Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Learning to Lead: Practicing Leadership Through Gameplay

We often think of leaders as naturally assertive and charismatic people. We envision Presidents, Generals, and CEOs as born leaders, destined to be in charge. By cultivating the myth that leaders are born, not made, our kids develop a narrow impression of who can be a leader in their own world. Perhaps it is the person who speaks the loudest or the one with a Captain’s “C” on their jersey. Children who fall outside of these categories become hesitant to take on leadership roles and so do not develop their leadership skills, reconfirming their belief that they are not fit to lead.

We must teach our kids that leadership is not an inherited ability, but rather a skill that takes practice to master. At Dynamix, we believe that learning and fun should go hand in hand. So, here are three simple games that each offer a different leadership learning opportunity for your group:

1. Call and Follow - Rotate Responsibilities
GOAL: To have multiple children practice leadership through communication. 
SET-UP: Blindfold all but one player. Have the blindfolded children form a train with their hands on each other's shoulders. Have the non-blindfolded player, the "Caller," stand on a chair.
GAME: The Caller guides the blindfolded train around the room using only their voice. To increase the challenge, scatter obstacles, like pylons, around the room for the group to avoid. 
LEADERSHIP LEARNING OPPORTUNITY: Have children take turns being the Caller. This will give multiple children the chance to practice their communication skills and feel in charge of the group. It will also allow everyone else to practice following different people's directions. 

2. Blind Crossing - Creative Twists
GOAL: To give less assertive children the chance to lead.
SET-UP: Scatter a few hula-hoops around the room. Have the whole group hold onto one long rope.
GAME: The entire group must cross from one end of the room to the other by only stepping inside the hula-hoops and never letting go of the rope. 
LEADERSHIP LEARNING OPPORTUNITY: Add a twist by blindfolding a few of the more assertive group members. For an extra challenge, you can also tell the blindfolded people they are not allowed to talk. By limiting the influence of the group's natural leaders, other children will have the opportunity to step up and fill the leadership void. In addition, it will give your traditional leaders the chance to practice listening to others. 

3. Find the Leader - Leadership by Example
GOAL: To demonstrate the power of leading by example. 
SET-UP: Have the group sit in a circle. Pick one child to be the “Detective” and have them wait outside of the room. Pick one person in the circle to be the “Leader.”
GAME: The group must watch the leader and copy whatever action they are doing at the time. The Leader must switch the action frequently. The detective must reenter the room and try to guess which person is the leader by watching the group. 
LEADERSHIP LEARNING OPPORTUNITY: After the game, discuss what it means to lead by example – through our actions, not our words. Have the group think about the power of our actions and how positive and negative choices may influence other people. 

Written by: Shira Lurie, Dynamix Toronto lead facilitator

Dynamix: Team-building for Kids and Teens, since 2002.

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