Situational Leadership Games

Written by mary johnson-gerard, ph.d.
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Situational Leadership Games
Leaders need to be chamelons and change to fit the leadership environment. (lizard image by John Hofboer from Fotolia.com)

Playing real-life games is an effective way to teach about situational leadership. There are basically three styles of leadership: autocratic (makes decisions without consulting others), laissez-faire (hands off, gives power to staff for decisions) and democratic (consults with staff in the decision-making process). Training in situational leadership is an effective strategy to help leaders understand the need to be chameleons when leading and use different leadership strategies depending on different situations.

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Jumping Ship

The purpose of the jumping ship game is to give participants an opportunity to think about leadership styles and to make a list of real-life work situations that would require abandoning a natural leadership style for a more effective one; or to jump ship. To begin, give each team three sheets of flip chart paper and have them write one style of leadership on each one (autocratic, laissez-faire and democratic). Give the teams 45 minutes to write down real-life situations for which using each leadership style would be a disaster. Ask the teams to post their sheets on the wall, review them with the group and facilitate a discussion.

Who Ya Gonna Call

The gist of this game is to have participants write a one paragraph summary of a work situation that is going badly and to have the group determine what leadership styles would be the most and least effective in addressing the situation. Collect the paragraphs and number them in consecutive order at the top of the pages. Break the group into two teams giving each team half of the paragraphs. Ask them to decide which style of leadership (autocratic, laissez-faire and democratic) would be the most and least effective in solving the issue and write their answers on a sheet of paper identifying the number on the top of the page and their choices. Have the groups switch paragraphs and do the same thing. When all paragraphs have been discussed, review them with the group and have them identify their choices. Facilitate a discussion when the group's choices are dissimilar.

Ducks in a Row

This game provides participants a chance to develop a three to five step decision-making process to use when difficult leadership situations arise. Break participants into pairs for this game and ask them to work together for about 30 minutes and define the steps an effective leader goes through to determine how to handle a situation. When the time is up, ask the pairs to review their steps for the group and write their steps on a piece of flip chart paper. Go around the room and have all pairs review their process. After everyone has reported out, facilitate a discussion that leads to a group consensus on the three to five most effective steps to take.

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