Peter DeWitt's

Finding common ground.

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at . Read more from this blog .

What Are the Elements for a More Impactful, Focused School Leadership Team?

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Schools often face challenges, but COVID-19 exacerbated those challenges when it comes to issues of equity, student and adult mental health, the effective use of technology, and developing authentic student engagement. Many times, schools can address these issues within their school-based teams, often called shared-decisionmaking teams or instructional-leadership teams.

Unfortunately, these school-based teams are not as impactful as they could be, because there is a lack of focus or direction. Some of this is due to the fact that the team doesn’t fully understand the dynamics within their group and therefore members do not engage in the necessary work to develop collective efficacy.

Tschannen-Moran, M., & Barr, M. (2004) define collective teacher efficacy as “the collective self-perception that teachers in a given school make an educational difference to their students over and above the educational impact of their homes and communities.” What their research found is that when a group of teachers have a strong belief that they can make a difference together in how their students learn, those teachers are more likely to develop strategies to meet that goal. What this means is that teachers’ collective efforts can positively impact student learning, and deeper student learning can positively impact how the teachers come together collectively.

What About Leaders?

For years, what I find interesting about the research on collective efficacy, much of what was inspired by the efficacy research originated by Albert Bandura beginning in the 1970s, is that many times the school building leader’s role in developing it was relegated to setting up a climate in the school in which teachers felt trust in one another and could engage in deep conversations.

A climate of trust and deep conversation is certainly important, but shouldn’t leaders have a deeper role?

They should do more than just set up the climate; they need to be an active member in the process, which leads to collective leader efficacy. Leithwood and Jantzi (2008. p. 496) found that, “ school leaders’ collective efficacy was an important link between district conditions and both the conditions found in schools and their effects on student achievement.”

A few years ago, I began some deep investigation into how we build collective leader efficacy (CLE), because I believe that the school building leader’s job isn’t merely just setting up an environment. As a former school building leader, I feel that a leader’s role is to be an active member in that environment where the team of educators learn together with a focus on student learning.

Hattie, Donohoo, and DeWitt define collective leader efficacy as “the shared conviction that an instructional leadership team makes a significant contribution in raising student achievement.” CLE is best developed when the leadership team collectively works together, understands the complexities of working as a group, has confidence in each other’s ability to improve learning conditions for students, and develops the competence to do so.

However, what we know is that instructional-leadership teams have internal struggles with status because school-based leaders are members of the team, and that often means that teachers around the table do not want to speak up and challenge their supervisors.

To do this often-complicated work, there are two necessary components to the collective leader-efficacy process. The first is to look at how the team comes together through drivers of improvement, and the second is to understand where to focus their collective efforts using a cycle of inquiry.

Driver’s Seat

Fullan (2011) says drivers, “ are those policy and strategy levers that have the least and best chance of driving successful reform .” According to Fullan, there are four criteria for successful drivers. Drivers of improvement must:

1. Foster intrinsic motivation of teachers and students

2. Engage educators and students in continuous improvement of instruction and learning

3. Inspire collective or teamwork

4. Affect all teachers and students—100 percent?

In my new book, Collective Leader Efficacy: Strengthening Instructional Leadership Teams (Jointly published by Corwin Press and Learning Forward), I suggest eight drivers. Teams must foster these drivers to strengthen their school team, as well as strengthen their focus on student learning.

To be clear, to do that, the school building leader needs to be a member of the team and not the one who runs the meetings. It is one of the reasons why Fullan’s work on drivers is so important to this process. Those drivers are:

Mindset – Due to issues like COVID, it’s easy for educators to have a deficit mindset where they focus on aspects of student engagement. Too often, the conversations focus on COVID learning loss, which leads to deficit thinking, as opposed to focusing on where students are in the learning process. What this means is that instructional-leadership teams must develop a common language and common understanding around student engagement. Mindsets are fostered through developing that understanding and then finding proactive strategies to help increase engagement.

Well-being – In a joint report (2021), NASSP and EPI found that 42 percent of principals indicated they were considering leaving their position. Teachers are not immune to stress and anxiety, either. In this recent Education Week article, Kurtz cited an Education Week Research Center finding that 92 percent of teachers said “teaching is more stressful now than prior to the pandemic. And most also say it has only grown more challenging over the course of the pandemic: 78 percent of teachers say teaching is a lot or somewhat more stressful today than it was a year ago.”

Teams need to do more than just acknowledge stress and anxiety, but they need to also engage in discussions on well-being in their leadership-team meetings. These discussions must result in actionable steps where they do something about it. One major actionable step that teams can engage in to help alleviate stress, chip away at workload, and focus on well-being is through the deimplementation process. van Bodegom-Vos L et al. (2017) defines deimplementation as the process of “abandoning existing low value practices.”

Ask questions such as:

  • How do we spend our time at meetings?
  • How many initiatives are we engaged in, and do we need them all?
  • What practices can we begin to deimplement, whether that means a partial reduction or a complete reversal?
  • How can deimplementation help us take control and find better work/life balance?

Context beliefs – This is a driver that has long been a part of the dialogue and research when it comes to efficacy. Leithwood et al. (2008. p. 536) “ These are beliefs about whether, for example, the working conditions in the school will support teachers’ efforts to instruct in the manner suggested by the school’s improvement initiatives .” The question to ask is, “Do teachers in the school feel as though they are supported when they try new strategies in the classroom? Do they feel they have a voice in the decisionmaking in the school, or do they feel they always need to be compliant?”

What this means is that instructional-leadership teams must intentionally talk about how they support teachers through professional learning and development or resources in their school, so teachers feel supported when they try something innovative. Teams can do this by focusing on three questions:

  • How are students and teachers working together to create authentic learning experiences?
  • How are we supporting students and teachers in that process?
  • What unbiased evidence do we collect to understand our impact?

Working conditions – As you can probably tell, all these drivers are interrelated, and working conditions are no different in that relationship. Working conditions means developing a positive school climate, where people feel valued and respected. It is an important driver when it comes to how a team comes together, and it is yet another area where teams can engage in discussions about deimplementation. Wang et al. (2018) says deimplementation comes down to four areas. Those areas are:

  • Partial reduction
  • Complete reversal
  • Substitution with related replacement
  • Substitution with unrelated replacement of existing practice.

By focusing on these areas, instructional-leadership teams can begin to improve the working conditions within their schools because it becomes less about the million things we do during the day and more about focusing on a few important strategies that will allow them to have the greatest impact.

Organizational commitment - Organizational commitment is an important partner to the discussion about working conditions when it comes to developing collective leader efficacy, because when we look at organizational commitment, we must consider it in three different ways:

  • How are teachers committed to the organization?
  • How is the organization committed to teachers?
  • What is the organization, and those who work in it, committed to when it comes to student learning?

Through these three questions, and using a cycle of inquiry, instructional-leadership teams choose an instructional goal that will have a positive impact on student learning.

Professional learning and development - Hargreaves and Fullan (2017) write that “Professional learning is often like student learning—something that is deliberately structured and increasingly accepted because it can (to some) more obviously be linked to measurable outcomes.” They go on to say that “professional development involves many aspects of learning but may also involve developing mindfulness, team building, and team development.”

Instructional-leadership teams can model professional learning and development using flipped meetings where educators can engage in discussions and activities focused on high-impact practices through reading articles or watching videos ahead of time and then bringing evidence showing how they put it into action.

The skills to work in collectives – It is not easy to work in collaboration with others, especially when one of the members of the team is an administrator or the supervisor of everyone else on the team. In fact, Kuhn (2015) found that collaboration does not work any better than if we were to engage in an activity and do it by ourselves.

The reason is that members of a team do not challenge each other’s thinking enough when they are within a collaborative setting. This takes skill to understand how to work in such a dynamic.

The confidence to work in collectives – Through the work defined within the other drivers, each member of the team will develop the confidence to work in collectives. Bandura’s (1997) seminal work on efficacy is important here because the researcher found that there are four experiences that raise the confidence of individuals and the team. Those experiences are:

  • Mastery experiences
  • Vicarious experiences
  • Social persuasion
  • Affective states

Cycle of Inquiry

The second of the necessary components to build collective leader efficacy works simultaneously with that of developing drivers, and that component is the cycle of inquiry that the instructional-leadership team engages in together.

Casey (2014. p. 510) writes, “When we describe learning in terms of inquiry, we are clearly affirming that learning and questioning processes are somehow intertwined.” Through my work, I developed a cycle of inquiry that encompasses six steps, which is pictured below, that instructional-leadership teams can focus on in their work as they come together.

Cycle of Inquiry

Those inquiry steps are:

  • Develop – Develop a focus for improvement. What does the evidence show when it comes to an area of improvement?
  • Explore – As a team, and a whole faculty, explore how you engage students currently? What strategies are already commonplace?
  • Inquire – Formally, as a team, begin to develop a purpose statement focusing on that area of improvement, which then leads to an inquiry question and ultimately a theory of action.
  • Plan – Develop a plan of action where your team considers resources, activities, and a timetable that will help foster improvement.
  • Implement – Begin taking actionable steps that will help teachers and leaders engage in the improvement process.
  • Reflect – Using the evidence during the development stage, discuss how your school has improved.

Our greatest challenges and potential innovations take hard work and the best thinking of an instructional-leadership team. Those teams can have a powerful impact on their school communities and be a great place to motivate others in a school. What we know is that our issues in school can sometimes be significant, and a good team is worth its weight in gold. However, the practice of engaging with our school leadership teams needs to be guided by research.

Building collective leader efficacy is that research because it focuses on how teams come together and learn from one another, at the same time it focuses on using a cycle of inquiry to have a deeper impact on learning.

By developing a student-centered focus for our instructional-leadership team, understanding the drivers behind whole-team success, and then engaging in an intentional process to do the work is a viable way for school communities to be successful and develop a more positive self-fulfilling prophecy as a team.

The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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83 Leadership Activities, Building Games, and Exercises

leadership activities 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 Work & Career Coaching Exercises for free . These detailed, science-based exercises will help you or your clients identify opportunities for professional growth and create a more meaningful career.

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 10 Skills Every Leadership Coach Should Teach

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.

7 Ways to Practice Leadership Without Actually Being a Leader

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).

school leadership projects

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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.

Leadership styles

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.

Fun exercises for children

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.

Leadership games

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.

Leadership and team building exercised for students

  • “ 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)

Leadership group activities

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.)

Positive communication at work

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 Work & Career Coaching Exercises for free .

  • ‘tony’ (2018). Leadership games and activities for middle school students . Retrieved from
  • Clark, Donald (2015). Leadership Styles Activity . Retrieved from
  • Cohen, Esther (2017). 31 Team building activities your team will actually love . Retrieved from
  • Cserti, Robert (2018). 12 Effective leadership activities and games . Retrieved from
  • Deputy (2018). 6 Impactful leadership activities to try at work . Retrieved from
  • Doyle, A. (2019). Top 10 leadership skills employers look for . Retrieved from
  • Edsys (2016). 1 0 Activities for teachers to grow leadership skills in children . Retrieved from
  • Flavin, B. (2018). 8 Leadership Experiences You Didn’t Know You Already Have . Retrieved from
  • Goyette, P.(2016). 3 Leadership activities that improve employee performance at all levels . Retrieved from
  • Higgins, R. (2018). 5 Fun and Inspirational Leadership Workshop Ideas . Retrieved from
  • Johnson-Gerard, M. (2017). Situational Leadership Games . Retrieved from
  • Landau, P. (2018). The 9 best leadership games for skill development . Retrieved from
  • Stapleton, S. (2018). Leadership activities for High School classrooms . Retrieved from
  • Stepshift (2016). Leadership Training Activities . Retrieved from
  • The Pennsylvania State University (2012). I can be a leader! Leadership fun for children . Retrieved from
  • Training Course Material (n.d.). Leadership and management activities . Retrieved from

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What our readers think.

Peter Harding

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.

FullTilt Teams

Thank you for posting this informative blog. keep sharing.

Norita E. Manly

Too interesting for me to try all.

Chloe Mansergh

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.

Nann Htet Win

This is an excellent article for every manager and leader tn build successful leadership. Thank you.

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Let's Cultivate Greatness

My favorite part of teaching Leadership class is also the most underrated: having the chance to strengthen life skills! 

When else do active listening, empathy, or thinking outside the box get to be the focus of class time? I love it! These are the types of things we hope students pick up somehow but rarely have opportunity to teach explicitly.

Leadership skills, especially at the middle or high school level, encompass many life skills—communication, compassion, teamwork, creativity, and social-emotional intelligence. It goes way beyond just leading people.

The best part is being able to plot precisely in the year a particular skill is best to focus on so they carry more meaning. Like practicing speaking skills right before an assembly. Or doing a gratitude lesson during November. 

If this is your first time teaching Leadership, you aren’t able to fully predict which skills need work and when. So, give yourself grace and take lots of notes during your first year. Then, before the following school year, use them to plan out your calendar.

Below are 5 of my favorite activities to teach essential leadership skills. These come from my  year-long leadership skills activity bundle , which includes 30 one-hour print-and-teach lessons. 

1. Build Team Work by Hosting a Scavenger Hunt Swap

This activity is perfect for right at the start of the year!

Divide your students into groups of 3-4, giving each a shopping bag and a blank sheet of paper, and head outside. Be sure to review the defined boundaries for this activity (ex. “ on campus, except parking lot ”).

Give groups a few minutes to brainstorm ten items that are 

  • findable and accessible on campus
  • nobody’s personal property
  • fit inside the provided bags

Some examples could be a rock from the courtyard, a napkin from the cafeteria, a sticky note from the attendance office counter. 

Gather up the lists, then randomly pass them back out to groups. With all members sticking together in their group, they must find the items on their list within a set amount of time.

Debrief by asking:  “What was the most challenging part of moving together as a team?”

Click to get more fun  teambuilding lessons .

2. Practicing Microphone Speaking Skills

Question slips to practice microphone skills

Plan this one right before the first assembly. 

Ahead of time, type up a bunch of questions that take just a few words or a sentence to answer. Just be sure the questions are ones  every  student can easily and comfortably answer. So, no sensitive or personal questions. 

Cut them into slips for students to pull randomly.

Some examples of questions to ask: 

  • Would you ever go skydiving? 
  • What’s your favorite season and why? 
  • Is a hotdog a sandwich?
  • What’s your favorite meal?

Head down to the auditorium or gym (wherever you hold assemblies!) and power up the microphone. Stand in a line or circle, pull a question, and have students, one by one, answer the questions in the microphone. 

After several rounds, students should know how close to hold it and how loudly to speak and feel confident with their own voice. 

Start with questions that require only one-word answers and work up to ones that require a sentence. 

Debrief by asking:  After several rounds, what trick seemed to work the best to speak loudly, clearly, and confidently?

Click here for more print-and-go  speaking and listening lessons .

3. Strengthen Relationships among Students

This one is great to do a few weeks into the school year since it’s a more vulnerable team-building activity. 

Grab a bunch of paper lunch bags and hand one to each student to decorate with well-known things that represent them—sports a part of, instruments played, clubs a member of, stuff like that. 

Task students to bring something that fits inside the bag representing an aspect them that  isn’t  widely known. Like someone who likes to cook for their family bringing in a bottle of their favorite spice or a someone whose happy spot is the beach bringing in a seashell. Without showing anyone, students put their item into their bag.

Put the filled bags into a box and have students take one out. Have them examine the outside to see if they can guess the owner. Then, pull out the secret item and guess what it might represent. The owner can then share a bit about what the bag and item mean.  

Debrief by asking:  How can we create a group where we feel safe sharing our inner selves?

Click for more great  lessons on   building healthy relationships .

4. Practice Creative Thinking with Oops Art 

Save this one for a less hectic time of year since it can be scheduled at any time. All you need are some basic art supplies like paint, scissors, glue, and construction paper. 

Get a copy of the children’s book  Beautiful Oops!  by Barney Saltzberg  and read it aloud with students or have them each read a page aloud, then pass it on to the next. Yes, even high schoolers get a kick out of storytime!

Saltzberg includes nine “oopses” in the book, like a tear or paint spill. Assign each student one to create. 

Redistribute them back out, challenging students to now create a masterpiece out of the oops they got. Afterward, make a bulletin board display out of the artworks.

Debrief by asking:  How can we remind ourselves to look for the beauty in or a new purpose for a “mistake”?

Click to get more  creative and problem-solving lessons .

5. Encourage Goal Setting with a Bucket List 

Worksheets to create a goal setting bucket list

This works well at many points in the year—the start of the school year, the new year, or second semester. Or even right before summer break!

This activity shows students that leadership skills include personal leadership too!

Decide a number theme that works for when you’re doing this:

  • 18 Things to Do in 180 Days
  • 9 Challenges for the 90 Days of Summer
  • 11 Things to Do by the End of 11 th  Grade

Start by having students take a minute or two to close their eyes and envision how the perfect summer or school year would look. You may also want to make and share your own bucket list with students. 

The trick to a successful bucket list is to have a range of activities. Accomplishments shouldn’t all be expensive, time-consuming, or outside of comfort zones. A few “reach” goals should be balanced with ones that are free, can be done solo or at any time, and don’t much of time. 

Since lists  should  be personal, just ask for volunteers to share an item on their list to close the lesson.

Debrief by asking:  What’s something you’re excited to do that you’d never thought of until this activity?

Click here for more ready-to-go  mindfulness and personal growth lessons .

I hope these activity ideas help you incorporate more leadership skills into your classroom! 

Get all these activities as ready-to-go leadership lessons in my  Leadership Skills bundle , complete with teacher guides, warm-ups, handouts, and exit slips. With over 30 hour-long lessons to pick from, you will be set for the whole school year!

Worksheets to teach leadership skill lessons

Feature image photo credit: Perry Grone

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Published on Education for Global Development

Effective ways for developing school leadership, harriet nannyonjo, this page in:.

school leadership projects

Senior Education Specialist, Education Global Practice, World Bank Group

Dear Harriet Nannyonjo, Thank you for sharing your blog and for pointing out the essential role of good and effective school leadership on student outcomes. Therefore, developing leaders to positively impact student outcomes is extremely desirable. However, what are the data that show that such program as implemented in Jamaica impacts student outcomes? What is the cost effectiveness of the program? What is its external validity?

Good article. It is true that a 'Leader can make a school or mar a school'.

Thanks Harriet for sharing this very good model of school leadership program. The use of cohort groups is really innovative.

That information is relevant and practical to school leadership and the general success of the any school in the world. I strongly believe that, this what we are lacking in all public schools in Tanzania. We need NCEL programme to transform education delivery in our beloved country. Peter

How can the world Bank support our school in Africa in education especially in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics.

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School leadership

Strengthening school leadership to improve teaching and learning is one of the strategies put forward to achieve target 4.c of the Education 2030 Agenda, which addresses the need to increase the supply of qualified teachers (UNESCO, 2016; United Nations, 2015). Studies have shown that school leadership has the second-largest in-school impact on student learning outcomes, behind only classroom teaching (UNESCO, 2018; VVOB, 2018). Through a managerial lens, school leaders can also help achieve target 4.a – provide safe, non-violent, inclusive, and equitable learning environments. In addition, by establishing a clear vision and promoting a positive culture, they can propel their schools to achieve targets 4.1 (equitable and quality education for all) and 4.5 (eliminate gender disparities and allow equal access to education for all vulnerable populations).

What we know

School leadership aims to get the best out of teachers and students. It can fall under either transformational or instructional/pedagogical leadership (Day and Sammons, 2014; UNESCO, 2018). Transformational leadership pertains to big-picture vision and structural reorganization, while instructional leadership refers to establishing the importance of teaching and learning to improve outcomes (Day and Sammons, 2014; OECD, 2016). School leadership roles include responsibilities that encompass both leadership (such as goal-setting or teacher evaluation) and management duties (resource management, teacher deployment) (UNESCO, 2018; Vaillant, 2015). Those in management roles establish day-to-day organization in a school while also providing control and oversight to teachers and students (Day and Sammons, 2014; UNESCO, 2018). While principals take on many of these tasks, school leadership can also include senior teachers, community members, other school administrators, and government officials (Spillane, Paquin Morel, and Al-Fadala, 2019; UNESCO, 2019b). School leaders also play a key role in developing community and family participation within the school (UNICEF, 2009).

School leaders establish the culture and organization necessary for schools to provide quality teaching and therefore have an indirect, but important, effect on student learning (OECD, 2016; UNESCO, 2018; World Bank, 2018). Studies have found that school leaders who provide better management services have a positive correlation to student outcomes (Bloom et al., 2014; Leaver, Lemos, and Scur, 2019). Other data has shown that principals that provide more instructional leadership increase teacher collaboration and sense of purpose (OECD, 2016). By providing effective guidance, training, and working conditions to teachers, school leaders and managers create the best possible environment for learning (Jensen, Downing, and Clark, 2017; UNESCO, 2019a). 

School leaders may have very different amounts of power and authority based on the governance structure in a country (OECD, 2016). There are large variances globally in the extent of decentralization that has occurred within education systems, resulting in the development of different leadership methods (Vaillant, 2015). Some countries have empowered schools and local school leadership, running on a system of school-based management (Garcia Moreno, Gertler, and Patrinos, 2019; Yamauchi, 2014). These systems, with independent budgets and staffing decisions, allow greater autonomy for school leaders (Garcia Moreno, Gertler, and Patrinos, 2019; Vaillant, 2015). Other countries have more centralized systems in which school leaders directly follow guidance from ministries of education (UNESCO, 2019a; Vaillant, 2015).

Lack of established qualifications for school leaders. Many countries lack formalized policy guidance on the requirements to become a principal or head teacher (Tournier et al., 2019; UNESCO, 2019b). In these cases, school leadership positions often go to senior teachers who may lack training or preparation for these roles (Education Commission, 2019; UNESCO, 2019b). Some countries appoint school leaders as political favours or with little transparency in the selection process (Tournier et al., 2019). Such issues can lead to the appointment of inexperienced and untrained leaders, which seriously hampers the effectiveness of schools and can have a negative impact on student learning.    Lack of incentive to become a school leader.  School leadership is a demanding profession, especially in contexts where resources are limited. The responsibilities transferred to schools under decentralization have considerably increased the activity portfolio of the school head. He or she must be able to manage the human, material, and financial resources of the school, to plan and manage the school improvement plan, but also to bring together actors within and around the school through the development of partnerships (Vaillant, 2015). Principals and other school leaders tend to work longer hours and have more responsibilities than teachers, but often receive little extra pay or other tangible incentives (OECD, 2020; Tournier et al., 2019; UNESCO, 2018). In many countries, a school leadership role represents a final position for senior teachers and offers little career mobility (OECD, 2019; Tournier et al., 2019). These factors can dissuade highly motivated teachers or other quality candidates from seeking school leadership positions.

School leaders can become full-time managers.  While instructional and pedagogical training is a key aspect of the job, many countries still use principals as simple administrative managers. A large part of their job is accountability reporting, which adds to the pressure of the work (Education Commission, 2019; UNESCO, 2018). School leaders in centralized systems can be submerged with top-down tasking or seeking approval from local or national authorities (UNESCO, 2019a). This lack of instructional leadership can lead to less teacher innovation and collaboration, and potentially affect student learning outcomes (Day and Sammons, 2014).

Lack of data on school leadership.  There is a lack of basic data about school leadership, such as qualifications or turnover. There remains a lack of integrated and comparative research in terms of effective school leadership policies and practices globally (Spillane, Paquin Morel, and Al-Fadala, 2019; UNESCO, 2018). This proves especially true in low- and middle-income countries, as much research focuses on high-performing systems and high-income countries (Day and Sammons, 2014; Jensen, Downing, and Clark, 2017; OECD, 2016, 2020). This dearth of research stems from a lack of both established policies and data collection, with much of the available information self-reported in documents such as the survey accompanying the Programme for International Student Assessment test (Leaver, Lemos, and Scur, 2019; UNESCO, 2018). All of these issues make developing effective, evidence-based strategies for school leadership extremely difficult in low-income countries.

Equity and inclusion

School leaders are vital to promoting equity.  School leaders drive the culture and focus of schools, and can be instrumental in promoting school equality and equity (UNESCO, 2017). They have an enormous impact on how vulnerable student populations receive instruction (Spillane, Paquin Morel, and Al-Fadala, 2019; UNESCO, 2018). By properly selecting and training teachers and instilling an equitable environment, school leaders can greatly enhance vulnerable students’ learning outcomes, especially in disadvantaged schools (UNESCO, 2017; Vaillant, 2015; VVOB, 2019). However, challenges including poor training or heavy administrative burdens can hinder this.

Leadership demographics.  Globally, the proportion of men in school leadership and management positions is higher than within the general teaching force (GEM Report Team, 2018; OECD, 2020; UNESCO, 2018). When women do attain leadership positions, these tend to be in primary or smaller schools rather than larger secondary or tertiary institutions (UNESCO, 2018, 2019b). Due to the ability of female principals and leaders to help encourage girls to stay in school, this lack of female leadership can have detrimental effects on learning equity (UNESCO, 2019b).

Policy and planning

Develop national standards for school leadership.  To better develop expectations for school leaders, policy-makers can establish codified standards, expectations, and recruitment strategies (Day and Sammons, 2014; OECD, 2020; UNESCO, 2018, 2019a). High-performing systems tend to integrate leadership standards and recruitment into their overall vision and goals for improving schools and learning outcomes (Jensen, Downing, and Clark, 2017). By developing transparent recruitment processes that seek candidates with the required skill sets, systems can set school leaders up for success (OECD, 2020; UNESCO, 2019b). Such measures help establish school leaders as an important part of the education system instead of merely viewing school leadership as a routine managerial task.

Develop a leadership career path.  To attract and retain the best leaders, principal and other leadership positions should not simply be coronations for senior teachers at the end of long careers. Instead, policies should establish leadership or administrative career paths with a clear progression that is separate from classroom teachers. This can incentivize performance and motivate ambitious leaders (Tournier et al., 2019). To better promote professional development practices and incentivize professional growth, such training can be linked to certifications or career milestones (UNESCO, 2019a). Research from the United States on the development of systematic processes for the strategic management of school leaders at district level points to school improvement and improved scores in mathematics and reading (Gates et al., 2019).

Provide training and professional development opportunities.  School leaders need proper initial training and continuous professional development to succeed (OECD, 2020; UNESCO, 2018, 2019a). As with in-service teacher training, continued training is key for principals and other school leaders (OECD, 2016; UNESCO, 2018; VVOB, 2019). Such training should promote leadership techniques, pedagogical and instructional guidance, and the vision and overall goals of the school system (Jensen, Downing, and Clark, 2017; Schleicher, 2012; UNESCO, 2019a, 2019b). Research has found that principals participating in instructional leadership training are then more engaged with teachers at their schools (OECD, 2016; VVOB, 2020). This type of training and development is especially vital as more systems move towards decentralization, and the required responsibilities of school leaders change and expand. 

Investigate the potential for distributed leadership.  Research shows that when leadership is not based on a single individual, the potential for improvement and innovation at the school level is increased. Such distributed leadership allows for delegating tasks among the different school actors and alleviates the workload of the school head. It also helps to involve teachers more actively in the management and functioning of the school, and to diversify their career opportunities (Breakspear et al., 2017).

Promote mentoring and relationship-building between school leaders and teachers.  School leaders play an important role in mentoring, which is key to improving teacher motivation, especially for new teachers (Tournier et al., 2019). While standards and training goals for school leaders remain context specific, policies should encourage all school leaders to establish and build relationships with their teachers (OECD, 2020). This comes not only through improving pedagogical techniques but also through seeking teacher input in decision-making, understanding their needs, and building trust (Day and Sammons, 2014; Tournier et al., 2019; UNESCO, 2018). Such actions can help in the day-to-day administration of schools, but they can also increase teacher motivation, collaboration, and sense of purpose (OECD, 2016; Tournier et al., 2019). School leaders (and schools) also benefit from building relationships outside of the school community and being part of networks, clusters, and professional learning communities (VVOB, 2018).

Plans and policies

  • Rwanda: Teacher development and management policy (2007)
  • Cook Islands: Governance, planning, and management (2016)
  • UNESCO-IIEP; International Academy of Education. Recruitment, retention and development of school principals (2005)
  • VVOB. CPD diploma courses for school and sector leaders ( Part 1   Part 2   Part 3 ) (2019)

Bloom, N.; Lemos, R.; Sadun, R.; van Reenen, J. 2014. Does management matter in schools . Working paper 20667. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.

Breakspear, S.; Peterson, A.; Alfadala, A.; Khair, M. S. B. M. 2017. Developing agile leaders of learning: School leadership policy for dynamic times . Qatar: World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE).

Day, C.; Sammons, P. 2014. Successful school leadership . Reading: Education Development Trust.

Education Commission. 2019. Transforming the education workforce: Learning teams for a learning generation . New York: The Education Commission.

Garcia Moreno, V. A.; Gertler, P. J.; Patrinos, H. A. 2019. School-based management and learning outcomes: Experimental evidence from Colima, Mexico . Policy Research working paper WPS 8874. Washington, DC: World Bank Group.

Gates, S. M.; Baird, M. D.; Master, B. K.; Chavez-Herrerias, E. R. 2019. Principal pipelines: A feasible, affordable, and effective way for districts to improve schools . Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation.

Global Education Monitoring Report Team. 2018. Global education monitoring report gender review 2018: Meeting our commitments to gender equality in education . Paris: UNESCO.

Jensen, B.; Downing, P.; Clark, A. 2017. Preparing to lead: Lessons in principal development from high-performing education systems . Washington, DC: National Center on Education and the Economy.

Leaver, C.; Lemos, R.; Scur, D. 2019. Measuring and explaining management in schools: New approaches using public data . Policy Research working paper WPS 9053. Washington, DC: World Bank Group.

OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). 2016. School leadership for learning: Insights from TALIS 2013 . Paris: OECD.

––––. 2019. Working and learning together: Rethinking human resource policies for schools . OECD Reviews of School Resources. Paris: OECD.

––––. 2020. TALIS 2018 results (Volume II): Teachers and school leaders as valued professionals . Paris: OECD. 

Schleicher, A. 2012. Preparing teachers and developing school leaders for the 21st century: Lessons from around the world . Paris: OECD.

Spillane, J. P.; Paquin Morel, R.; Al-Fadala, A. 2019. Educational leadership: A multilevel distributed perspective . Qatar: WISE.

Tournier, B.; Chimier, C.; Childress, D.; Raudonyte, I. 2019. Teacher career reforms: Learning from experience . Paris: IIEP-UNESCO.

UNESCO. 2016. Incheon declaration and framework for action for the implementation for sustainable development goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning . Paris: UNESCO.

––––. 2017. A guide for ensuring inclusion and equity in education . Paris: UNESCO.

––––. 2018. Activating policy levers for Education 2030: The untapped potential of governance, school leadership, and monitoring and evaluation policies . Paris: UNESCO.

––––. 2019a. Policy brief: School leadership in Central Asia . Paris: UNESCO.

––––. 2019b. Teacher policy development guide . Paris: UNESCO.

UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund). 2009. Child friendly schools manual . New York: UNICEF.

United Nations. 2015. Transforming our world: The 2030 agenda for sustainable development . New York: United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

Vaillant, D. 2015. School leadership, trends in policies and practices, and improvement in the quality of education . Paris: UNESCO.

VVOB. 2018. Putting SDG4 into practice: School leadership. Technical brief no. 1 . Brussels: VVOB.

––––. 2019. Annual report 2018: Unlocking the potential of teachers and school leaders for SDG4 . Brussels: VVOB.

––––. 2020. Leading, teaching and learning together: Report on the early impact of the programme . Brussels: VVOB.

World Bank. 2018. World development report 2018: Learning to realize education’s promise . Washington, DC: World Bank Group.

Yamauchi, F. 2014. An alternative estimate of school-based management impacts on students’ achievements: Evidence from the Philippine s. Policy Research working paper WPS 6747, Impact Evaluation series no. IE 113. Washington, DC: World Bank Group.

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15 Leadership Activities for High School Students

By: Virginia | Apr 1, 2022 4:09 PM

As leaders, teens can learn, collaborate, and grow. But leadership skills don’t just appear overnight, young people need the right outlets to develop them. These 15 ideas for high school activities can help them discover new hobbies, expand on their interests, and become amazing leaders.

Taking on a leadership role can be incredibly empowering, but as the expression goes, it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. High school is a wonderful time to start a transformative journey that could shape their lives for years to come. 

Leadership activities for teens

To get things started, talk with your teen about their interests. There’s no question that leaders assume a lot of responsibility, and these responsibilities are a lot easier to shoulder if they’re doing something they love! That could be sports, STEM, the arts: there are possibilities for just about any hobby or extracurricular activity.

That said, high school is a wonderful time to audition for a play, even if they’ve never set foot on stage or try coding even if they’re a total newbie. Branching out can be very rewarding as well! (You can apply that same thinking to high school elective courses as well.)

So, check out these 15 ideas, encompassing both specific organizations and broad categories alike for launching leadership in high school and beyond. 

1. Future Business Leaders of America

Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) is a nationwide organization and competition that focuses on business, entrepreneurship, and leadership skills. Teens can learn about real-world business principles and take on competitive challenges. Through FBLA, teens can lead their competition teams and even win scholarship opportunities. 

2. National Honor Society & National Merit Scholars

These organizations challenge high-achieving scholars to engage with their communities in meaningful ways. Both National Honor Society and National Merit Scholars combine leadership with academics in ways teens won’t find in the classroom alone. 

3. FIRST Robotics

Like sports teams, robotics teams provide ample opportunities for projects, competition, hard work, and learning to work together towards a common goal. FIRST Robotics is one of many national organizations that encourage teens to bring their STEM skills into a thrilling arena. Read more about joining a robotics team here ! 

4. Volunteer work

Nothing can inspire teens like a worthy cause. Talk with your teen about how they’d like to get involved with an advocacy organization. Volunteering can help change the world and expand a young person’s horizons in very meaningful ways. 

5. National STEM Honors Society

Yes, there’s an honors society just for STEM! National STEM Honors Society engages students with year-round enrichment, competitions, and ample opportunities to become a STEM leader within their communities.

6. Student publications

Whether it’s a school newspaper, yearbook, literary magazine, or YouTube channel, student publications offer plenty of project-based opportunities for kids to take a lead. If your child loves the written word, getting involved with their high school’s writing-centric extracurriculars is a great idea. 

Team captains and managers take on a tremendous leadership role. From building morale to developing strategy, organizing logistics, and so much more on and off the field, athletics are a tried and true way to build leadership and character. 

8. Community engagement 

Community organizations come in all shapes and sizes. Groups centered on the arts, the environment, politics, or a religious community can make a major impact. And by contributing to that impact, teens can show how they care for important issues. 

9. Jobs and internships

There are some lessons that can only be learned in the working world. By adding a job or internship to their resume, teens show they can take the lead with real-world responsibilities. Especially if your teen can demonstrate getting promoted or taking on more complex duties, having job experience on their resume could give them a real boost in applying for that dream college or internship. 

10. STEM competitions

On the local, regional, and national scale, STEM competitions provide techie enthusiasts with the chance to lead, practice teamwork, and innovate on STEM projects. If you’re ready to jump in, check out our comprehensive list of 2022 STEM competitions . 

11. Student government 

It’s a classic for good reason! To succeed in student government, teens need to practice public speaking, developing a platform, and motivating others to achieve mutual goals. And if this appeals to your student, they might also love Model UN , government on a grander, global scale.

12. Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts

These organizations offer a wealth of different leadership opportunities in the outdoors, in their communities, and in honing a wide variety of skills. The Girl Scouts Gold Award and Eagle Scout status, the two highest accolades the organizations offer, speak volumes about the leadership skills participants have built over many years, and they give kids something to work towards!

13. Visual and performing arts

Whether it’s from the director’s chair, with a curator’s eye, or a choreographer’s moves, there are plenty of leadership opportunities in the arts. If your teen loves to perform, they can grow other talents in helping bring a creative vision to life. 

14. Cultural and language-oriented organizations

Connecting with other cultures is a wonderful way to broaden teens’ perspectives. This can be done through food, language, the arts, travel and many other avenues. Involvement in cultural organization can be indicative of a young person’s ability to step outside of their comfort zone, a key quality in a great leader.

15. Speech, debate, and mock trial

If your child dreams of a career in a courtroom or from behind a podium, these types of extracurricular activities might be a great fit. Not only can public speaking, debate, and mock trial be a team-based competition, success in any of these activities requires a high level of planning and teamwork. 

Leadership means lifelong learning

Good leaders are very knowledgeable. Great leaders never stop learning. That’s half the fun of getting involved with enrichment activities! 

As your high school student grows as a leader, there are endless opportunities to learn from others, about the world around them, and even about themselves. And as they prepare for college , careers, and more, that mindset can be even more valuable than impressive additions to their resume! 

Virginia started with iD Tech at the University of Denver in 2015 and has loved every minute since then! A former teacher by trade, she has a master's in education and loves working to embolden the next generation through STEM. Outside the office, you can usually find her reading a good book, struggling on a yoga mat, or exploring the Rocky Mountains. 

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15 Leadership Activities for High School Students

leadership activities for high school 2

May 17, 2022 //  by  Danielle Torpey

In a world that values productivity with creative collaboration--fostering leadership within students helps prepare successful leaders in society. In my classroom, it's easy to pick out the few kids who have natural leadership abilities, which made me wonder: how do I allow opportunities for students to all foster elements of leadership?

High school students are no doubt the future leaders of our society. I knew that providing leadership opportunities through various activities by implementing an element of leadership in my lesson plan would promote growth in communication skills among all my students.

Below are fifteen different activities for teachers to implement in their lesson plans to help foster influential leaders within the classroom and in students' post-graduate endeavors.

1. Establish a student timer


Time in the classroom is precious and most lessons have a time limit between transitions. Pick a student to be the "timer" for the day. They will be responsible for effective communication on the time left on a task. If you've allotted a five minutes time limit for a task to be completed, then your timer is the one who is responsible for keeping the class up to date on the remaining time and when that time has concluded. This is a simple way to give a student ownership and leadership situations to take charge.

2. A leader to pass out materials and paper


A simple activity to give kids the chance to take pride in a leadership role. If you have multiple handouts or materials for an activity, have a student or two be responsible for handing them out to everyone. This is also a great trick for your busy body students! Allowing them a quick minute to get up and move around the room before the next section of the lesson clears their brains and provides an aspect of leadership.

3. Create a student government 


Within different activities and after-school programs consider establishing a student government that works alongside the adult sponsors. Leaders could be responsible for ice-breakers, team-building activities, and other activities for students. With a student government, their focus should center around the alliance of students within the school to promote school spirit and participation. This is a foundational practice and building block to establishing an inclusive school culture that is promoting the collective student body.

Learn more: Columbia Interschool Governing Board

4. Activity Roles 


During lessons with small group discussions, give each member of the group a role to take ownership of. This allows for exposure to different styles of leadership, leadership behavior, and valuable skills that keep a discussion focused on the task at hand. On a sticky note or a blank piece of paper, write down the different roles each member of the discussion can take on. BONUS: this helps prevent picking a regular called-upon student and allows every student a chance to speak.

Learn more: University of Waterloo

5. Tutoring programs 


Allowing high school students to tutor middle school students is a great opportunity to add valuable tools to their leadership abilities. Plus, this is an excellent opportunity to boost a college application with leadership experience. Tutoring encourages leaders to establish their leadership styles on top of a leadership philosophy that suits their personality the best!

6. Peer mentorships 


Down the same vein as tutoring programs, schools could consider a peer mentorship program to add positive aspects of leadership and interpersonal skills. This style of leadership pushes beyond the subject matter, and helps grow authentic leadership for teen mentors! An influential leader could help with struggling underclassmen, special needs students, at-risk students, etc.

7. Small group feedback 


During class projects, have students take a piece of paper and provide feedback to their peers. Giving constructive feedback is a simple activity to encourage elements of leadership. Plus, successful leaders take feedback and weigh the viable options to make their work better! Creating a classroom that is centered around giving positive and regular feedback allows students to practice giving and receiving feedback in a controlled and constructive space.

Learn more: Room to Discover

8. Students lead after school program


If students have a particular interest in a topic or hobby encourage them to run activities for students in an after-school program who might show interest in the topic as well. It's as easy as an announcement on the intercom and a sign-up sheet of paper for those who are interested too. Some of the after-school programs to consider include creative writing club, tabletop/board game club, gay-straight alliance, Spanish club, etc.

9. Teen advocacy campaign


School months are filled with opportunities for campaigns. Whether it's mental health awareness month, teacher appreciation week, or homecoming--use different observed holidays and awareness dates for students to create and execute activities for students.

10. Give situational leadership journal prompts 


Start the class off with a quick five-minute situational leadership journal prompt! Giving a journal prompt with questions such as, "Your best friend is bullying someone in the locker room, how do you handle this situation." or "You're the CEO of a new company and about to launch a new product that will change the world--what are the steps you take with your team" and so on. Let students think on their feet and map out their responses in their journal or a blank piece of paper!

11. Games that promote leadership qualities 


Games in the classroom have always been a tide and true way to implement leadership skills. A classroom leadership game can help build trust within students and build a strong classroom culture!

Learn more: Vantage Circle

12. Independent Project-Based learning opportunities


Independent projects create a space for valuable skills when it comes to internal leadership and integrity. Sometimes the behavior of leaders starts from within! Project-based learning leads students to find internal motivation to do well on an assignment. Whether a formative or summative assignment, independent projects are a great opportunity to develop leadership skills.

Learn more: Crafted Curriculum

13. Scavenger hunt lesson


A scavenger hunt lesson is a great way to mix up instruction and allow activities for students to build leadership! Whether outside, within the school, or on an online scavenger hunt, students will think learning is a fun game! This is a great option for all ages and content across the board.

Learn more: 28 Ingenious School Scavenger Hunts For Students

14. Student leaders create a fun activity


Allow students to express their creativity with their mini-lesson. Small groups can plan a lesson focused on a particular concept you are covering in a unit. To push leadership skills further, the class can provide constructive feedback for the group that is taught!

15. Group Project-based learning opportunities


Want to incorporate project-based learning with a group? Similar to independent projects, creating a formative or summative assessment with groups encourages leadership amongst a group! You'll be surprised how naturally students will start assigning each other tasks to get a project completed with accountability and reliability. Creative collaborations also allow space for constructive feedback!

Learn more: E Reading Worksheets

Final Thoughts

Whether fostering a natural-born leader's talents or encouraging a student that needs help to develop their leadership style--giving opportunities in the classroom can be simple! Try out some of the different activities for teachers to implement in their lesson plans to help foster influential leaders within the classroom and in students' post-graduate endeavors! You'll be amazed how quickly students begin to foster skills!

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school leadership projects

Mindset for Middle School: First Year

Mindset Matters for Middle School leadership curriculum consists of eight core leadership modules. The instructional flow develops a leadership mindset by using one topic to fuel inquiry into the next, creating a collective curriculum linking together each facet of character education.

Watch the Mindset for Middle School Kickoff Video

Mindset for Middle School leadership curriculum is a unique leadership development program that schools and youth organizations use to help kids learn to lead, excel academically, and prepare them for life beyond middle school. We achieve this by delivering curriculum that is simple to teach, cool to learn, and offers EVERY kid the choice to practice leadership. The program offers flexible instruction, a captivating video series, and a powerful connection to student’s lives.

We’re already seeing shifts in behavior from children who were never leaders. In the hallways we hear discussions about these tenets from our students. We started the program hoping to see a culture shift at our school, and we believe this program sparked one!

Middle School Teacher

Our son wasn’t someone who talked about goals or what he wanted to be when he grows up. We noticed a change once he started the Mindset Program. He now discusses leadership with us and plans to serve his country.

Middle School Parent

Every parent talks about safety with their children, but the credibility of this programs’ innovators and the unique content ensures peace of mind in a way that our informal conversations together could not. Glad to have Mindset Matters at our school.

Parent of Three Mindset Matters Students

In the Responsibility unit, the last role playing of the Blame Game with the scenarios went really well. The 8th graders presented great situations with responsible and irresponsible responses – they really got into that and did a good job!

Bev, Mounds Park Academy Health Teacher

Mindset Matters is a program that simply and completely explains the connection between our youth and the leadership principles that have guided our country since it’s inception. When you go through the curriculum it is impossible to not be changed for the better. Kids will “get it” when you begin to relate their everyday experiences to the mirror that is Mindset Matters.

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Twenty Ideas for Engaging Projects

Twenty ideas for getting engaging projects going in your classroom.

school leadership projects

The start of the school year offers an ideal time to introduce students to project-based learning. By starting with engaging projects, you'll grab their interest while establishing a solid foundation of important skills, such as knowing how to conduct research, engage experts, and collaborate with peers. In honor of Edutopia's 20th anniversary, here are 20 project ideas to get learning off to a good start.

1. Flat Stanley Refresh: Flat Stanley literacy projects are perennial favorites for inspiring students to communicate and connect, often across great distances. Now Flat Stanley has his own apps for iPhone and iPad, along with new online resources. Project founder Dale Hubert is recently retired from the classroom, but he's still generating fresh ideas to bring learning alive in the "flatlands."

2. PBL is No Accident: In West Virginia, project-based learning has been adopted as a statewide strategy for improving teaching and learning. Teachers don't have to look far to find good project ideas. In this CNN story about the state's educational approach, read about a project that grew out of a fender-bender in a school parking lot. When students were asked to come up with a better design for the lot, they applied their understanding of geometry, civics, law, engineering, and public speaking. Find more good ideas in West Virginia's Teach21 project library.

3. Defy Gravity: Give your students a chance to investigate what happens near zero gravity by challenging them to design an experiment for NASA to conduct at its 2.2 second drop tower in Brookpark, Ohio. Separate NASA programs are offered for middle school and high school. Or, propose a project that may land you a seat on the ultimate roller coaster (aka: the "vomit comet"), NASA aircraft that produces periods of micro and hyper gravity ranging from 0 to 2 g's. Proposal deadline is Sept. 21, and flight week takes place in February 2012.

4. Connect Across Disciplines: When students design and build kinetic sculptures, they expand their understanding of art, history, engineering, language arts, and technology. Get some interdisciplinary project insights from the Edutopia video, Kinetic Conundrum . Click on the accompanying links for more tips about how you can do it, too.

5. Honor Home Languages: English language learners can feel pressured to master English fast, with class time spent correcting errors instead of using language in meaningful ways. Digital IS, a site published by the National Writing Project, shares plans for three projects that take time to honor students' home languages and cultures, engaging them in critical thinking, collaboration, and use of digital tools. Anne Herrington and Charlie Moran curate the project collection, "English Language Learners, Digital Tools, and Authentic Audiences."

6. Rethink Lunch: Make lunch into a learning opportunity with a project that gets students thinking more critically about their mid-day meal. Center for Ecoliteracy offers materials to help you start,  including informative essays and downloadable planning guides . Get more ideas from this video about a middle-school nutrition project, "A Healthy School Lunch."

7. Take a Learning Expedition: Expeditionary Learning schools take students on authentic learning expeditions, often in neighborhoods close to home. Check out the gallery for project ideas.

8. Find a Pal: If PBL is new to you, consider joining an existing project. You'll benefit from a veteran colleague's insights, and your students will get a chance to collaborate with classmates from other communities or even other countries. Get connected at ePals , a global learning community for educators from more than 200 countries.

9. Get Minds Inquiring: What's under foot? What are things made of? Science projects that emphasize inquiry help students make sense of their world and build a solid foundation for future understanding. The Inquiry Project supports teachers in third to fifth grades as they guide students in hands-on investigations about matter. Students develop the habits of scientists as they make observations, offer predictions, and gather evidence. Companion videos show how scientists use the same methods to explore the world. Connect inquiry activities to longer-term projects, such as creating a classroom museum that showcases students' investigations.

10. Learn through Service: When cases of the West Nile virus were reported in their area, Minnesota students sprang into action with a project that focused on preventing the disease through public education. Their project  (PDF) demonstrates what can happen when service-learning principles are built into PBL. Find more ideas for service-learning projects from the National Youth Leadership Council .

11. Locate Experts: When students are learning through authentic projects, they often need to connect with experts from the world outside the classroom. Find the knowledgeable experts you need for STEM projects through the National Lab Network . It's an online network where K-12 educators can locate experts from the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

12. Build Empathy: Projects that help students see the world from another person's perspective build empathy along with academic outcomes. The Edutopia video, "Give Me Shelter" , shows what compassionate learning looks like in action. Click on the companion links for more suggestions about how you can do it, too.

13. Investigate Climate Science: Take students on an investigation of climate science by joining the newest collaborative project hosted by GLOBE , Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment. The Student Climate Research Campaign includes three components: introductory activities to build a foundation of understanding, intensive observing periods when students around the world gather and report data, and research investigations that students design and conduct. Climate project kicks off Sept. 12.

14. Problem-Solvers Unite: Math fairs take mathematics out of the classroom and into the community, where everyone gets a chance to try their hand at problem solving. Galileo Educational Network explains how to host a math fair . In a nutshell, students set up displays of their math problems but not the solutions. Then they entice their parents and invited guests to work on solutions. Make the event even more engaging by inviting mathematicians to respond to students' problems.

15. Harvest Pennies: Can small things really add up to big results? It seems so, based on results of the Penny Harvest . Since the project started in New York in 1991, young philanthropists nationwide have raised and donated more than $8 million to charitable causes, all through penny drives. The project website explains how to organize students in philanthropy roundtables to study community issues and decide which causes they want to support.

16. Gather Stories: Instead of teaching history from textbooks, put students in the role of historian and help them make sense of the past. Learn more about how to plan oral history projects in the Edutopia story, "Living Legends." Teach students about the value of listening by having them gather stories for StoryCorps .

17. Angry Bird Physics: Here's a driving question to kickstart a science project: "What are the laws of physics in Angry Birds world?" Read how physics teachers like Frank Noschese and John Burk are using the web version of the popular mobile game in their classrooms.

18. Place-Based Projects: Make local heritage, landscapes, and culture the jumping-off point for compelling projects. That's the idea behind place-based education, which encourages students to look closely at their communities. Often, they wind up making significant contributions to their communities, as seen in the City of Stories project .

19. News They Can Use: Students don't have to wait until they're grown-ups to start publishing. Student newspapers, radio stations, and other journalism projects give them real-life experiences now. Award-winning journalism teacher Esther Wojcicki outlines the benefits this post on the New York Times Learning Network . Get more ideas about digital-age citizen journalism projects at MediaShift Idea Lab .

20. The Heroes They Know: To get acquainted with students at the start of the year and also introduce students to PBL processes, High Tech High teacher Diana Sanchez asked students to create a visual and textual representation of a hero in their own life. Their black-and-white exhibits were a source of pride to students, as Sanchez explains in her project reflection . Get more ideas from the project gallery at High Tech High , a network of 11 schools in San Diego County that emphasize PBL. To learn more, watch this Edutopia video interview with High Tech High founding principal Larry Rosenstock.

Please tell us about the projects you are planning for this school year.

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Business Education | Career Readiness | Leadership

4 Best Leadership Activities for High School Students

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September 8th, 2022 | 7 min. read

4 Best Leadership Activities for High School Students

Brad Hummel

Coming from a family of educators, Brad knows both the joys and challenges of teaching well. Through his own teaching background, he’s experienced both firsthand. As a writer for iCEV, Brad’s goal is to help teachers empower their students by listening to educators’ concerns and creating content that answers their most pressing questions about career and technical education.

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There's no question that leadership is one of the most sought-after career skills. But among high school students, it’s often hard to find. Your students need guidance and the right projects and activities to help them become the leaders they want to be.

As business and career readiness curriculum providers, we often from hear from teachers who want quality leadership activities for their learners.

To help you inspire your students, we’ve brought together four of the best leadership activities for high school students:

  • Leadership Activity Ideas from Let’s Cultivate Greatness
  • Student Leadership Activity and Discussion from Counseling Leadership
  • Leadership Activities from Teaching and Motivating Teens
  • Engaging and Effective Leadership Resources

After reviewing these activities, you’ll have a better picture of your options to determine what will work best for your students.

1. Leadership Activity Ideas from Let's Cultivate Greatness

Let's Cultivate Greatness high school leadership activities

Erin is a high school social studies teacher based in the state of Washington. She writes about developing leadership skills in high school students on her website, Let’s Cultivate Greatness .

On her website, Erin offers suggestions for five fun activities you can use to engage students in your leadership lessons:

  • Build Team Work by Hosting a Scavenger Hunt Swap
  • Strengthen Public Speaking by Practicing Microphone Skills
  • Nurture Gratitude with Writing Out-of-the-Blue Thank You Cards
  • Challenge Creative Thinking with an “Oops” Masterpiece
  • Encourage Goal Setting with a Word of the Year

Using these topic ideas, an enterprising teacher can quickly turn Erin’s ideas into easy leadership activities to boost student engagement.

One should note, however, that these activities don’t come with premade lesson plans or resources. You’ll need to create these materials on your own to have the most success with these activity ideas.

How Much Do These Leadership Activities Cost and Who Are They For?

Erin openly publishes these leadership activities on her Let’s Cultivate Greatness site so you can use them with your students for free.

If you like these exercises but want a few more resources, you can also purchase a leadership bundle from Let’s Cultivate Greatness on Teachers Pay Teachers.

The Student Council Leadership bundle includes enough activities to use over an entire year and costs $30.

Overall, Let’s Cultivate Greatness offers solid ideas for the teacher who just needs a little inspiration to create better leadership activities in the classroom. While the free resources aren’t for every teacher, you can purchase more complete exercises that you can easily use in many high school classes.

2. Student Leadership Activity and Discussion from Counseling Leadership


If you’re looking for a more reflective activity to use with your students, consider the Student Leadership Activity & Discussion from Counseling Leadership . Counseling Leadership is a Teachers Pay Teachers curriculum creator focusing on preparing students to be strong and successful leaders.

The activity consists of a simple survey and class discussion. Students rate themselves on a scale of 1-5 based on questions in three overarching categories:

  • The little things

After students fill out the survey, you can use the suggested questions to start a class discussion about each leadership trait. This discussion could take up to an entire class period, depending on student participation.

Because it requires students to think critically about themselves and their own capacities for leadership, this activity could be a great way to kick start professionalism lessons in your business or career classes.

How Much Does This Leadership Activity Cost and Who Is It For?

This resource is available for $2.99 . However, the engaging conversations you have with your students could be well worth the price.

Having your high school students analyze their own strengths, weaknesses, and capacity to lead can be a worthwhile exercise to frame your conversations on leadership. This makes this activity a solid choice for a teacher looking for an engaging way to start a leadership unit.

Nevertheless, you’ll likely need additional activities to build out your leadership and 21st century skills curriculum.

3. Leadership Activities from Teaching and Motivating Teens


The Leadership Activities & TED Talk Lesson on Everyday Leadership bundle is designed for students in grades 8-12. It uses TED talk videos (short but engaging speeches from notable individuals) to instruct high schoolers in the fundamentals of leadership.

This leadership exercise includes 12 pages of content between these resources:

  • A teacher’s guide
  • A synopsis of the TED Talk
  • A leadership survey
  • A note-taking graphic organizer
  • An analysis of the TED Talk
  • Small-group think tank activity
  • Class display
  • Afterthought documents

These activities were created specifically for a high school audience. In addition, the publisher states that the materials are designed to provide differentiated instruction opportunities to help students no matter how they learn best.

These TED talk activities from Teaching and Motivating Teens cost $4.25.

Overall, this activity is a great way to tie leadership qualities together with other important concepts like collaboration. You can use the TED talk to help students identify and analyze leadership skills and then build upon these conversations through the remainder of your lessons.

4. Engaging and Effective Leadership Resources


Similarly to other resources on this list, Engaging and Effective’s leadership activity also uses TED Talks to communicate the importance of being a competent leader and communicator.

With this activity, you’ll receive 12 pages of materials, including worksheets for students to respond to and critique six different TED talks:

  • "Everyday leadership"
  • "A life lesson from a volunteer firefighter"
  • "Try something new for 30 days"
  • "How to start a movement"
  • "What I learned from 2,000 obituaries"
  • "Weird or just different"

Since the resources are digital, you can use them when working in person or as a distance learning tool.

You’ll pay $3.50 on Teachers Pay Teachers for just this activity, or you can purchase it as part of the Engaging and Effective Ultimate Ted Talk Bundle for $13.20.

This leadership activity could be a solid choice if you want to use more than just one TED talk in your leadership lesson. With this package, you’ll have the resources to complete the exercise up to six times.

However, since these resources focus on only one type of teaching activity, you may want to consider a broader set of leadership resources to differentiate your instruction further.

Provide Leadership Activities As Part of a Comprehensive High School Business Curriculum

Depending on the type of leadership activities you think would benefit your students the most, any of these resources could help you cultivate leadership qualities in your classroom.

However, we’ve found that for many business teachers, leadership is only one of the topics you may be expected to cover in a course. If that’s the case for you, you may want to consider other curriculum resources to meet your needs.

To help you better understand your options for enhancing your business curriculum, we’ve put together a list of the Top 4 High School Business Education Curriculum Resources .

In this article, you’ll discover some of the best resources you can use to teach leadership and other business subjects:

Discover 4 Popular Business Education Curriculum Resources

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How To Develop Leadership Skills In High School: 5 Great Examples Of Leadership Activities

How To Develop Leadership Skills In High School: 5 Great Examples Of Leadership Activities

Pursuing and excelling at activities demonstrating your leadership skills can help your college application stand out to admission officers. Now, how exactly do you do that? This post will take you through how to develop your leadership skills and provide examples of leadership activities done by successful college admits.

If you are in the middle of your college application process, or even a few years out, it is likely, that you already know that extracurriculars are an integral part of your college application . But why? The fact is that extracurriculars bring your application to life . They demonstrate to admissions officers what kind of person you are and what kind of contribution you would make to their college community. At Crimson Education , we know that admissions officers are looking for hard-working, creative leaders that will contribute to their community: students that will apply themselves and work toward making their college community a better place. So, what does this mean for your application?

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How to Build Leadership Skills in High School?

First, what does it mean to be a leader? A common misconception is that leaders are always extroverted, loud, and direct. While this is certainly one type of leader, leadership styles are much more nuanced than that. In fact, there are as many types of leaders as there are types of people in this world. Being a successful leader means locating the issues in your community (this could be in your family, at your school, in your neighborhood, city, or country) and applying creative methods to solve that problem.

Another way to look at leadership skills is to think of the skills you already have (coding, sewing, reading etc.) and figure out where or how you can apply them to causes you care about. For example, say you love to draw, and you are interested in supporting a homeless shelter in your neighborhood. Well, you could illustrate a poster or postcard related to the cause of that shelter, then sell them, and all the proceeds could go to the shelter. You just conducted a full-blown fundraiser! Or say you are an avid coder and gamer and you are interested in supporting a restaurant in your town that is struggling due to the effects of COVID-19. You could offer to revamp their website (or create their website if they don’t already have one), which could boost their sales and/or give them a platform for delivery.

Both of these projects are wonderful examples of leadership extracurriculars because they demonstrate initiative and creative thinking. To be a leader means to be a problem solver - whatever that means to you and your community!

Developing Leadership in High School with Anjali Bhatia | Crimson Experts Interview Series Ep. 1

Examples of Leadership Activities for High School Students

Let’s look at more examples. Here is a list of leadership activities that Crimson’s successful college admits have pursued. Hopefully, this list will give you a jumping-off point when considering what leadership activities you would like to pursue.

1. Developing an App

Crimson student Miles created an app called FoodForThought, where restaurants and cafes across Auckland could post the leftover food from the day on the platform at a discount, allowing cost-conscious consumers to purchase high-quality food and beverages that would have been otherwise thrown away at the end of the day. Miles coded the entire project by himself and, with the help of his Crimson ECL Mentor, secured further funding for his company from an NZ-based angel investor.

Why is this a good leadership activity?

Miles noticed a problem in his community - food waste - and found a way to solve it using his skills (coding and app development). Additionally, Miles created this project outside a pre-established institution (his school or another volunteer organization). This tells admissions officers that Miles is not only able to solve problems in his community, but he is also a self-starter: someone who can develop projects from scratch. This project would therefore stand out on a college application.

2. Art and Health

Crimson student Annie created Art for Therapy, a project designed to improve the patient environment in therapy clinics. Often, people that go to therapy feel isolated by the sterile, hospital-like environment and the lack of inviting decor. Annie aimed to make patients more comfortable by donating student art to local clinics to improve attitudes and receptivity to therapy and recovery rates.

This project is unique, another quality that admissions officers look for in extracurricular activities. Annie clearly cares about health care and found a way to improve inpatients’ experiences without being a qualified nurse or doctor: she provided them with art! This project shows that Annie is an innovative thinker, persistent, and empathetic, all of which are great qualities to showcase on a college application.

3. Inclusive Journalism

Crimson student Adhithi is passionate about all-inclusive journalism. So, she and students from seven countries (that she met through Crimson Community) began working together to develop a news website that serves as an outlet to inform and highlight the impact of domestic disasters on an international scale. This website was dedicated to international and domestic politics. The target of this website was primarily students, but once the website started developing a solid reader base, Adhithi and her teammates worked to expand their writing by publishing their work in local newspapers.

This project is particularly strong due to its impact. Adhithi took advantage of the international community here at Crimson and expanded this project’s impact across continents. We can also see that Adhithi zeroed in on a problem in her community and sought a way to solve it. This project demonstrates Adhithi’s skills as an organized, driven, hard-working leader and illustrates her specific passion for inclusive journalism.

4. Athletics and Social Work

Crimson student Yuo is an enthusiastic tennis player who wants to solve a problem in his community. He saw that many perfectly usable tennis balls were discarded after games because they were not the standard needed for professional players, yet they were great for use by beginners. Yuo, therefore, started a project where he connected tennis clubs in his town with disadvantaged youth programs to help younger students learn the sport.

Once again, we have a great example of a student noticing a specific issue in their community and finding a way to be a part of the solution. This activity is strong because we see that Yuo was able to build upon another one of his extracurriculars: tennis. When writing out your list of extracurricular activities in your application, a good rule of thumb is that the more connections between your activities, the better. Not all your activities need to be related, but when 4-6 of them have something in common, it can help readers better understand who you are as a student and person.

5. Indigenous Awareness and Education

Crimson student Janela started a project to raise the consciousness of indigeneity in high schoolers called iSPARK. In early high school, Janela noticed that her textbooks barely included any material on indigenous history. She was shocked by this erasure, and it motivated her to fill in this gap in education by hosting a webinar series that provides a platform for indigenous people and scholars to share their experiences with high schoolers worldwide. In its final stages, iSPARK included over two hundred students around the US, two nonprofits, and school clubs who collaborated on collaborative projects to become allies with indigenous communities and initiate institutional reform.

This project demonstrates an ability to think critically; Janela has noticed a country-wide issue, and rather than be discouraged by its size, she has decided to channel her energy into correcting it, even if just in one small way. This is evidence of a persistent leader who can see beyond the here and now and conceptualize a brighter future. Additionally, we can see that this project has gained in size and impact over time, which is a quality that application readers look for.

Final Thoughts

Remember to start small and scale up, be honest and pursue what you are actually passionate about, and keep uniqueness, impact, problem-solving, and community in mind

If you would like more support building your leadership profile, enquiry with one of Crimson’s excellent Extracurricular Mentors below!

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  • Top 8 Benefits of Extracurricular Activities for High School Students
  • Examples Of Extracurricular Activities That Look Great On College Applications

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12 Leadership Activities for Middle School Students

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Leadership activities for middle school students should be added into the classroom to teach the kids valuable skills such as communication, collaboration, decision-making, problem-solving, critical thinking, and many others. It’s never too early to teach children about leadership because a lot of activities can be adapted to fit any age group. The sooner they develop valuable skills, the better they’ll perform in the future.

Teachers and educators can incorporate plenty of activities throughout the school year that can be useful for development. Even the simplest of games can challenge children and help them improve their skills. We’re going to give you some examples of activities you can add to the classroom, so be sure to keep scrolling.

Before we get further down the article, we’d like to mention two things:

  • These games are all about stealth learning. Kids will be excited, engaged and they’ll learn new things while playing and having fun.
  • Most games are better when playing in large groups because they build trust between kids while boosting their confidence and improving communication.

leadership activities for middle school

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What are the middle school leadership activities ?

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A variety of activities can teach leadership skills to students. These activities are designed to help children develop skills necessary for good leaders. In today’s world, it’s crucial to work on improving critical and creative thinking, strengthening communication and collaboration skills, learning how to inspire others, etc.

A lot of extracurricular activities revolve around the development of leadership skills such as debate class, student council, sports games, school theater, etc. However, you can also add simple team-building activities during regular classes. They don’t take much time and provide valuable lessons. Encourage your students to be active and engage in activities helpful for their personal growth. When they become enthusiastic about learning, everything else in life becomes easier.

Leadership game ideas are various, from team-building games to group discussions. These activities are for everyone. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a kid or an adult because life is a journey and every day we learn something new. Adults, of course, make activities more challenging. Below we’ll give you some activities you can incorporate into your leadership lesson plans for middle school students.

Having role models

It’s very important for students to have someone they can look up to. It doesn’t matter if that’s a parent, a teacher, or a public figure. You should utilize role models to teach kids about values. Talk about admirable leaders and what are leadership qualities. Speaking about leadership, you should help children differentiate between positive and negative qualities too.

People you admire

Start by forming groups that have a task of discussing admirable people. After some time, each group should pick only one person and explain the reasons behind the choice. Reflect on the positive leadership traits that this person has. You can also comment on negative behaviors that should be avoided.

A lot of children have someone they idolize, so it’s a good idea to talk about those people. Whether kids look up to celebrities or family members, you can discuss the qualities people possess. After this activity, try having a brainstorming session about good and bad leadership traits.

Pick your quote

Before you engage in this activity find inspiring quotes about leadership and write it on the paper. Try to reflect on different approaches to leadership. When kids come, place the quotes across the classroom.

Tell children to read the quotes and stand by the one that fits their views. When everyone selects a quote, ask each kid to explain his/her choice to the class. While they’re talking, write some key ideas on the board. Make sure to leave enough time for discussion about different types of leaders afterward.

Guess the leadership qualities

This activity starts with your students making a list of leadership qualities. Choose one kid that will write on the board while others give their ideas. Middle schoolers will probably mention qualities such as empathy, strength, decision-making, etc. While they’re writing ideas on the board, you should choose the qualities essential for improving leadership skills for middle school students . Write them on small pieces of paper and put them in a bowl.

The next stage is forming teams of 3-4 students. Each team gets one of the qualities from the bowl. Challenge them to create and act out the scenario where that quality is displayed. When one group is acting, others should try to guess the displayed characteristic.

Students shouldn’t have a problem with guessing the quality because every option is displayed on the board. Demonstrating one situation can, of course, include other leadership qualities. Note each one within the same acted scenario, so you can have a small discussion after each group’s skit.

The strength of every good leader comes from collaboration and empathy. Team building activities for middle school students should be a part of kids’ education. Knowing how to work in teams and communicate with others is crucial for kids’ development. Children team building games join a class together and make a community. Students get to know each other and build trust.

Electric fence

The goal of the game is to cross the wire without touching it, hence the name electric fence. Have students form a chain on one side of the wire by holding hands. Students need to get the entire team from one side to another, so they need to cooperate and help each other. To see how this looks like, check out the video below.

Hula-hoop pass

Similarly to the previous activity, the goal of the game is to work together towards a common goal. In this case, the goal is to pass the hula-hoop as fast as possible without breaking the chain. Students will form a circle holding hands, you’ll give them a hula-hoop and the game can begin. We’re sure your student will have a blast like the ones in the next video.

Leading the blindfolded

This activity is a race between teams. Before the game begins, set a starting and finish line. Divide the students into small groups and ask them to pick a leader of each group. All players except the leader should be blindfolded and the game can begin.

This middle school team building game also revolves around building trust. You need to be confident in your “leader” and let him/her guide you to the finish line while you’re blindfolded. For a bigger challenge, instructs the students leading to use only a couple words such as left, right, straight, etc. Make sure that every student has the chance to be a leader of the group at least two times.

Form a shape

This game teaches how to communicate effectively as a leader and help the team to form different shapes using a rope. Students will grab a piece of the rope with both hands and you’ll instruct them to make a shape such as a star, diamond, etc. The group is blindfolded but they can speak during exercise, so communication becomes crucial. You should appoint one person that can take off the blindfold occasionally to check the progress. See how it can look like in the video below.

Birthday line up

If you only have 10 minutes for an engaging activity, try this simple thing. Instruct kids to line up in the order of their birthdays. Kids have to know the order of the months and compare their birthdays with each other. It can take 5-10 minutes for them to figure out the right order. You can make this activity extra challenging by telling them to only use hand signals.

Creative games

A good leader needs to be creative and “think outside of the box”. That’s why it’s crucial to nurture kids’ imagination and incorporate creative activities in your youth leadership lesson plans . Encourage kids to find creative solutions to the tasks in front of them by organizing these simple activities.

Marshmallow tower

In this cooperation activity for middle school students , kids compete in making the tallest (or largest, most creative, etc) structure that can hold the weight of the marshmallow on top. Divide students into groups and give them the materials for the tower. The materials are dry spaghetti, toothpicks, duck tape, and a string. Students will need to work together to create a balanced and solid tower, so this activity improves leadership dynamics, communication, and problem-solving skills.

Creative solutions

Challenge your students to solve problems using set objects such as cans, books, pencils, chairs, etc. Present them with a scenario and let them figure out the solution. It can be anything, from survival scenarios to solving mysteries. Just make sure the scenarios are age-appropriate and not so easily solvable.

You can, of course, split the students into small groups, so they can discuss strategies with each other. That way they can work on communication skills while they’re engaging in critical and creative thinking. Praise creative and innovative solutions, reliability on classmates, and other positive traits. If students don’t agree on what items to use, suggest they make a small pros/cons list and “rank” the items. You could also set a timer for the activity if you want to put extra pressure and encourage competition.

Treasure Hunt

This classic game can be used to teach kids about leadership. You’ll hide the treasure and give clues, while kids work together in solving them. Riddles and puzzles are not only fun, but they improve problem-solving, encourage creativity, and develop leadership traits. The “treasure” should be something that can encourage children to give their best. Something like ice-cream or a no-homework pass can motivate any kid!

This is a thought experiment in which you’ll pose a problematic scenario and encourage your kids to speak about what they would do in a certain situation. You can divide the students into small groups and give each group a card with an explained situation. After 10 minutes of discussion, the group’s representatives will read the scenario and their plan of action.

Set the age-appropriate difficulty of hypothetical situations. It’s about students working together to come up with creative approaches, not about debating difficult ethical dilemmas. Something simple like “What would you do if you get a grade you didn’t deserve” can spark interesting discussions.

Frequently asked questions

What are some examples of leadership activities?

A lot of activities encourage leadership such as playing sports, volunteering, engaging in student councils, etc.

What is leadership in middle school?

Effective schools give all students equal opportunities to lead. Every student has the potential to be a leader, and it’s up to the teacher to encourage leadership.

What does it take to be a true leader?

Leaders need to be creative, curious, and have an open mind . They should be emphatic, trustworthy, and have good communication skills. Positive attitude and will for self-growth are also necessary.

What makes a good leader lesson plan?

If you want to dedicate an entire class for leadership, start with identifying leadership traits and having a group discussion. Later you can engage in the activities we suggested in this article and finish with a quick survey to see what students think.

You probably can’t wait to try these leadership activities for middle school students with your class. We’ll give you one piece of advice, bring an enthusiastic spirit in the classroom and you’ll surely have fun with your students.

Also, did you talk with your class about their preparation for school? Establishing a healthy morning routine is crucial for having a successful day, so check out these   things to do in the morning before school.





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