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Leadership Exercise: Follow My Instructions

Leadership Exercise: Follow My Instructions


Purpose

This is a powerful team building activity that brings out the potential qualities of a good leader. It is a fairly physical exercise and you may need to brief the participants beforehand so they can come ready to participate in this exercise (for example, come with comfortable cloth). It is an ideal exercise for team building where you can explore a range of topics on management and how to respond to a manager’s instructions.

Objective

A group must follow the instructions of a leader to form a particular pattern based on a specific target.

What You Need

  • Large space. Preferably an area where people can sit or lie on as well. An ideal setup is outdoors on grass, preferably with casual and comfortable cloth. Another choice is a sports hall.
  • Loudspeaker (optional).
  • Prize for winner (optional).

Setup

  • Nominate one person as leader. This exercise tests the capability of the leader.
  • Show a pattern printed on a paper to the leader only. Others should not be able to see this pattern. The pattern could be a series of connected lines or basic shapes as shown above.
  • Ask the leader to face away from the group. If necessary, you can give a loudspeaker to the leader so others can hear him when he talks while facing away from them.
  • Ask the leader to guide the group to form the specific target shape. The leader is not allowed to look at the group while they execute his instructions. The leader must use his imagination, memory and accurate instructions to successfully complete the task.
  • The leader can only give commands for movement. The leader is not allowed to describe the shape to the group.
  • Once the leader is happy with his instructions, he should announce that he has completed the task. The leader can now look at the group and reveal the target shape to them for evaluation and analysis.
  • Ask the group about the ability of the leader to direct. Ask the leader how he felt while giving instructions and how confident he was about the group’s execution or responses.
  • Follow with a discussion.

Timing

Explaining the Exercise: 10 minutes

Activity: (10 min for each leader) * 3 = 30 minutes

Group Feedback: 10 minutes

Discussion

How well did the leader perform? What was the secret to their success? Why some leaders performed poorly? What does this suggest about giving instructions, receiving instructions, giving feedback and general management skill?

Variations

  • You can repeat the exercise with other members of the team with the same image. In this case, they will know the target but must wait for instructions to follow. Alternatively, you can use new images for every new leader so they only have to follow the instructions without knowing the final shape.
  • You can also run it as a competition where the leader with the closest pattern to target wins. It would be more difficult to run the exercise as a competition if you use diffident patterns for each leader since some shapes can prove to be more challenging to form than others.