuss how employees may be more likely to respond to pressure, or stress, by taking action without first confirming a plan and the significant problems this approach can lead to.
6. The “what if” game (Deputy, 2018)
Present different hypothetical problematic scenarios to employees. Either individually or by providing a document that requires written answers, present situations such as “you didn’t follow the rules, and subsequently lost an important client. You have lost a lot of money for the company. How do you justify this? What is your solution?”.
The questions only need to be rough, and employees should only receive a short time with which to think of their responses. If there is a particularly challenging question, provide a time limit of five minutes.
7. ‘Silver Lining’ (Cohen, 2017)
Employees form teams of at least two people who have shared a work experience – e.g., working on a project together. One person shares an experience from working together that was negative for them.
Then, the second person reflects on the same experience but instead reflects on the positive aspects of the experience (i.e., the ‘ silver lining ’). Then this same person shares their own negative experience, and this time it is up to the other person to focus on the positive aspects of it.
Often, when people reflect on an experience, they do so with a particular perspective . By looking at the positive aspects of a ‘negative’ experience, this helps individuals shift perspectives. Furthermore, by sharing experiences, employees develop deeper relationships, and team bonding is promoted.
8. My favorite brand (Training Course Material, n.d.).
Ask employees to bring three or four printed logos/brands that they use regularly or admire most. Then, form groups of 3 – 4 people. Teams have a period of ten minutes to share and discuss their chosen logos.
Their task is to agree upon the team’s top 2 logos or brands which is their team’s choice. The team also selects a team spokesperson who will report to the bigger group about why the team chose the specific brands/logos.
Participants are encouraged to share personal experiences or stories that they had with their chosen brand. After the ten minutes elapses, each spokesperson presents the logos that the team began with as well as their two top chosen logos/brands. It is their role to explain to the group why the team voted on their top brand/logo.
1. Manager or leader? (Training Course Material, n.d.)
Small groups of managers work together to create two tables, one titled ‘leader’ and one titled ‘manager’. In each table, the group writes statements describing either management behavior or leadership behavior.
For example, the ‘manager’ table may contain statements such as “schedules work to be done” or “delegates tasks”. On the other hand, statements in the ‘leader’ table could be “motivating staff” and “creating culture”.
The purpose of this activity is to demonstrate to managers the difference between management versus leadership, and show that while ‘every leader can be a manager, not every manager can be a leader’. However, by brainstorming leadership behaviors, managers begin the process of becoming a successful leader.
2. The race of the leaders (Deputy, 2018)
This activity encourages leadership behaviors. To begin with, write a list of leadership qualities – approximately 10 – 20 statements – on a piece of paper. Describe the qualities – e.g., ‘I determine everything that happens to me’, and ‘I will not blame others for my problems’.
Read these statements out loud, and participants take a step forward if they believe a statement describes them. They must be prepared to give reasons as to why they think they possess each quality. Continue reading the statements until there is a definite ‘winner’.
3. The best team member (Training Course Material, n.d.).
Divide the group into teams of about 4 – 5 participants. Give each team a large, blank piece of paper and markers. Each group has the task to come up with as many characteristics of their ‘ideal’ team member as they can. Teams should consider what this ‘best team member ever’ would be like.
After ten minutes, the groups should examine the characteristics that they have written and work out the portion which are ‘technical’ skills and those which are ‘interpersonal’. The aim is to work out whether most of the traits can be classified as technical or interpersonal skills.
Teams usually come to realize that interpersonal skills in employees are especially critical and that these have a tremendous impact on the quality and quantity of workplace performance.
This activity can be adapted according to the setting. For example, if the focus is on leadership development, teams could discuss their ideal leader/supervisor.
4. The importance of feedback (Training Course Material, n.d.).
Divide the group into three teams. Provide each team with poster paper and markers or pens.
Team A is required to consider as many reasons as they can that would make them apprehensive to provide feedback to another person.
Team B is asked to consider what feedback can help them so, i.e., what feedback will help them accomplish.
Team C comes up with as many things as they can that would make a feedback session effective.
Each team has 15 minutes to brainstorm their ideas, then, each team can present their ideas.
Point out to Team A that the hurdles they suggested are self-imposed ideas that will lead to the manager fearing the worst. Instead, managers should be encouraged to share feedback on a more regular basis to gain the necessary experience in having such conversations. Furthermore, by having an awareness of the most effective way to prepare and deliver feedback can help a manager conquer the issues holding them back.
Point out to Team B that providing constructive feedback as needed is imperative for developing a productive work environment. A feedback discussion that is well-planned and thought out delivers an opportunity to share what you have noticed about another person’s job performance and bring about productive change.
Finally, after Team C has shared their ideas, point out that effective feedback is specific, honest, and backed up with evidence. The feedback will help others to come up with goals, make and reinforce positive changes, promote self-confidence and encourage action in the workplace.
Thank all the teams for their participation and input.
5. ‘Shark Tank’ (Deputy, 2018).
This activity is derived from a famous TV show that gives people a chance to show their entrepreneurial skills. Managers may work individually or in groups. The aim of this activity is for employees to come up with a business plan that outlines the steps of how to build a successful company from ‘startup’.
Once the managers have a plan, they can create a ‘pitch’, which should contain the brand’s name, its’ tagline (or slogan), a detailed business plan, a detailed marketing plan, financial predictions (sales, profits and market) and potential problems (competition, lack of resources).
In a role play, appoint a few chosen managers to be the ‘sharks’ (the ones who consider the projects’ merit and offer imaginary ‘investments’). The winning group, or individual, is the one who raised the most money from the ‘shark’.
1. The Human Icebreaker (Stepshift, 2016).
This is a simple activity that can alleviate tension and promote discussion and contribution. Participants devise a list of questions that relate to people generally – for example, “who is left-handed?”. Participants then discover which team members meet the question’s criteria. After 10 minutes, the participant who has the most answers wins. This activity promotes communication and helps team members build inter-personal skills.
2. ‘Office trivia’ (Cohen, 2017)
This quick activity can help as an ice-breaker and provides a flexible option for team building. Create a list of trivia questions that are related to the workplace. For example, “how many people named ‘John’ work in the accounting department?” or, “how many people work in the IT department?”. Read the questions out loud to the whole group. The employee with the most correct answers at the end is the winner.
3. Plane crash (Stepshift, 2016)
The participants imagine that they are on a plane which has crashed on a deserted island. They are allowed to select a specified number of items from around the workplace that would help the group to survive. Each chosen item is ranked in importance. The whole group must agree on their decision. This activity helps with creative problem solving and collaboration.
4. ‘Magazine story’ (Cohen, 2017)
Each team works together to come up with an imaginary cover story of a magazine, about a successful project or business achievement. The team designs the images, headlines, and come up with quotes.
5. The Human Knot (Stepshift, 2016)
Relying on cooperation, this is a good problem-solving and communication activity. Participants stand shoulder to shoulder in a circle. Then, they put their right hand in the hand of a person who stands across from them. They then put their left hand in the hand of another different person (but not someone standing directly next to them).
Participants are required to untangle the human knot without breaking the chain. If the chain is broken, the participants must start over.
6. Make your own movie (Cohen, 2017)
This is a fun activity that is suitable for both indoors and outdoors. Although it requires the necessary equipment (i.e., camera, tripod, and microphone), teams enjoy it. Employees should work in large groups (more than eight people) and divide responsibilities. Teams work together to come up with scripts for a 5 – 7-minute movie.
7. Radio Play (Cohen, 2017)
This activity can provide an alternative to making a movie. Employees work together, spending about one-hour planning and writing a play and taking a further 15 – 20 minutes to ‘perform’ it, keeping in mind that it is designed for radio.
Each participant places their chair, in no particular order, around the room. The room should be cleared of tables and other furniture. Each person should sit on their chair, pointing in a different direction. Then, request one manager to volunteer and come to the front of the room. Their task is to walk slowly back to their empty chair and sit down.
If their chair is occupied, they can move to the next empty chair available and sit on it. However, everyone else has the task of stopping the volunteer from sitting down.
Only one person at a time can stand and move. No one can make two consecutive moves. A person cannot sit on the chair that they have just left. Once the activity begins, the room is required to be silent. No one is allowed to touch the volunteer.
Give the managers 2 minutes to come up with their strategy. After every round, the participants should discuss what happened and select a new volunteer for the next round. The team is given 2 minutes preparation time each round. It is important that the volunteer’s movement is kept at a slow walk.
At the conclusion of the activity, it is beneficial for the team to discuss the activity. They may reflect upon whether they need a leader, what made planning difficult, whether everyone agreed on the plan, and what would make the task easier.
9. Back to back drawing (Cohen, 2017)
Provide vector shapes on separate pieces of paper (they can be shapes of signs, objects or merely abstract shapes). Participants sit in pairs, back-to-back. Employee A is given a sheet of paper and a pen, and employee B is provided with one of the printed shapes.
The aim of the activity is for employee A to draw the shape relying only on verbal instructions from employee B. Person B cannot only tell the other person what the shape is – he/she is only able to provide directions about how to draw it, or to describe its uses. Each team has two 2 minutes to draw the shape.
10. ‘All Aboard’ (Stepshift, 2016).
Teams use various materials, for example, pieces of wood or mats, to build a pretend ‘boat’. All the participants must stand on the ‘boat’ at once. Then, pieces of the ‘boat’ should be removed. The team should still strive to stand in the diminished space on the ‘boat’. All Aboard can promote communication, problem-solving and critical thinking.
11. Body of words (Cohen, 2017)
Participants are divided into teams of between four and eight people, and each team elects one leader. To prepare the activity, record words that have one less letter than the number of people in the team (i.e., if there are five people in the team, a suitable word could be ‘book’ which has four letters). Randomly select a word, and then the teams have the task of making the word using only their bodies.
Each team member moves and bends their body to form a letter. The team leader can direct their team.
What stands out to me from this article is the complexity of leadership. This article demonstrates that even if one is not a ‘natural’ leader, there are plenty of activities that can promote leadership skills. Even children can develop leadership, and what’s more, have fun with activities at the same time.
What do you think espouses leadership? Do you think that there are people who might tend to be leaders more than others? Perhaps you have a story about a leadership activity you have participated in or delivered – I would dearly like to hear about your experiences.
Thank you for reading.
We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Positive Leadership Exercises for free .
- ‘tony’ (2018). Leadership games and activities for middle school students . Retrieved from https://www.kidsactivties.net/leadership-games-activities-for-middle-school-students/
- Clark, Donald (2015). Leadership Styles Activity . Retrieved from www.nwlink.com/~donclark/leader/styles.html
- Cohen, Esther (2017). 31 Team building activities your team will actually love . Retrieved from https://www.workamajig.com/blog/team-building-activities
- Cserti, Robert (2018). 12 Effective leadership activities and games . Retrieved from https://www.sessionlab.com/blog/leadership-activities/
- Deputy (2018). 6 Impactful leadership activities to try at work . Retrieved from https://www.deputy.com/blog/6-impactful-leadership-activities-to-try-at-work
- Doyle, A. (2019). Top 10 leadership skills employers look for . Retrieved from https://www.thebalancecareers.com/top-leadership-skills-2063782
- Edsys (2016). 1 0 Activities for teachers to grow leadership skills in children . Retrieved from https://www.edsys.in/10-activities-for-teachers-to-grow-leadership-skills-in-children/
- Flavin, B. (2018). 8 Leadership Experiences You Didn’t Know You Already Have . Retrieved from https://www.rasmussen.edu/student-experience/college-life/leadership-experience-you-didnt-know-you-already-have/
- Goyette, P.(2016). 3 Leadership activities that improve employee performance at all levels . Retrieved from https://www.eaglesflight.com/blog/3-leadership-activities-that-improve-employee-performance-at-all-levels
- Higgins, R. (2018). 5 Fun and Inspirational Leadership Workshop Ideas . Retrieved from https://www.eventbrite.com.au/blog/leadership-workshop-ideas-ds00
- Johnson-Gerard, M. (2017). Situational Leadership Games . Retrieved from https://bizfluent.com/list-6762581-situational-leadership-games.html
- Landau, P. (2018). The 9 best leadership games for skill development . Retrieved from https://www.projectmanager.com/blog/the-9-best-leadership-games
- Stapleton, S. (2018). Leadership activities for High School classrooms . Retrieved from https://classroom.synonym.com/leadership-activities-high-school-classrooms-7855904.html
- Stepshift (2016). Leadership Training Activities . Retrieved from https://www.stepshift.co.nz/blog/developing-team-performance-with-senior-leadership-teams/strategic-planning-with-an-independent-facilitator/leadership-training-activities.html
- The Pennsylvania State University (2012). I can be a leader! Leadership fun for children . Retrieved from https://extension.psu.edu/programs/betterkidcare/knowledge-areas/environment-curriculum/activities/all-activities/i-can-be-a-leader-leadership-fun-for-children
- Training Course Material (n.d.). Leadership and management activities . Retrieved from https://www.trainingcoursematerial.com/free-games-activities/leadership-and-management-activities
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What our readers think.
Great ideas, thank you!
Thank you so much for providing such a useful list of activities to demonstrate and for such a varied target population. Innovative and attention-seeking exercises yet practical.
Thank you for posting this informative blog. keep sharing.
Too interesting for me to try all.
Great article! Having group activities Melbourne helps the team to enhance working together. I love how it brings people together and motivates employees to learn from each other.
Great activities. Thank you.
This is an excellent article for every manager and leader tn build successful leadership. Thank you.
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How to Master Project Leadership: Roles, Skills & Benefits
As a project manager, you’re surrounded by a team of passionate individuals, each having unique skills and ideas, united to accomplish projects. But what sets your team apart is your role as a leader , igniting creativity, collaboration, and determination.
In this thrilling project leadership journey, being a project leader is not just about managing; it’s about being a visionary .
You inspire, motivate, and enable your team to soar beyond limits. You strike a delicate balance of guidance and autonomy , creating an environment where ideas flow freely, and innovation knows no bounds. Also, challenges must be embraced and transformed into opportunities for growth and learning.
Wondering what’s the key to successful project leadership? It’s your unwavering belief in your team’s potential and your ability to blend it with a clear vision. When you trust your team, magic happens.
In this blog, we will explore what effective project leadership means for you, its benefits, responsibilities, and the essential skills required.
What Is Project Leadership?
Project leadership refers to motivating and coordinating a team to achieve project success. The leader unifies diverse talents, navigates challenges, and ensures each member contributes to achieving the desired outcome.
A great project leader possesses vision, communication skills, adaptability, and empathy, guiding a collaborative effort that brings the project’s goals to life.
Good leaders set clear goals, communicate effectively, and make strategic decisions. They foster a positive and productive work environment, encourage collaboration, and support individual growth.
Simply put, they lead by example, inspire their team, and ensure the company’s vision is achieved through effective management and strong leadership skills.
Now let’s dig a little deeper into the importance of leadership in project management.
Importance of Leadership in Project Management
Here are the benefits of effective project leadership in the workplace.
Inspiration & Vision
Leaders provide the vision that fuels the project’s purpose, motivating team members to strive for excellence. By setting clear objectives and defining the project’s mission, leaders steer the course and keep everyone aligned.
For instance, Steve Jobs’ visionary leadership at Apple led to groundbreaking innovations like the iPhone, transforming the tech industry.
Team Motivation & Empowerment
Effective leaders inspire and empower their teams, creating an environment of trust and camaraderie. A leader who nurtures collaboration and celebrates individual strengths ensures that the team works in unison towards the shared business goals.
A shining example is Sir Alex Ferguson, who transformed Manchester United into a football dynasty through his motivational leadership.
Effective leaders adeptly navigate project conflicts, fostering open communication and cooperation among team members. They prioritize addressing conflicts promptly and transparently, encouraging a safe environment for dialogue.
By leading by example and embracing conflicts as opportunities for growth, they create a pleasant and productive work atmosphere, ensuring the successful realization of shared goals.
Decision-Making & Risk-Taking
Exceptional leaders exhibit their prowess by making decisive choices, embracing calculated risks to propel the project forward with confidence and determination.
They carefully analyze potential outcomes, leveraging their expertise and intuition to assess risks effectively. When they show courage in their decision-making, they inspire their team to trust their leadership and lead remarkable achievements.
For example, Elon Musk’s bold decision to invest in electric cars and space exploration exemplifies the impact of visionary risk-taking.
Adaptability & Resilience
Outstanding leaders demonstrate their ability to navigate through uncertainties and setbacks with unwavering composure. They embrace the unknown with a forward-thinking mindset, turning obstacles into opportunities for growth.
By staying agile, they inspire their team to persevere and overcome obstacles, ultimately achieving success even in the most demanding circumstances.
Communication & Transparency
Effective communication is a hallmark of successful leaders, ensuring clarity, unity, and transparency within the project team. Their adept communication skills empower them to convey their vision with precision, fostering a shared understanding among team members.
Through transparent and open dialogue, they create an inclusive and collaborative environment, enabling the team to work cohesively towards shared goals. For instance, Indra Nooyi’s transparent leadership style at PepsiCo fostered a culture of open dialogue and innovation.
Leaders build strong relationships with stakeholders, addressing their concerns and aligning their interests with project objectives. Their interpersonal skills enable them to empathetically understand the needs and expectations of stakeholders, fostering a sense of trust and cooperation.
By consistently engaging with stakeholders, they ensure a mutually beneficial partnership, contributing significantly to the project’s overall success.
Leaders excel at crisis management, leading teams through turbulent times with composure and strategic thinking. Their ability to stay calm under pressure inspires confidence in the team and stakeholders alike.
With a clear focus on the bigger picture, they make well-informed decisions that mitigate risks and position the project for a strong recovery.
During the 2008 global financial crisis, Apple Inc.’s CEO, Tim Cook, showcased exceptional crisis management.
Despite market uncertainties, he maintained a clear long-term vision and took decisive actions, like streamlining operations and optimizing supply chains, which ensured Apple’s stability. Under his leadership, the company not only survived but thrived, setting it up for a robust recovery and sustained success in the subsequent years.
Now that you understand the importance of project leadership, let’s now explore the intriguing question: how does project leadership differ from project management?
What Is the Difference Between Project Leadership & Management?
Project leadership and management are quite different from each other. Project leaders share their inputs regarding planning, keep a tab on the task execution, offer emotional support to the team during tough times, etc. They report to the project manager regarding achieved milestones, budget utilization, resource allocation, etc.
Project managers, on the other hand, work on factors like strategies, feature prioritization, deadlines, budget, etc. They communicate with clients and take care of documentation, staffing, HR concerns (in some cases), etc.
Note that a project leader can act as a manager, but the latter cannot exchange job responsibilities with the former.
Here is a straightforward table to highlight the differences between project leaders and project managers.
By now, you have understood the core differences between a project leader and a manager.
Do you know the 5 core responsibilities that project leadership involves? Let’s check them out next!
5 Core Responsibilities of a Project Leader
Here are the key responsibilities of a project leader while managing projects.
1. Planning Project Timelines & Deliverables
One of the key project leadership roles is planning project timelines and deliverables.
As a project leader, you get to play the role of a master architect, carefully laying out the blueprints for the project’s success. But let’s be honest, even the best-laid plans can go off track, so you need to be both a visionary and a problem-solver.
The journey to achieving those desired outcomes begins with breaking down the project into manageable phases and tasks.
First, gather your team and brainstorm together. Listen to their ideas and insights – a good leader knows that the best solutions often come from collective wisdom. Once you have a solid understanding of the project’s scope and objectives, it’s time to set realistic timelines and establish clear deliverables. Remember, you want your team to feel motivated, not overwhelmed, so striking the right balance is essential.
Here, using a robust project management tool comes in handy. It lets you create project dashboards that help convey scheduled tasks and their timelines to everyone involved.
Let’s take the example of ProProfs Project to see what a project dashboard looks like.
2. Assigning Tasks & Responsibilities to Team Members
Now that we have our well-crafted project plan, it’s time to put our leadership skills to work in task assignments! Think of yourself as a matchmaker, finding the perfect pairing of tasks and team members.
You need to understand each team member’s strengths, weaknesses, and interests. This way, you’ll ensure the right people are handling the right tasks, increasing efficiency, and fostering a sense of ownership and enthusiasm.
But, hold on. Assigning tasks is not a one-and-done deal. It’s an ongoing process that requires open communication. Be approachable and let your team members know they can always discuss their roles and responsibilities with you. As the project progresses, be ready to adapt and reallocate tasks if necessary.
Utilize a tool to assign clear timelines and delegate tasks to team members. Additionally, prioritize tasks to ensure that urgent ones receive immediate attention.
3. Monitoring Project Progress & Ensuring Adherence to Goals
Being a project leader, you are responsible for steering the project toward its destination. But how do you ensure the project stays on course? With real-time project tracking !
Keeping a keen eye on the project’s progress is crucial. Embrace technology and use project management tools to track milestones, deadlines, and project KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). This data will be your guiding star when making informed decisions.
Leverage Gantt, Kanban and other project views to monitor progress and identify areas where adjustments may be needed.
For example, with Gantt charts , you can easily track overlapping tasks and avoid allocating the same resource to conflicting assignments. This streamlines work and prevents excessive workloads, ensuring smoother project execution .
Of course, it’s not all about crunching numbers and reviewing charts. You also need to communicate regularly with your team – not just about deadlines and metrics, but about their experiences, too.
Listen to their challenges, celebrate their successes, and provide support when needed. A leader who shows genuine care and interest in their team members’ well-being is more likely to steer the project to victory.
Again, you can use a tool to exchange ideas and collaborate on projects via task comments.
4. Managing Project Risks & Resolving Issues
Risk in project management is unavoidable. Among the crucial project leadership roles is managing risks and resolving them timely.
As the project leader, you must be armed with the right tools and strategies to fend off this pesky foe.
First, conduct a risk assessment with your team. Identify potential stumbling blocks and develop contingency plans. Be proactive, not reactive.
When risks arise, take a deep breath, gather your team’s superpowers, and face them head-on. A positive attitude and a calm demeanor will inspire confidence in your team.
Remember, problem-solving is a collective effort, so encourage open discussions and brainstorming sessions. The goal is not just to overcome obstacles but to learn from them, making your team even stronger in the process.
With the right tool, you can gain access to data-driven reports on project profitability, comments, and overall summary. This helps gain insight into KPIs, helping you make informed decisions.
5. Communicating With Stakeholders & Reporting Project Status
You’re nearing the completion of your project – congratulations, you’ve come a long way!
But before you can bask in the glory of success, you must engage in one final quest: communicating with stakeholders. Project leadership involves narrating the project’s journey, highlighting the challenges, triumphs, and overall impact.
Be transparent and honest in your communication. Keep stakeholders informed about progress, setbacks, and any changes to the project’s direction. When delivering updates, remember that not everyone speaks the language of project management fluently, so break down complex jargon into easily digestible insights.
As you share the story of your project, give credit where it’s due. Acknowledge the hard work and dedication of your team members. And don’t forget to celebrate the project’s successful conclusion.
It’s now time to familiarize yourself with the 6 essential skills for project leadership!
6 Essential Skills for Project Leadership
Take a look at the key project leadership skills in project management.
- Essential Skills for Project Leaders : These skills are crucial because they form the foundation of effective project leadership. By mastering them, project leaders can create a positive and productive work culture that empowers the team to achieve their goals efficiently.
- Communication and Interpersonal Skills : Effective communication ensures that everyone on the team is on the same page, understands their roles, and receives clear instructions. Interpersonal skills help in building trust and fostering strong working relationships, which are essential for collaboration and teamwork.
- Decision-Making and Problem-Solving Abilities : Project leaders face various challenges and obstacles throughout a project’s lifecycle . Being skilled in decision-making and problem-solving allows them to make timely and informed choices, resolve issues, and keep the project moving forward.
- Emotional Intelligence and Empathy : Understanding team members’ emotions and perspectives helps project leaders provide the necessary support, motivation, and encouragement. Empathy enables them to address concerns, boost morale, and create a positive work atmosphere that enhances productivity.
- Adaptability and Flexibility : Projects rarely go exactly as planned. Adaptability and flexibility is one of the key project leadership skills that allow project leaders to respond to unexpected changes, adjust timelines, and make necessary revisions without losing focus on the project’s end goal.
- Visionary and Strategic Thinking : Having a clear vision and thinking strategically helps project leaders set a direction for the project, align the team’s efforts, and make informed decisions that lead to desired outcomes. This skill ensures that the team stays focused and works towards a shared purpose.
So you’re familiar with the skills now. But do you know that understanding the unique demands of each industry is crucial for successful project management?
Let’s understand how.
Project Leadership Across Various Industries
Project leadership is a critical aspect of successful project management across all industries. However, the specific skills, challenges, and approaches required by project leaders can vary significantly depending on the industry they operate in.
This section explores the differences in project leadership across various industries and highlights how adaptability and specialized knowledge play pivotal roles in achieving project success.
Project leadership in the construction industry demands a deep understanding of architectural design, engineering principles, and regulatory requirements.
Leaders must coordinate large teams of architects, engineers, contractors, and laborers, while also managing tight timelines and budgets. Risk management and safety protocols are paramount due to the potential for physical harm and financial losses.
Information Technology (IT) Industry
In the fast-paced world of IT, project leaders face ever-changing technologies, evolving customer demands, and rapidly shifting market dynamics.
These leaders must possess a strong technical background, as well as the ability to foster innovation and manage cross-functional teams. Agile methodologies are often preferred to respond quickly to changing requirements.
In the healthcare sector, project leadership requires a unique blend of medical knowledge, administrative expertise, and interpersonal skills.
Leaders collaborate with medical professionals, administrators, and stakeholders to implement new systems, improve patient care, and ensure compliance with strict regulations, such as HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act).
Project leaders in marketing and advertising need to be creative visionaries who can translate client objectives into compelling campaigns.
They work with designers, copywriters, and marketing specialists, and must adapt quickly to dynamic market trends. Here, effective communication and negotiation skills are essential for managing client expectations and delivering successful projects.
Renewable Energy Industry
Project leadership in renewable energy focuses on sustainable solutions and environmental impact.
Leaders in this industry navigate regulatory frameworks, conduct site assessments, and manage multi-disciplinary teams. They must anticipate logistical challenges and economic considerations to ensure the successful implementation of renewable energy projects.
Steer Your Team to Success as a Project Leader!
This blog covered the secrets to success with effective project leadership. A project leader inspires, strategizes, and communicates effectively, recognizing the value of their team’s growth.
By blending managerial skills with visionary thinking, they navigate challenges with adaptability.
Remember to tailor your approaches to fit the intricacies of each sector while maintaining a focus on achieving project objectives and delivering exceptional results.
Now, it’s time to embrace your leadership potential, leave behind an inspiring legacy and lead your projects to success!
Is a project manager a leader?
Of course, project managers possess leadership qualities, as they handle both parties (clients and teams). But project managers usually have too much on their plate, and that’s why a person gets hired for the designation of a project leader for smooth operations and team handling.
What is the difference between a project manager and a project leader?
A project manager takes care of many aspects like client requirements, staffing, deadlines, budget, etc. On the other hand, a project leader makes sure that tasks are executed as per the plan and keeps an eye on the performance of team members.
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About the author
David is a Project Management expert. He has been published in elearningindustry.com , simpleprogrammer.com . As a project planning and execution expert at ProProfs, he has offered a unique outlook on improving workflows and team efficiency. Connect with David for more engaging conversations on Twitter , LinkedIn , and Facebook .
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How to Write a Comprehensive Project Management Plan [+ Examples]
By Midori Nediger , Jul 05, 2023
Have you ever been part of a project that didn’t go as planned?
It doesn’t feel good.
Wasted time, wasted resources. It’s pretty frustrating for everyone involved.
That’s why it’s so important to create a comprehensive project management plan before your project gets off the ground.
In this guide, we’ll explore how to create and design a successful project management plan.
We’ll also showcase easy-to-customize project plan templates you can create today with our user-friendly drag-and-drop editor. Let’s get started!
What is a project management plan?
A project management plan is a formal document that defines how a project is going to be carried out. It outlines the scope, goals, budget, timeline, and deliverables of a project, and it’s essential for keeping a project on track.
You write a project plan during the project planning stage of the project life cycle , and it must be approved by stakeholders before a project can move on the execution stage.
If some of these terms are new to you, you can get up to speed with this post on project management terms .
This means your project plan must be engaging, organized, and thorough enough to gain the support of your stakeholders.
Further Reading : New to project management? Read our blog post on the 4 stages of the project life cycle .
The importance of a project management plan
A well-developed project management plan sets the foundation for a successful project by providing a roadmap that guides the project team toward successful project completion. A good project management plan can ensure that:
- Project objectives and goals are clearly defined and understood
- Project scope is effectively managed
- Resources are allocated efficiently to maximize productivity and minimize waste
- Risks are identified, assessed and mitigated
- Project tasks and activities are well-organized and executed in a timely manner.
- Communication among team members , stakeholders and project sponsors is effective and transparent
- Changes to the project are properly evaluated, approved and implemented
- Lessons learned and best practices are documented for future reference and improvement
- Stakeholders are engaged and satisfied with the project outcomes
- The project is delivered within the specified timeline, budget and quality standards
What are the 5 stages of a project management plan?
The Project Management Institute (PMI) outlines five key stages of the project management plan, which are commonly known as the project management process groups. These stages provide a framework for managing projects effectively. The five stages are as follows:
Initiation: This is the first stage of the project management plan. It involves identifying and defining the project’s purpose, objectives and scope.
Planning: In the planning stage, detailed plans are developed to guide the execution and control of the project. This includes defining project deliverables, developing a project schedule, estimating resources and costs, identifying risks and creating a comprehensive project management plan.
Execution: The execution stage involves putting the project plan into action. Project tasks are performed, resources are allocated and project team members work towards achieving project objectives.
Monitoring and Control: During this stage, project progress is regularly monitored and actual performance is compared against planned performance. Key performance indicators (KPIs) are tracked, and necessary adjustments are made to keep the project on track. This stage involves assessing risks, addressing issues and changes and ensuring that project objectives are being met.
Closure: The closure stage marks the end of the project. It involves finalizing all project activities, completing any remaining deliverables, obtaining client or stakeholder approval,and formally closing out the project. Lessons learned are documented and a project review is conducted to identify areas for improvement in future projects.
It’s important to note that these stages are iterative, and project management is often an ongoing process. Throughout the project lifecycle, project managers may need to revisit and adjust plans based on changing circumstances and new information.
What are the 7 components of a project management plan
Before you start assembling your own plan, you should be familiar with the main components of a typical project plan .
A project management plan should include the following sections:
- Executive Summary: A short description of the contents of the report
- Project Scope & Deliverables: An outline of the boundaries of the project, and a description of how the project will be broken down into measurable deliverables
- Project Schedule: A high-level view of project tasks and milestones ( Gantt charts are handy for this)
- Project Resources: The budget, personnel, and other resources required to meet project goals
- Risk and Issue Management Plan: A list of factors that could derail the project and a plan for how issues will be identified, addressed, and controlled
- Communication Management Plan: A plan for how team and stakeholder communication will be handled over the course of the project
- Cost and Quality Management Plan: This section encompasses the project’s budget, cost estimation,and cost control mechanisms. It also includes quality assurance and control measures as well as any testing or verification activities to be performed.
Basically, a project plan should tell stakeholders what needs to get done, how it will get done, and when it will get done.
That said, one size doesn’t fit all. Every project management plan must be tailored to the specific industry and circumstances of the project. You can use a project management app for smoother project planning.
For example, this marketing plan looks client facing. It is tailored to sell the client on the agency:
Whereas this commercial development plan focuses on specific objectives and a detailed timeline:
With those basics out of the way, let’s get into some tips for creating a project management plan that’s as engaging as it is professional.
Further Reading : If you’re looking to create a proposal, read our in-depth business proposal guide. Then try our job proposal templates or business proposal templates .
5 things you need to know before creating a project management plan
Before diving into creating a project management plan, it is crucial to have a clear understanding of the project objectives and the expectations of stakeholders involved.
Without a firm grasp of these fundamental elements, your project may face significant challenges or fail to deliver the desired outcomes.
Here are key points to consider when creating a project management plan:
- Project Objectives: Clearly understand the project objectives and what you want to achieve. Identify the desired outcomes, deliverables and the purpose of the project.
- Scope of the Project: Determine the boundaries and extent of the project. Define what is included and excluded to ensure clarity and prevent scope creep .
- Stakeholders: Identify all stakeholders who will be impacted by or have an interest in the project. Understand their needs, expectations and level of involvement.
- Resources: Assess the resources required to execute the project successfully. This includes human resources, budget, equipment and materials. Determine their availability and allocation.
- Risks and Constraints: Identify potential risks, uncertainties and constraints that may affect the project. Understand the challenges, limitations and potential obstacles that need to be addressed.
Now that you have these key areas identified, let’s get started with creating your project plan!
How do you write a project plan?
A well-structured project plan serves as a roadmap for successful project execution. It provides clarity, direction and a foundation for effective project management. Whether you’re embarking on a small-scale endeavor or a large-scale initiative, crafting a project plan is crucial for achieving your objectives.
To write a successful project plan, follow these 5 steps below to create an effective project plan that serves as a valuable tool for project management:
1. Highlight the key elements of your project plan in an executive summary
An executive summary is a brief description of the key contents of a project plan .
I t’s usually the first thing stakeholders will read, and it should act like a Cliff’s-notes version of the whole plan.
It might touch on a project’s value proposition, goals, deliverables, and important milestones, but it has to be concise (it is a summary, after all). First, make sure you develop a proof of concept .
In this example, an executive summary can be broken into columns to contrast the existing problem with the project solution:
The two-column format with clear headers helps break up the information, making it extremely easy to read at a glance.
Here’s another example of a project management plan executive summary. This one visually highlights key takeaways with big fonts and helpful icons:
In this case, the highlighted facts and figures are particularly easy to scan (which is sure to make your stakeholders happy).
But your executive summary won’t always be so simple.
For larger projects, your executive summary will be longer and more detailed.
This project management plan template has a text-heavy executive summary, though the bold headers and different background colors keep it from looking overwhelming:
It’s also a good idea to divide it up into sections, with a dedicated header for each section:
Regardless of how you organize your executive summary, it should give your stakeholders a preview of what’s to come in the rest of the project management plan.
2. Plot your project schedule visually with a Gantt chart
A carefully planned project schedule is key to the success of any project. Without one, your project will likely crumble into a mess of missed deadlines, poor team management, and scope creep.
Luckily, project planning tools like Gantt charts and project timelines make creating your project schedule easy. You can visually plot each project task, add major milestones, then look for any dependencies or conflicts that you haven’t accounted for.
For example, this Gantt chart template outlines high-level project activities over the course of an entire quarter, with tasks color-coded by team:
A high-level roadmap like the one above is probably sufficient for your project management plan. Every team will be able to refer back to this timeline throughout the project to make sure they’re on track.
But before project kickoff, you’ll need to dig in and break down project responsibilities by individual team member, like in this Gantt chart example:
In the later execution and monitoring phases of the project, you’ll thank yourself for creating a detailed visual roadmap that you can track and adjust as things change.
You can also use a project management tool to keep your team organized.
Further Reading: Our post featuring Gantt chart examples and more tips on how to use them for project management.
3. Clarify the structure of your project team with a team org chart
One of the hardest aspects of project planning is assembling a team and aligning them to the project vision.
And aligning your team is all about communication–communicating the project goals, communicating stakeholder requests, communicating the rationale behind big decisions…the list goes on.
This is where good project documentation is crucial! You need to create documents that your team and your stakeholders can access when they have questions or need guidance.
One easy thing to document visually is the structure of your team, with an organizational chart like this one:
In an organizational chart you should include some basic information like team hierarchy and team member contact information. That way your stakeholders have all of the information they need at their fingertips.
But in addition to that, you can indicate the high-level responsibilities of each team member and the channels of communication within the team (so your team knows exactly what they’re accountable for).
Here’s another simple organizational structure template that you can use as a starting point:
Create an organizational chart with our organizational chart maker .
4. organize project risk factors in a risk breakdown structure.
A big part of project planning is identifying the factors that are likely to derail your project, and coming up with plans and process to deal with those factors. This is generally referred to as risk management .
The first step in coming up with a risk management plan is to list all of the factors at play, which is where a risk breakdown structure comes in handy. A risk breakdown structure is a hierarchical representation of project risks, organized by category.
This risk breakdown structure template, for example, shows project risk broken down into technical risk, management risk, and external risk:
Once you’ve constructed your risk breakdown structure, you’ll be ready to do a deep dive into each risk (to assess and plan for any triggers and outcomes).
Streamline your workflow with business process management software .
5. plan ahead: create project status reports to communicate progress to stakeholders.
As I mentioned earlier, communication is fundamental in any project.
But even so, something that’s often overlooked by project managers is a communication management plan–a plan for how the project team is going to communicate with project stakeholders . Too often, project communication defaults to ad-hoc emails or last-minute meetings.
You can avoid this by planning ahead. Start with a project kickoff meeting and include a project status report template as part of your communication plan.
Here’s an example of a simple project status report that you might send to stakeholders on a weekly basis:
This type of report is invaluable for communicating updates on project progress. It shows what you’ve accomplished in a clear, consistent format, which can help flag issues before they arise, build trust with your stakeholders , and makes it easy to reflect on project performance once you’ve reached your goals.
You might also want to include a broader status report for bigger updates on a monthly or quarterly basis, like this one:
The above template allows you to inform stakeholders of more major updates like new budget requirements, revised completion dates, and project performance ratings.
You can even include visualization of up-to-date project milestones, like this example below:
Want more tips on creating visuals to enhance your communications? Read our visual communication guide for businesses .
Project management plan examples
A project management plan is probably the most important deliverable your stakeholders will receive from you (besides the project itself).
It holds all of the information that stakeholders will use to determine whether your project moves forward or gets kicked to the curb.
That’s why it’s a good idea to start with a project management plan template. Using a template can help you organize your information logically and ensure it’s engaging enough to hold your stakeholders’ attention.
Construction bid proposal template
Your construction bid proposal is probably competing against several other bidders. So, it’s important to get it right.
Start with a meticulous project overview, like in the second page of this template:
Though you may think this project will be similar to others you’ve done in the past, it’s important to nail the details.
This will also help you understand the scope of work so you can estimate costs properly and arrive at a quote that’s neither too high or low. Ontario Construction News has great advice on this process.
Simple project management plan template
This simple project management plan template that clearly lays out all of the information your stakeholders will need:
Simple project management communication plan template
A key part of project management is making sure everyone’s in the loop. A project communication plan ensures everyone knows how, where, who and when the team will communicate during the course of the project. Also construction scheduling is a critical aspect of the project management plan as it helps to ensure that all necessary tasks are completed within the allocated time frame and budget.
The key is to figure out what kind of communications is valuable to stakeholders and what is simply overwhelming and won’t lead to better decisions.
This template clearly outlines all of these factors to help manage expectations and eliminate confusion about what will get communicated and when:
Commercial development project plan template
The below project management plan template is simple and minimal, but still uses a unique layout and simple visuals to create an easy-to-read, scannable project overview.
This template is perfect for building or construction management , or any technical projects:
When picking a project plan template, look for one that’s flexible enough to accommodate any changes your stakeholders might request before they’ll approve the project. You never know what might change in the early planning stages of the project! You can also use project management tools to help you with your planning!
The takeaway: project plan best practices
- Use headers, columns, and highlights to make your executive summary easy to read
- Plot your project schedule with a Gantt chart (with tasks color-coded by department or team member)
- Use visuals like organizational charts and risk breakdown structures to communicate across your team and with stakeholders
- Pick a flexible template that you can update to align with stakeholder requests
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Leadership in project management Assignment.
- By Research Team
- on March 12, 2020
- in Sample Papers
- Leadership in project manageme...
Leadership in project management
Instructions : Critically discuss the role of leadership style and team building in project management utilizing appropriate theoretical models to identify how project staff can be led and motivated depending on project and its life-cycle. Include in your answer a discussion of the role of leadership and communication in this process.
Even with significant advances in project management profession, studies show that there are a great number of projects that fail, underlining the important role played by the project manager. Further studies have also indicated that project performance is mostly determined by the human/relational aspect of project management, as opposed to technical abilities. Specifically, the leadership role of the project manager in motivating project teams, creating a conducive and effective working environment and establishing clear communication channels to enable team members to reach their potential is an important aspect of leadership in project management. This paper explores existing literature on the role of leadership in project management. It seeks to establish types of leadership’s styles and their impact on project performance. The leadership role in establishing a conducive working environment is also discussed in depth.
The theory of leadership has been a subject of debate since time immemorial, with some notable authors such as Plato, Locke, and Confucius making a significant contribution towards this subject. Confucius for instance listed love, piety, proper conduct and the doctrine of the mean, as some of the traits of an effective leader. According to Turner & Muller (2005), the 20 th century saw the development of six main leadership theories; the behavioral theory, trait theory, contingency theory, visionary/charismatic school of thought, competence theory and the emotional intelligence school of thought. These are explained below:
The behavioral theory
This school of thought gained prominence in the mid-20 th century. Its main assumption was that all effective leaders possess certain behaviors which are inborn. Thus leaders are born and not made. These crosscutting behavioral traits include; flexibility, team involvement in decision making, use of authority, decision taking, concern for relationships or people, and productivity.Turner & Muller (2005), noted that the degree of exercise of these behavioral traits depended on the manager’s style of leadership, whether leissez-faire, democratic, autocratic and bureaucratic.
Source: Turner & Muller (2005)
The table above shows the models of leadership based on three parameters. It indicates that team involvement in decision making, decision- taking and flexibility depends on the project manager’s leadership style, with a high involvement in leissez-faire style and democratic style and low involvement in both autocratic and bureaucratic leadership styles.
The Contingency School
Rather than proposing a universal leadership theory that would apply in all situations, the contingency school of thought opines that effective leadership is dependent on the situation. Turner & Muller (2005) explains that the contingency theory analyses the leaders’ characteristics, evaluates the situation concerning key contingency variables, and matches the leadership with the situation. Among the most effective contingency theories is the path-goal theory. According to House (1971), an effective leader helps the team in finding a path towards achieving their goals.The theory identifies four behaviors that are exhibited by leaders; directive, participative, achievement-oriented and supportive. These behaviors must then be matched to environmental and contingency factors. Environmental factors are Task structure – Formal authority system – Workgroup, while subordinate factors include – Locus of control – Experience – Perceived ability.Fiedler (1967) notes that the contingency theory recommends different styles of leadership depending on the situation at hand and identifies the leader, the structure of the task and the position power as some of the variables that influence favorability, role, and influence of a leader.
The charismatic school of thought
This theory arose from studies on successful business people that lead change in their organizations. According to Bass (1990), there are two types of leadership; transformational and transactional. He notes that transformational leadership exhibits charisma, provides intellectual stimulation, considers, pays personal attention and respects the subordinates, is visionary and provides inspiration. Transactional leadership, on the other hand, punishes, manages by exception and emphasizes contingent rewards by rewarding subjects when they meet their performance objectives and targets. Notably, these two types of leadership are not entirely mutually exclusive, with a combination of both depending on the situation being ideal in different circumstances.
According to Keegan and den Hartog (2004) a manager’s style of leadership in project management is more effective if it is transformational and not transactional. They identified an important relationship between the style of leadership by the project manager, and the level of team motivation and commitment as well as the level of stress exhibited by line managers. They, however, found little correlation between the above factors and the project managers.
The Emotional Intelligence School
This school of thought holds that a leader’s emotional intelligence plays a more critical role in the success of a leader and the team performance than does their intelligence capacity. Several aspects of the leaders emotional intelligence were identified.These include; self-awareness (emotional self-awareness and self-confidence), self-management (emotional self-control, initiative, achievement, optimism), social awareness (service, organizational awareness and empathy), relationship management (change catalyst, conflict management, teamwork and collaboration, influence and inspiration, etc.). From these dimensions of emotional intelligence, six leadership styles were developed. These are democratic, commanding, affiliative, coaching, and visionary and pacesetting. Turner & Muller (2005), agree that there exists a strong correlation between a leaders emotional intelligence, style of leadership, and the performance of both the manager, team and organization as a whole.
note that there is a clear relationship between emotional relationship, leadership style and the performance of individual managers and their organizations.
The Competency School
This theory appreciates the fact that not all leaders are born as indicated by the trait theory. It explains that leadership is a learnt phenomenon. Further, this theory opines that various levels of competencies often leads to differences in styles of leadership and therefore affects their appropriateness in different circumstances, resulting in either transactional or transformational leaders depending on the situational complexities. Additionally Turner & Muller (2005) opines that competencies could either be intellectual or technical in nature highlight the domains of emotional intelligence as observed above.
Theoretical framework on behavior of team members
Projects are completed by teams; led by a team leader, therefore the role of team members in project management cannot be understated. There exists a substantial literature on team behavior. According to Dulewicz and Higgs (2003), even though there is little relationship between leadership competence and the behavior and roles of team members, these are used in psychometric testing in order to determine personalities and behaviors of team members and how they are likely to perform in teams and also as part of the selection process for top managers, project managers and executives. Below is a brief discussion of these theories
The most common of these theories is the fundamental interpersonal relations orientation behavior. It seeks to establish people’s behavior towards others and explores work behavior that is exhibited by team members such as social skills, leadership control and affection- the deep need to give and receive affection. The theory also identifies the expression of anger and the interpersonal relations score as tools that could be used by behavioral scientists to predict personal behavior in the workplace as well as their perception by other team members.
According to Belbin (1986), there are several types of team roles with their associated characteristics. These are the team worker, plant, implementer, shaper, completer-finisher, specialist, comic, resource investigator, and coordinator. A project manager, therefore, has a duty to identify who amongst his/her team members are appropriate for each given role for a successful project implementation.
There are 16 personality factors according to Cattell, Eber, and Tatsuoka (1970), which affect person’s performance and behavior in a team. These factors were grouped as extroverts’vs. Introverts, emotional stability, and others. Researchers have correlated the Belbin team roles with the 16 personality factors, finding that person that adopts certain roles in a team exhibit given personality factors.
The competence school of leadership
More recent studies on leadership are now hinged on the competence of the leaders and the competencies exhibited. While the competence school appears to ape the trait theory, it’s found to encompass all earlier discussed schools. By definition, competence is the skills, knowledge and personal characteristics that deliver superior results in an organization or project (Crawford, 2003).This, therefore, means that competence covers personality characteristics, skills and knowledge- including intelligence and problems solving skills, and management skills.The theory goes on to show that different competencies are appropriate in various circumstances. It charisma, vision and also notes that it’s possible to build different competency profiles resulting in both transformational and transactional leadership.
The role of leadership in Project management
Projects are often unique, complex and ridden with uncertainty, making project managers work to be more demanding than that of an ordinary manager. Besides organizational and functional management skills, a project manager is challenged with providing project leadership , without necessarily having documented processes and authority as well as unity of command. This means that project management involves the leadership of a diverse team of members over whom the project manager has little control. Project management is affected by the working environment that is complicated by two reasons; first is the uniqueness of each project and secondly, the selection and motivation of team members is often ignored.
Smith (2001) explains that most of the challenges that face project managers concerning team members are that a typical structure of an organization often presents challenges in the selection of team members, most of whom the project manager may have very little choice to make in terms of their selection. It becomes even more complicated in cases where some of the team members are already part of a team that is working on a different project. He noted that the main causes of project cost and time overruns are poor productivity, little or no motivation among team members, poor interpersonal relationships and lack of clear communication channels as well as team members who are not committed to the goals of the projectThe observations above point to a critical role played by people relationships in project management, highlighting the crucial role played by the team leader’s ability to guide, inspire and motivate team members to put in their best effort towards the achievement of project goals. To fully explore the place of leadership in project management, it’s important that we first distinguish between leadership and management. According to Turner & Muller (2005), management focuses on traditional functions of planning, directing, controlling and staffing, making decisions concerning processes, and functions aimed at improving organizational effectiveness. Leadership on the hand is clearly concerned about the leader’s ability to create paradigm shifts, to influence thoughts, processes and people to attain their full potential and organizational efficiency. Leadership inspires, motivates and guides followers towards the attainment of certain goals and objectives.
Turner & Muller (2005) identify two factors that underscore the relevance of leadership and management roles in project management. First, projects comprise of members from different disciplines and secondly, projects are complex, risky, ridden with unknowns and uncertainties. The functions of management such as organizing, controlling, directing and planning are important in resource utilization in project management. Project leadership assumes a more significant due to the challenges associated with creating a harmonious working relationship in project execution.
Other scholars such as Hartman and Ashrafi (2002) suggest that project management is the implementation of change programs, and consequently, leadership plays an integral part in determining the success of the project by providing vision and change management. They note, however, that there is no definite leadership style or skill that would be appropriate in the handling of the different and multidisciplinary project, as project leadership orientation has got no relationship with the structure of the project.
All projects have certain similarities and processes, which means that management and leadership roles and management responsibilities are to some extent common to projects. Scholars feel that for projects to succeed there is the need for to management support, and a clear definition of the mission of the project. Amongst the early studies in this area, clear definition of goals, support of top management, consultations with stakeholders and detailed plan and implementation process, problem solving abilities of the project team leaders, monitoring, evaluation and feedback are some of the critical success factors that a leader needs to consider for a successful project management process. Additionally, according to Turner & Muller (2005), a study involving over 500 development projects indicated that the support of top management, clear definition of project mission and team cohesion were some of the predictors of project success.
In another study Hartman and Ashrafi (2002) identified four factors-management support, communication, detailed plan and clearly defined mission as critical factors in project success. These findings imply that the managers of projects have the responsibility to garner top management support, provide clarity in project mission and communicate the project processes to the stakeholders for smooth project implementation.
In concluding his study, Turner & Muller (2005) noted that most of the factors that drive project performance are human relational in nature. Among these factors, conflict management, problem-solving abilities were prominent determinants of project performance. Good interpersonal skills were necessary for fostering a climate of participation and reduced conflicts which implied clarity, trust, and clarity in communication. Definition of the roles and responsibilities of the members of the project team was found to be an important aspect that reduces conflicts and encourages team spirit.
For effective project team management, Turner & Muller (2005), identified understanding the roles and responsibilities of the project team members, defining such roles and individual responsibilities and accountability levels, creating an enabling environment, trust and assisting in problem solving, providing motivation, open and effective communication channels as the criteria for effective team management for project success. In technology enabled project environment, satisfying both professional and personal needs of the team members has the strongest impact on project performance. In underlining the importance of communication in project management, Turner & Muller (2005), suggests that leadership can either facilitate of frustrate the free flow of ideas and information.
Summarizing his comprehensive review of the literature on the role of leadership in project management; Turner & Muller (2005), developed a list of factors that are critical to the success of the project, and project managers must consider in the design, planning, and execution of projects. These factors are;
Clarity in communication- project managers must define the project goals and the likely outcomes of the project early in the planning process so as to avoid unnecessary adjustments in later stages which would lead to time and cost overruns.
Definition of roles and responsibilities- a leader must clearly define the project roles and responsibilities for each member of the team so as to avoid ambiguity, conflict and improve performance. This not only creates team cohesion but also ensures proper utilization of project team resources.
Communication of expectations- establishing what is to be expected as the outcome of the project to all stakeholders is key to ensuring harmonious relationship and smooth project execution. It also avoids instances where some stakeholders feel that some results have not been delivered concerning project outcomes.
The consistency of processes- consistent and predictable project processes not only enhance team members roles but also lead to improved operational efficiency, reduce ambiguity and risks.
Cultivation of an environment of trust- an environment of trust leads to openness and transparency in communication, collaboration and knowledge sharing which is helpful in ensuring a harmonious working environment.
Top management support- The support of the top management often translates to the support of everyone in the organization, which offers goodwill to the project implementers. It’s often a challenge to obtain managerial support especially in traditional organizations where there are functional managers controlling resources.
Management of project outcomes- When there are clearly defined missions and objectives in a project; it becomes easy to carry out formal monitoring and evaluation of project outcomes to determine the success of the project. It also promotes motivation, productivity and synergy in project teams.
The above discussion shows that defining the team roles and project processes is the most important step to successfully managing and leading projects. This lays a strong foundation for the creation of clear goals, communication of project expectations and the subsequent employment of consistent processes. The ultimate goal for a project manager must be to establish the trust in the management of outcomes, and therefore project leadership becomes critical; in establishing that trust. Project leadership also plays a critical role in establishing open communication and trust, which is a key ingredient in promoting team motivation, development, efficiency, knowledge- sharing and innovation, which are critical success factors in project management.
House, R. J. (1971). A path-goal theory of leader effectiveness . Administrative Science Quarterly, September, 321-338.
Fiedler, F. E. (1967). A theory of leadership effectiveness. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Bass, B. M. (1990). From transactional to transformational leadership: Learning to share the vision. Organizational Dynamics, 18(3), 19-31.
Keegan, A. E., & Den Hartog, D. N. (2004). Transformational leadership in a project-based environment: A comparative study of the leadership styles of project managers and line managers. International Journal of Project Management, 22(8), 609-618.
Goleman, D., Boyatzis, R., & McKee, A. (2002). The New Leaders. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
Dulewicz, V., & Higgs, M. J. (2000). Emotional intelligence: A review and evaluation study. Journal of Managerial
Psychology, 15(4), 341–368.
Belbin, R. M. (1986). Management teams. London: Heinemann.
Margerison, M., & McCann, D. (1990). Team Management. Mercury Press.
Cattell, R. B., Eber, H. W., & Tatsuoka, M. M. (1970). Handbook for the 16PF. Illinois: IPAT.
Crawford, L. H. (2003). Assessing and developing the project management competence of individuals. In J. R. Turner (Ed.), People in Project Management. Aldershot, UK: Gower.
Hartman, F., & Ashrafi, R. A. (2002). Project management in the information systems and information technologies industries. Project Management Journal, 33(3), 5-15.
Turner, Rodney J., and Ralf Müller, “The Project Manager’s Role as a Success Factor on Projects: A Literature Review,” Project Management Journal, 36:2 (2005), pp. 49-61.
Project Manager (Temporary Assignment)
- Find us on Glassdoor
- Location Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America
- Job ID 0000011854
- Category Sales, Marketing & Product Management
Are you passionate about project management? Would you like to work for the company whose products bring happiness to millions of children and adults globally?
Come play a vital role in our Digital Marketing team for the Americas region. This role is critical to ensuring we are able to deliver and meet the needs of families and consumers for years come!
*This is a temporary position based on business needs through approximately the end of 2024.*
Drive end-to-end project planning of Americas Digital Marketing team
Help to plan and prioritize expectations for deliverables across multiple teams, and keep all motivated
Effectively communicate challenges, risk and opportunities throughout planning and implementation.
Tackle necessary actions to keep projects on track for delivery
Elevate roadblocks and work to push through hurdles to ensure delivery that maintains quality
Drive follow-ups and actions
Collate and develop best practices that can be shared with partners for continuous improvement
Iterate on internal processes and continuously find ways to create efficiencies
Play your part in our team succeeding
This team is home to social media, content, YouTube, and influencer marketing. We build the brand and drive demand through delivering timely relevant and engaging content across beloved platforms of parents, adults, and kids.
Do you have what it takes?
Minimum 5 years of Project Management experience and tools
Experience managing multiple complex workstreams, coordinating across multiple teams, a diverse set of partners, and ensuring projects deliver on time
Strong leadership skills with the ability to influence and motivate others
Outstanding organizational skills and keen attention to detail
Excellent communication skills and the ability to work collaboratively with others
Strong problem-solving skills and the ability to identify and mitigate project risks and issues
Bachelor’s degree in Marketing preferred or equivalent experience
Background in consumer-packaged goods, family entertainment, gaming or toys preferred
New Location Update
The current work location for this role is 501 Boylston Street, Boston, MA. In 2025, we will transition to our new permanent office location at 1001 Boylston Street, Boston, MA. Specific move dates for roles are to be determined and communicated in 2024.
Hybrid working model
Our workplace enables our LEGO® colleagues to be and do their best at work. Introducing a flexible way of working through a hybrid working model is a great example of how we live up to our ambition. This 3 day in the office hybrid working model will exemplify our People Promise by embracing the different life situations of our colleagues.
Join the global LEGO® team We strive to create a diverse, dynamic and inclusive culture of play at the LEGO Group, where everyone feels safe, valued and they belong. The LEGO Group is proud to be an equal opportunity and an affirmative action employer. We are committed to equal employment opportunity regardless of race, color, ancestry, religion, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, age, citizenship, marital status, disability, gender identity or Veteran status. We support our employees in being there for the moments that matter in life and celebrate families of all kinds, the loved ones that make us who we are. Being part of the LEGO Group also means taking part in our annual Play Day, playing a part in building a sustainable future and continuing our mission to “inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow.” The LEGO Group is fully committed to Children’s Rights and Child Wellbeing across the globe. Candidates offered positions with high engagement with children are required to take part in Child Safeguarding Background Screening, as a condition of the offer. Thank you for sharing our global commitment to Children’s Rights.
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Find out what is going on Behind the Bricks...
Here or there? Why choose when you can have the Best of Both?
In 2021 we launched a new hybrid working model to make sure the change we created was the best kind of change. For roles that are eligible and able it means we have the opportunity to work three days in the office and two from home as it fits best for individuals and teams. So we’ve called it the Best of Both.
Most attractive workplace for engineers in Denmark
We are delighted to hear the news that for the second year running we’ve been voted Denmark’s most attractive workplace for Engineers by the readers of Ingenioren magazine. It’s particularly rewarding for us as our purpose is to develop and inspire the builders of tomorrow. Our 2,000+ engineering colleagues around the world find so many ways to do this. Maybe, one day, you could too. Perhaps we can inspire you to build your career here with us.
Just Imagine with Travis 💭
A curious mind is a hungry mind. Just imagine indulging yours in a business that thrives on sharing knowledge and challenging one another to create the best outcomes. This is just part of the reason our Strategy Director, Travis Peoples, finds his wide-ranging role in Sustainability so fulfilling.
Just Imagine with Lauren
Just imagine what you did every day could end up changing the world forever. This is how Lauren von Stackelberg (she/her) sees her role as our Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer. Change does not happen quickly or easily when the task is so big. But Lauren is under no illusions about this and she doesn’t do it alone. Collaborating, listening and learning with a curious, open mind are as much part of her journey as they are of everyone who works here.
The secret to an awesome virtual interview LEGO® style
Creating an awesome experience for candidates throughout their whole journey should be central to any organisation’s hiring goals - and we’re no different. We want our candidates to feel the LEGO® culture, but this can be tricky when things are virtual.
Inspiring Women in Engineering
Science and Technology play an important part in helping us reach LEGO® builders across the globe - from Manufacturing, Production and Supply Chain to eCommerce and Consumer & Shopper Engagement (and there are many more!). Children are our role models, but we also know the positive impact role models can have on kids as they grow up.
Working at the LEGO Group is more than just fun: it’s exciting, inspiring, and filled with creativity. It’ll spark your imagination every day, and might just inspire you to explore career directions you’d never considered before. There’s a lot to discover, so start here.