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10 Fun Leadership Building Activities for Teens

Improving leadership skills is a lifelong process that starts at a young age and thrives during a journey of continuous learning.

It’s true that there are natural born leaders, but it is equally true that leadership skills and qualities can be developed and improved over time.

Great leaders are great learners

Becoming a good leader is a gradual and formative process.  To be an effective leader requires a continuous journey of learning through education, life experiences, and exposure to other opportunities such as being mentored, seeking ways to challenge yourself and considering other perspectives.

Experience alone does not determine a leader’s ability to be successful, nor does it automatically equate to effective leadership skills.  In fact, leadership development research published by Harvard Business Review shows that leaders who are in a learning mode, or have a growth mindset, develop stronger leadership skills than their peers. Simply put, a continuous drive to learn yields a better leader.

Focusing on ways to build strong leadership skills with young people is also a great way to help them develop other valuable life skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving skills, interpersonal skills, self-awareness, and empathy.

Developing leadership skills in young people

The most important thing to remember when you are trying to cultivate youth leadership is that no young person is too young to be introduced to leadership qualities. 

Instilling the importance of responsibility for toddlers, such as cleaning up their toys, listening and even how they treat others is a great way to start!

For kids or teens that are a bit older, such as middle school students or high school students, there are various ways to develop leadership skills.  Structured team building activities can be a fun way for them to practice things like communication skills, active listening, and problem-solving techniques.

Using team building games can also be an effective way to develop teen leadership by showing them how to work toward a common goal with other team members.  Get started with the below list of leadership activities, including some of the best ideas to cultivate leadership skills in teens!

10 Leadership Building Activities for Teenagers

1. Minefield

Minefield is a leadership exercise that focuses on building good communication skills.  This fun game provides an opportunity for teens to stop and think about how to be clear, concise and provide instruction in a way that is easy for others to understand. 

Items needed:

  • An empty room or open space
  • Objects that can be used as “mines” (i.e., chairs, water bottles, books, paper, pencils, etc.)
  • Blindfolds


1.       Set up an open space or empty room with objects scattered all around, like an obstacle course.  These objects will serve as the “mines.”  Pick a starting point and a finishing point that goes the length of the minefield.

2.       Divide the group into pairs.

3.       One partner starts blindfolded and the other partner will be the leader.

4.       The blindfolded partner starts at the beginning of the course.

5.       The leader is responsible to verbally guide their blindfolded partner through the room without setting off any “mines.”

6.       The leader is not allowed to enter the minefield and can only provide verbal instructions to their partner to help get them over the finish line.

To increase the level of difficulty, have multiple group members blindfolded trying to navigate the minefield simultaneously while they listen for their leaders’ instructions!  It will force the blindfolded participants to listen harder and the leader to figure out how to effectively communicate with larger groups.

2. Lego Building Activity

The lego building activity is a leadership exercise that promotes leadership qualities such as effective communication, how to leverage individual strengths within a group, and how to inspire a team to work together to achieve a common goal.

Items needed:

  • Enough legos to build a structure
  • The finished picture of a structure
  • A table or flat surface to build the lego structure


1.       Break up into groups of 4-5.

2.       One person in each group will be the designated leader and the other group members will be the builders.

3.       The leader is the only person who has access to the finished picture of the built lego structure and must verbally direct the other group members on how to build the structure one step at a time.

4.       Team leaders are allowed to assign roles within the group, but every group member must participate in the building activity in some way.

5.       Set a timer for 5 minutes.

6.       At the end of 5 minutes each group will present their built structure versus the finished picture!

3. Group Volunteering

The act of volunteering can help teens build powerful leadership skills.  Helping others creates a unique opportunity to gain different perspectives, build relationships and interpersonal skills, and instill a sense of gratitude.  Giving back in the form of community service is one of the most powerful leadership training activities in today’s world and is at the heart of almost every structured leadership program.


1.       Schedule an activity for your group to participate in

2.       Gather your group members and attend the event or activity.

3.       Schedule a follow up session for your group members to debrief about what they experienced and to share their observations and take-aways with the rest of the group.

4. Community Bingo

Community bingo is an effective way for teens and young people to gain better awareness of the leaders among them as well as different leadership roles and leadership styles.  The goal is to meet with various leaders throughout the community and briefly learn something about their role or style.

Items needed:

  • Bingo cards pre-printed with a variety of community leaders names or generic roles (i.e., “teacher,” “manager,” “healthcare worker,” “business owner,” etc.).  One name or role per square. Please note: if you use names such as “Principal Smith” or “Sargent Greene” you must contact these community leaders in advance to gain their permission for participation as well as their openness to meet with your group or hours of availability.
  • Work with the teens on developing an “elevator pitch” for how they will communicate with community leaders when requesting a few minutes to meet.


1.       Each participant receives a Bingo card and is given a time limit, such as one week, to achieve Bingo.  Participants can work in small groups if it is easier to facilitate.

2.       Participants or small groups are then on their own to schedule time to briefly meet with community leaders and ask them to share something about their leadership role or an important quality of being a leader.

3.       Each participant must collect a business card or take a photo with the community leader as proof of the meeting.

4.       Upon achieving Bingo, participants return their cards.  Every person or small group that achieves Bingo wins!

5.       Each participant or small group is then asked to share their experience with the larger group and highlight a community leader as part of the discussion.

5. Get off the couch

In this leadership activity, leaders must discover what motivates or inspires individuals to complete an undesirable task.  This leadership exercise highlights the importance of getting to know your team members as individuals and how to use that knowledge to inspire them to achieve a common goal. 

Items needed:

  • Group of 4-6 teens
  • Objects (can be real or fake) that represent common motivators



              Pictures of loved ones

              Video games


  • Area where a group of 4-5 people can sit (one person will stand).
  • A 60 second timer


1.       One leader is chosen at a time.  The leader will stand while the other group members sit.

2.       An undesirable task is presented to the group that is sitting.  Some good ideas for undesirable tasks are cleaning a bathroom, mowing the lawn, or cleaning out the garage.

3.       The leader must pick one individual at a time and try to persuade them to “get off the couch” to go complete the “pretend” undesirable task by using one object as motivation (i.e., money, food, etc.). 

4.       The leader only has 60 seconds to motivate all the sitting group members to get off the couch.

5.       If the leader does not succeed, a new leader is assigned, and the process starts over again.

6. Tag Team Snack Challenge

The tag team snack challenge is a small group game that stresses the value and power of non-verbal communication.  Each player takes on a leadership role and leaves clues for the next person as they work together as a team to assemble an assigned snack in a limited amount of time.  This fun activity also provides an opportunity to think critically about how to best organize and plan when you don’t have much time!

Items needed:

  • A variety of food items used to create specific snacks – some good ideas for assigned snacks are peanut butter and jelly pinwheels, ants on a log, trail mix, or fruit salad.
  • A 30 second timer
  • Small groups of 3-4 people


1.       Assemble all the food items onto one table.  Scatter them around so they are all “ungrouped.”

2.       Select one person from each group as the starting player and then select the order for the rest of each group.

3.       In secret, tell that player who is going first for each group which snack their group has been assigned.

4.       When everyone is ready to begin, set the timer for 30 seconds and ask the first players for each group to begin. 

5.       In silence, the first players will use their 30 seconds to decide how they want to begin and what clues they will be leaving the next person to help them identify what snack to make.

6.       When the 30 second timer goes off, the player in the kitchen exits and the next person steps in.

7.       Repeat the 30 second intervals until each person in the group of 3-4 has had one chance. The last person is responsible to finish and plate the snack.

8.       The team wins if the finished snack is correct.  Losing teams must discuss what they could have done differently or what may have better helped the next person stepping into the kitchen.

9.       Gather the entire group to debrief on which strategies worked and what was unclear.

7. Marshmallow Tower Challenge

The Marshmallow Tower Challenge is a fun activity that requires creativity, strategic thinking, communication, and teamwork.  In this leadership exercise, teens will be challenged to work together towards a common goal in a limited amount of time and with a limited number of resources!

Items needed:

  • 25 sticks of uncooked spaghetti per group
  • 1 yard of string per group
  • 1 roll of scotch tape per group
  • 1 large marshmallow per group


1.       Split up into teams of 5 or more people per group.

2.       Provide each team with the items listed above.

3.       Team members will have 20 minutes to work together to try and build a tower that does not fall over.

4.       The large marshmallow must be at the top of the tower at its highest point.

5.       Spaghetti can be broken into smaller pieces but will not be replaced with new sticks once it’s broken.  String can be cut into smaller pieces but will not be replaced after being cut.

6.       Set the timer for 20 minutes and begin!

7.       When the timer goes off, the tallest tower without falling over wins!

8.       After the activity is complete, get the entire group together to discuss what challenges arose, how they overcame difficulties and the role of effective communication.

8. Student Government, Clubs, Committees

Taking on an actual leadership role in your school environment is one of the best leadership activities to experience.  Participating in student council is a great way to practice and build your leadership skills while simultaneously representing your peer group.    

Roles for student leaders in the form of student council may be limited in number so don’t overlook other leadership opportunities that exist within school clubs or even various committees such as the yearbook.

And while extracurricular activities can be a great place to groom future leaders, another bonus is that it’s a wonderful opportunity to build interpersonal skills and make new friends!

9. Team Sports

Participating in team sports as a young person is one of the best ways to expose yourself to leadership qualities and well as develop your own. As a player you can observe the different leadership styles of coaches as well as use the field or court as a place to practice your own leadership skills. 

Coaches depend on all players, not just the team captain, to take an active role when it comes to leadership.  The hard work that it takes to win involves more than just athletic skill, it also involves team work.  Good communication skills, the ability to adapt and work with others are crucial for everyone to achieve a common goal – especially on sports teams! 

10. The 60 Second Story Challenge

Telling a story in 60 seconds can be a fun leadership exercise for teens as it will challenge their ability to deliver a clear and concise message that is easy to understand as well as engaging!  This leadership activity is also a great way to introduce middle school students to public speaking or help high school students learn to refine their messaging.  It is also a great exercise to cultivate strong story telling skills which is an essential quality of a good leader.

Assign each member of the group a different topic.  Make sure that the list of topics you choose from is relatable enough for your group members and broad enough to allow for creativity.  For example, some topics may be “a time when I tried something new,” “the funniest thing I have ever seen,” “my favorite holiday memory,” “the best compliment I have ever received,” etc.  Give each person five minutes to quietly prepare a 60 second story on their assigned topic.  Have participants take turns storytelling and recounting a personal experience relating to their topic.

Ask group members evaluate the 60 second stories by writing down three things they liked about the way the story was communicated and one area for improvement.  Collect all the papers and then share back with the storytellers.

Cultivating successful leaders

The perfect time to begin cultivating successful leaders is as young as possible!  Leadership lessons are present in so much of everyday life, from the time that we are taught how to share our toys up through the moments when we pass on our words of wisdom onto our great grandchildren.