Many teens show excellent potential to become young leaders in the future, and if they wish to improve and develop those skills to the next level, there is good news: There are now tons of teen leadership activities and team building games that cultivate leadership abilities and grant participants the skills to be great managers and successful leaders one day, whether currently middle school students, high schoolers, or older career-bound team leaders.
These games are an effective way to help youth leaders master the different skills needed to bring a whole class of peers together, which can result in young tweens or teens leading large groups and making an impressive mark on their school, community, or the world at large. Below are 35 activities and games that can help any teen develop their leadership skills so they can land the job of their dreams one day, whether that’s teaching an elementary school class or heading a board of directors meeting for a Fortune 500 company.
This 60-minute game requires teens to maneuver through a minefield without stepping on any mines. Fake mines are placed in strategic areas of the minefield and the team members have to work together to remember where the mines are and figure out how to walk across the lot without hitting a mine. The game improves problem-solving skills and teamwork.
- The Human Knot
For this game, everyone stands in a circle and extends their hands into the middle of the circle. The first thing you’ll do is grab a hand without looking at who it belongs to, then hold another hand with your remaining hand. Once everyone does this, a tangled knot will appear, and it’s up to everyone in the circle to figure out how to get untangled, which invariably requires some team work and effective leadership from a problem solving participant or two.
Great leaders realize that there are often many options when trying to get out of a particular situation. In this game, the “leader” presents various options to the group, and each member has a sticky note that they’ll place on the option they favor. It’s up to the leader to help those who are unsure which option to choose, which can make this an interesting game when it comes to managing interpersonal relationships without coming off as too authoritarian and allowing peers the feeling of ownership of a task, even if they’ve allowed the leader to influence their decision.
- What I Need from You
A common goal for all leaders in this activity is to make it clear what is expected of the team, especially if the team is virtual, remote, or of a large group size. Each member of the team tells the rest of the team what they need for a particular project, and each leader and the rest of the team members all have to understand what that need is. This is a great work environment simulation to help young adults speak up and ensure they are heard, even when their lack of seniority, inexperience, or lower age tempts them to shrink back or shy away.
- Trust Game
For this game, have everyone sit in a circle. One person is blindfolded and goes to the center of the circle. They explore the area with the help of the people in the circle, who are directing this person and keeping them safe. Each person gets the chance to be the person in the center.
- Jigsaw Puzzle Pieces
Start this game by dividing people up into small groups. Each group is given puzzle pieces to put together, and they’re timed, but they don’t know that their pieces are only part of the whole puzzle. The teams have to coordinate with one another to complete the entire puzzle.
- Incoming Tide Survival
This game should be played with 8-16 young people, who pretend they’re on a deserted island and have to create a structure to help them leave the island, using only the materials that they are given at the beginning of the game. Time the game at 45 minutes. This is one of the best games to develop creative thinking and problem-solving skills, as well as fast action-oriented solutions, thanks to the time limit.
- Video Scavenger Hunt
Divide the group into 4- to 8-member teams. Each team videotapes themselves searching for the items they need to find. This is another of the many team-building activities that requires the teams to work together in order to complete the project and find as many items as possible. The team with the most items wins the game.
- Active Listening
This is a fun game that requires active listening skills. Each team has 3 members: a subject who explores the question asked, a listener totally focused on the subject, and an observer who watches the other 2 members interact.
- Start, Stop, Continue
Perfect for virtual teams, you start by creating a situation and asking all members if the team should start something, stop something, or continue as they are already doing. It is good for improving communication skills and creating openness.
- Four Leaders
This game requires a form that you can download, and four teams try to work through a certain scenario using one of four leadership attitudes: positive attitude, negative attitude, your own desire, and the desires of others. Decide the scenarios ahead of time.
This is a game you can play with high school students even in the middle of the school year. It doesn’t take after-hours time to do it. Give teams of 6 to 12 members 30 minutes, and it requires one blindfolded person to find a “bomb,” with only what other members are saying to help them find it. The nice thing about this high-stakes scenario and common group goal is that it facilitates healthy relationships and positive communication for teams under duress or high-pressure situations.
- Volunteer Activities
Today’s teen leaders are tomorrow’s adult leaders, and teens can discover what their leadership qualities are by volunteering in the community. The best part about community service is that teens can always volunteer with organizations that do the type of work they’re interested in and wish to do one day themselves, thus broadening their professional network and gaining experience and exposure to industries, organizations, and causes of interest.
- Leadership Camps
To discover their leadership style, teens can attend workshops, camps, or masterclasses on how to become a better leader. These activities are easy to find and are usually led by experts in the field, giving teens a great way to get a head start in accelerating their leadership potential and empowering them to set goals and pursue projects or opportunities that call for independent, influential leaders.
- Local Politics
From public speaking to learning from various role models, teens always benefit from getting involved in local politics. There are numerous internships and volunteer positions that help improve teens’ leadership skills, giving them opportunities to learn a lot about this field. Starting with school politics (like student government) and advancing to local politics (like city council) can forge a path and passion for a future career in government or perhaps inspire the next presidential candidate!
- Clubs and Sports
School is not just for learning; it’s also a way to develop skills outside of the classroom. Clubs and sports make it easy for kids to learn all about leadership in a fun way, and with these groups, there is truly something for everyone.
- Pass the Can
To get started, have everyone sit in a circle and put an object – such as a rock or can opener – in a can. Have them pass the can around but each time, the leader has to give them special instructions; for example, you can’t use your hands, you have to use your feet, etc. This activity not only cultivates leadership, but it also promotes innovation, creativity, problem-solving, and outside-the-box thinking.
- 30 Seconds Left
Becoming a better leader requires really knowing the people under you. Ask the team to tell everyone else about their best achievements and accomplishments, but tell them they only have 30 seconds to do so. It’s a good game to get to know others on a personal level, as well as to help players develop a concise personal statement or personal pitch, which will come in handy in future interviews, competitions, and job applications.
Here’s another of the group games that is both fun and educational. Ask each member to write down 5 icebreaker questions to ask the other members. Have the members count their “yes” answers and whoever has the most points wins the game.
- Regularly Scheduled Game Nights
Regular game nights can be as good as leadership workshops. They allow for bonding between the team members, allow everyone to have fun, and require a leader to emerge in order to be successful. Choose card games, board games, or anything else that appeals to you.
- Student Media
Leaders excel when they’re involved in student media, including the school newspaper and yearbook. If you love to write and share information with others, this is the activity for you. Plus, it helps with decision-making and working closely with others, while also delivering an impressive, finished product that looks great on a resume or college application.
- Confidence Course
The confidence course, also called an obstacle course, is perfect for future leaders because it’s tough and takes a lot to finish. Once you’re done with the course, you’ll be amazed at how good you feel, and it takes certain leadership skills in order to complete it successfully. Confidence courses are usually hard both physically and emotionally, so they are really a challenge.
- STEM Competitions
STEM competitions take place locally and internationally, and the better leader you are, the more successful you are at these competitions. Even better, you can easily find the most recent list of the competitions in many places on the Internet. They are easy to find, fun to attend, impressive on your credentials, and great life experiences to demonstrate the leadership concepts you’ve been honing.
- Student Council
Running for the student council requires teens to be good leaders and very organized, so there are multiple benefits. These organizations are also good for developing both professional and personal growth, and it can increase the number of friends you have, too. One benefit of student council is that it forces students of varying cultural values, interests, and priorities to come together for the highest good of their class and school, which can create interesting debates, discussions, and peaceful compromises on the road to each decision and chosen action.
- Planning Lunches or Dinners
Student leadership skills can be developed while planning group meals in order to plan certain activities. You can bond with other people and plan an organized activity at the same time, both of which are excellent skills to learn. You also get to eat, which is the best part of the entire activity!
- Escape Room
An escape room is a game that is offered by companies that specialize in these types of activities. They are often utilized by entire families while on vacation, and they are rooms designed to “escape” from something, such as the guillotine or the zombie apocalypse! The best thing about escape rooms is that they’re inherently enjoyable, exciting, and adrenaline-inducing, thus creating a positive memorable experience in which leadership and teamwork are just seamless byproducts of the primary activity.
- Book Clubs
Book clubs are great because they need people to lead the group each month. Teens can choose fun books that they actually want to read, then choose a different person to lead the group every time they meet. It’s best if this activity goes on for many months, but it’s not a requirement. The most ambitious leaders in book clubs may decide to run a book drive or theme each club meeting and chosen book around a community issue and aim to solve it or positively contribute to it through a joint activity, so the club is much more than simply a reading and discussion club, but also an altruistic community service-oriented mission group.
- Collaborate to Create
Get into a group and decide what type of story you want to write, then have each member write just a certain section of the book. In order for the book to sound good and be cohesive, the team has to work together and collaborate on everything. This is a good activity for conflict resolution because problems can easily arise as the group is tasked with molding their individual and disjointed sections into a well-structured story that makes sense with an ultimate resolution.
- Photo Finish (Similar to Electric Fence)
Draw a line on the floor and have a team on either side. Taking turns with the teams, have them cross the line to the other side when you say “go.” This is one of those games that sounds easy but often requires some problem-solving and other skills to be successful. Oftentimes, participants are thinking of “why” they should cross the line and are hesitant.
- Community Bingo
Have designated individuals that organize mock bingo games with other students. Have those individuals organize the entire activity from start to finish. There is a lot involved in planning and organizing this type of activity, so a lot of responsibility and organizational skills are required, particularly for young children or tweens who’ve never organized a large group event.
- Get Off the Sofa
For this game, have 4-6 teens sit on a sofa, then choose a leader for each group. Have the leader try to get the teens off the sofa by asking about something they like to do. For instance, you can lure them off the sofa by asking if they like washing their car, helping with chores, playing video games, etc.
- Tag Team Snack Challenge
This one is good for teaching various life skills. Divide people into small groups and have each group prepare a snack without speaking. Let the members of each group take turns with a certain instruction, and give each member 30 seconds to complete their part of the routine.
- Discussion About Leaders
Have a group discussion about leaders each member admires. Have that member tell who they admire – even if it’s someone they don’t personally know – and have them describe to the group why they admire this person. This activity is usually a real eye-opener for all of the participants, not to mention interesting.
- Round Tables
Set up 4-5 tables, depending on how many participants you have, and designate leaders that will go to a certain table and give them an activity to complete, which could be something to make or something similar. The goal is to see how clearly each leader communicates with the members.
Have everyone in the group write down keywords that describe themselves, then have everyone share their own keywords with the rest of the group. This activity can identify potential leaders and also tell you what each participant thinks of themselves.