Thiagi Group

Leadership Envelopes

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30 - 906 - 30 Low

Leadership exercise in groups, working with practical leadership principles.

This activity helps groups to translate abstract leadership principles into practical on-the-job behaviours. Participants work in groups to come up with real-life application of leadership principles. The groups take multiple rounds to build upon the ideas of each other, and in the end, evaluate the best ideas to identify the most useful behaviours.



To explore everyday applications of leadership principles.





    Tables arranged in a roughly circular format with chairs around each table.


    Organize the participants. Divide the participants into four teams of three to seven members. Teams should be approximately the same size.

    Brief the participants. Review the five leadership principles. Explain to participants that the activity requires them to translate these principles into everyday on-the-job behaviors.

    Distribute the supplies. Give one leadership-principle envelope and four index cards to each team.

    Conduct the first round. Ask team members to discuss the leadership principle on the envelope they received, and to identify how this principle can be applied to on-the-job decisions and behaviours. Tell team members to write short sentences describing these application examples on an index card. Announce a time limit of 3 minutes and encourage the teams to work rapidly. Explain that the teams' response cards will eventually be evaluated in terms of both the number and the quality of the examples.

    Conclude the first round. After 3 minutes, blow the whistle to announce the end of the first round. Ask each team to place its response card (the index card with its application examples) inside the envelope and pass the envelope, unsealed, to the next team. Instruct the teams not to open the envelope they receive.

    Conduct the second round. Ask teams to review the leadership principle on the envelope they received, but not to look at the application examples on the response card inside. Tell the teams to repeat the earlier procedure and list the application examples of this principle on a new response card. After 3 minutes, blow the whistle and ask teams to place the response card inside the envelope and pass it to the next team.

    Conduct more rounds. Conduct two more rounds of the game using the same procedure.

    Conduct the evaluation round. Start the fifth round just as you did the previous rounds. However, tell teams that they do not have to write any more application examples. Instead, teams must evaluate the four response cards inside the envelope. They do this by reviewing the individual examples on each response card and then comparing the overall merits of the cards with each other. Teams have 100 points to distribute among the four response cards to indicate each card's relative merit. Announce a suitable time limit for this evaluation activity.

    Present the results. At the end of the time limit, check on the teams to ensure they have completed their task and have recorded on each response card the number of points awarded. Select a team at random to present its evaluation results. Ask the team to announce the leadership principle on the envelope and read the application examples on each card, beginning with the card that received the least number of points. The team should progress from one card to the next in an ascending order of the number of points. After reading all four cards, the team should announce how it distributed the 100 points and briefly explain the criteria used for distributing the points.

    Determining the Winner. Instruct teams to place all the response cards on a table at the front of the room; then call for each team to collect its cards. Ask teams to add up the points on their cards to determine their total score. Invite the members of each team to announce their total scores. Identify and congratulate the team with the highest score.


    Conduct a debriefing discussion to add value to the activity. Here are some suggested questions:

    • What are the interesting patterns among the application examples?
    • Can you find similarities among application examples related to different leadership principles?
    • What leadership principle was the most difficult one for you to come up with suitable application examples? The easiest one? Why?
    • Reflect on your workplace situation. Which leadership principle application idea could you implement immediately?


    More teams than envelopes? Prepare a duplicate set of the leadership-principle envelopes in the same sequence as the original set. Distribute the envelopes from the original set first and as many of the duplicates as there are teams.

    More envelopes than teams? Select a smaller set of envelopes with the more important principles. Introduce the other leadership principles during the debriefing session and discuss application examples.

    Too few participants? Conduct this activity as an individual game: Give a leadership-principle envelope to each participant and ask him or her to write application examples on response cards and to work through the steps.

    Not enough time? Stop the activity after the second round. Ask teams to pass the envelopes one more time and proceed immediately to the evaluation round. Skip the presentation of results and have teams pick up their response cards and add up their score points.

    Ample time? Give more time for writing the response cards and for evaluating them.

    Don't like the competition? Instead of asking teams to evaluate the response cards, have them prepare a consolidated list of leadership application ideas from different cards. Ask each team to write its consolidated list on a flip chart and present it to the rest of the teams.

    Sample for the leadership-principle envelopes:

    During a recent session, we used the following five principles taken from James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner's The Leadership Challenge (Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1995):

    • Challenge the process
    • Inspire a shared vision
    • Enable others to act
    • Model the way
    • Encourage the heart


    Source: Thiagi Group

    Comments (2) (4.0 avg / 1 ratings)

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    • about 3 years ago
    • Hi there. thanks for these set of activities. I have a doubt...If you have 5 enevelopes and you have 4 teams what would you do with the 5th envelope with one of these 5 prinicples of leadership. It can't be empty, all these envelopes need inputs from each team...Thanks and sorry for the inconvinience best wishes

      over 3 years ago