- Index cards
Flow of the activity
Select a role model. Everyone has one or more ideal leaders whom they have personally met or read about. Ask participants to individually select a role model who has inspired them. This role model could be a family member, a school teacher, a boss at work, a captain of the industry, a political leader, a sports coach, a military genius, a spiritual mentor, an inspiring writer, a fictional hero, or a prophetic guide. Ask each participant have a clear mental picture of this leader.
Name the role model. Distribute index cards to each participant. Have them write the name of the role model (example: Mother Theresa) if other participants can recognize this leader. Otherwise, ask participants to write a brief description of this role model (example: my third-grade teacher). Pause while participants independently complete this task.
Roleplay the role model. Ask participants to take on the role of the role model they selected. Ask them to imagine that a young person is asking this role model for leadership advice. Ask participants to write on their index card one important piece of advice they would give (in their assumed role) to this young person. The advice may be about leadership styles, characteristics, attitudes, behaviors, or skills. Encourage participants to limit themselves to one or two short sentences. Pause while participants complete this task.
Exchange the advice cards. Ask each participant to turn the card with the written side down and exchange it someone else. Repeat this procedures until all cards have been rapidly and repeatedly exchanged. Blow a whistle to get participants' attention and ask them to stop the process.
Read the piece of advice. Ask each participant to read the piece of advice on the card that they received. Invite them to think about this piece of advice and how it would help them personally to become a better leader. Encourage them to think about applying this piece of advice to their personal and professional life. Pause while participants do this.
Read aloud. Select a participant at random. Ask this person to stand up and read the piece of advice from the card, without revealing the role model. Ask everyone else to listen carefully. If necessary, ask the participant to read this piece of advice again.
Guess the role model. Ask everyone to think about the piece of advice for a minute. Then ask them to guess who could be the role model (leader) who gave this piece of advice. Invite participants to call out their guesses. Point out that most leaders have similar traits, perceptions, behaviors, and ideas. Ask the participant who read this piece of advice to identify the role model specified on the card.
Read similar pieces of advice. Invite other participants whose cards contain similar pieces of advice to read them aloud. Identify minor differences among these ideas. Discuss the potential impact of these differences.
Read opposing pieces of advice. Ask participants to review the piece of advice on their cards and see if it contradicts the advice read earlier. Invite any participant with such an opposing piece of advice to read it aloud from her card.
Reconcile the differences. Point out that even though these pieces of advice contradict each other, it is not as if one of them is correct and the other one is incorrect. This is because effective leadership requires a variety of flexible styles depending on the nature of the situation, the type of the followers, and the personality of the leader. Discuss the context in which each of the opposing pieces of advice would be effective.
Continue the process. Select another random participant (who has not yet read the piece of advice from her card) and read aloud the advice from her card. Follow this by guessing the role model, and reading and discussing cards with similar and opposing points of view.
Select a piece of advice. After the discussions, ask participants to think back the variety of advice from different role models and select the one that they want to implement in their personal and professional life. Remind participants not to count the number of pieces of advice they have received but make the one selected piece of advice count. Encourage them to begin implementing this piece of advice immediately.
Don't have enough time? You do not have to read and discuss all the cards. Conclude the activity whenever you want by moving to the final step (of personal selection and implementation). After the session, collect all the cards, type up the pieces of advice, and send them to the participants.
Not enough participants? Ask each participant to write two separate pieces of leadership advice, one on each card. During the card exchange step, ask participants to give away both cards, each to a different person.
One of the key outcomes of this activity is the discussion of situational leadership. This requires a sufficient number of opposing pieces of advice (example: Do it now vs. Plan carefully; Tell people exactly what to do vs. Ask your followers for advice; Exude self confidence vs. Maintain humility). After conducting the game, collect all the advice cards. Carefully review items and save the good ones, especially those with opposing pieces of advice. In subsequent games, ask participants to exchange the cards they wrote with a card from your stock.
Source: Thiagi Group