Are there any leadership exercises I can do?
Someone asked this question recently, and I thought it was a good one. Learning leadership is tricky business. It’s not like practicing musical scales or pumping iron at the gym.
But I do think there are exercises we can do to become more effective leaders. Whether we are preparing ourseves to take on a leadership role, or wanting to become better at the one we are already in, these leadership exercises can help.
7 Leadership Exercises
Practice asking good questions. Leaders aren’t the ones with all the best answers; they are ones who ask the best questions. In your next group setting, practice trying to come up with great questions. Smart leaders can learn from others while at the same time guiding their thinking simply from the questions they ask.
Score yourself: Good questions are open ended ones that generate new discussion, advance the conversation towards a positive outcome, and cause people to pause and think. Bonus points if you were able to draw in a quieter member of the group.
Practice serving others. Good leaders understand that their ultimate purpose is to help improve the lives of others in some way. The leader’s duty is to serve those he leads. There is no shortage of people who could use a little help, so take advantage of the many opportunities around you. Find someone who is struggling, and see what you can do to assist.
Score yourself: Have you found a way to help someone today without expectation of being repaid? Count that as a success. Extra points if you are able to convince at least one other person to join you in making the world a little bit better.
Practice communicating. Leaders influence others through verbal and non-verbal communication. One of the best ways to work on both is by focusing on your presentation skills. From the way you stand, the words you say, the way you hook your audience and how you organize your material, you can learn from repeated practice. Whether in class, at work, or just in front of friends, look for opportunities to present to others as a way to hone your communications skills.
Score yourself: Give a presentation of some sort to a group this week. Bonus points for rehearsing until it is smooth and concise. Double bonus if you did so in front of someone you respect and got their constructive input.
Practice your values. Leaders have a firm grasp of what character traits are important to them, and they live by these cornerstone values consistently. Write down a list of what values you think a good leader should live by. They should describe who you are or who you want to be. Then filter every decision through them before deciding how to act.
Score yourself: Have you written down your values and defined what they mean to you? Great start. Have you used them today to help you decide to do something you needed to do over something you wanted to do? Bonus!
Practice teaching others. Good leaders are good teachers. They show others a path to improvement, equipping them to become more capable in some way. Do you have a skill that you are good at? Could others could benefit by learning to do it, or do it better? Offer to show them how.
Score yourself: Help somebody learn something this week. Bonus points if you use the simple but effective EDGE Method: Explain it, Demonstrate it, Guide them through it, and then Enable them to master it on their own.
Practice learning. Leaders are by no means perfect, but the best ones are really good at learning from their mistakes. They do this by making a daily habit of pausing to think about what just happened. Every life experience has within it an opportunity for learning and growth, and good leaders take advantage of that fact.
Score yourself: After a key event today, did you pause to think about what happened, what went well, and what you could do better next time? Double bonus if you were able to do this with a group you are in using the After Action Review approach.
Practice being pro-active. Followers are reactive. When things happen, they respond, often without thinking. When leaders are exposed to the same circumstances, they pause first. Before saying or doing anything, they consider their values, think about who they are communicating with, and ask themselves what greater good they might achieve by their next actions. Leaders also think ahead, anticipate needs, and act energetically to make sure those needs are met.
Score yourself: Did you pause to think before spontaneously reacting to the latest crisis, when someone made a mistake, offered criticism, or said something you didn’t agree with? Bonus points if you saw a problem getting ready to happen, and acted to keep it from becoming a major issue.
Leadership Exercises – The Takeaway
Leadership is not something you can practice by simply repeating the chromatic scale or spending 30 minutes at the gym. But there are some leadership exercises you can do every day that will help you become a stronger influence with those around you.
Practice the skills above and you are sure to improve your ability to lead.
Bonus: One other way to improve as a leader is to lean from the experiences of others. Reading about other leaders and how they forged strong teams, overcame adversity, and achieved great things can inspire us to become better leaders ourselves.
Whether its bassoon, bench press or building influence, we can always get better.
It just comes down to intentional, daily practice of leadership exercises like these.