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Servant Leadership Games

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Servant leadership is characterized by leaders who put the needs of a group over their own. These leaders foster trust among employees by holding themselves accountable, helping others develop, showing appreciation, sharing power and listening without judging. While serving and leading seem like conflicting activities, these leaders are effective initiators of action. Look to Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King for examples. Team building games provide opportunities to explore what it means to be a servant leader and to develop servant leadership practices in the workplace.

Dollar Value

Create teams of three to five people and provide each team with pens and paper. Give them 10 to 15 minutes to brainstorm about the best thing they could buy with a dollar. When time is up, have all groups discuss their results. Ideas often shift to investing or selling something for more than the original purchase price, and ways to benefit others. Debrief the teams with questions such as how it felt to discover that the dollar could be used to help or serve others. The objective of this activity is to get the teams to recognize the satisfaction and value that comes from serving others.

Magic Carpet Ride

Create at least two teams with eight people per team. Provide each team with a 4-foot-by-6-foot tarp. Space the tarps no more than 1 1/2 feet apart from each other, and far enough from other things in the room to prevent team members from contact with external objects. Tell participants to stand on their teams' tarps. Their goal is to turn the tarp around without allowing their feet or any other body parts to touch the floor. Solving this puzzle requires teams to share the win rather than being competitive. Only when two teams serve each other by sharing their tarps can they achieve the goal.


Provide each team of four people with one bag of 20 puzzle pieces. Seat team members around a table and have each member take five pieces from the bag. The first player sets down one puzzle piece. The next player attaches a piece to the first piece. If nothing fits, the next player tries. Team members cannot talk, point or otherwise motion to tell a player what to do, and no one can add more than one piece at a time. The first team to use all their pieces wins. Debriefing discussions address creative ways to help others within the rules and reflect on how domineering team members who break the rules can steal the self-esteem from teammates by telling them what to do.

What Matters Most

Ask a group of participants to write down the names of the five richest people in the world, the past five Super Bowl or World Series winners, the five most important people in Hollywood and five government leaders. Next, have them write down the names of teachers who helped them in school, heroes who inspired them, colleagues who coached or mentored them and friends who helped them. As a whole group, discuss which exercise was easier and why. The goal is to recognize that the people who make a difference are those who care, not those the media touts.


A careers content writer, Debra Kraft is a former English teacher whose 25-plus year corporate career includes training and mentoring. She holds a senior management position with a global automotive supplier and is a senior member of the American Society for Quality. Her areas of expertise include quality auditing, corporate compliance, Lean, ERP and IT business analysis.

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