Icebreakers – Leadership


John T. Molloy wrote the famous book, Dress for Success, which outlines rules for appropriate business dress. He once stated, “there are only three appropriate colors for men in a business setting – dull, dark and drab.”

In your organization, what are the only appropriate colors for leadership? Explain your choice of colors.


Place these quotes on an overhead or flipchart:

  • The highest of distinctions is service to others. (King George VI)
  • When firmness is sufficient, rashness is unnecessary. (Napoleon Bonaparte)
  • Pull the string and it will follow wherever you wish, push it and it will go nowhere at all. (Dwight D. Eisenhower)
  • A leader is someone who helps improve the lives of other people or improve the system they live under. (Sam Ervin)
  • Ethics must begin at the top of an organization. It is a leadership issue and the chief executive must set the example. (Edward Hennessy)

Which of these people would be considered a troublemaker in your organization?


Think of the leader that you would like to be. Close your eyes and picture yourself as that leader. Think about how you would act in various situations. (Give the participants time to do this).

Now open your eyes and think about an animal which best personifies your actions.

What animal did you choose? Why?

Possible answers may range from a fox (wily, outsmarting enemies) to an eagle (soaring high with great vision) to an ant (working with others for the best of the community).


Drew Carey hosted the television show, “Whose Line is it Anyway?” In one part of the show, people are given a piece of paper which specifies a character that they have to act out so that another person can guess the role they are playing – basically a form of charades.

In your place of work, what does a person have to do in order for others to shout out, “LEADER” when they see him/her?


A book titled, “Best Boss, Worst Boss” is a collection of true stories describing bosses both really, really good and really, really bad. Pretend you are contributing to a new book by the same author called, “My Boss the Nightmare” in which people describe the most terrifying dream they ever had about a fictional leader. What would your contribution say?


Write down your initials on a piece of paper. Now think about the very best leaders you’ve worked with. What words beginning with the same letters as your initials describe those exceptional leaders? Why?

For instance, someone with the initials JVD might state that leaders are 1) just, 2) (willing to be) vulnerable and 3) determined.

Tip: Write the answers on a piece of flip chart paper and post them in a prominent place for later reference.


The Chinese place great importance on filial piety. They also believe that the spirits of dead ancestors influence the fate of the living. As a result, some people of Chinese origin have an altar within their home where they offer up prayers to dead relatives.

If your organization had a leadership altar where they went to gain advice, which famous leader from the past would they offer prayers to? Explain.


Taking leadership of a group is similar to building a house. First, you either start building new or you renovate an existing structure. Some walls come down, others go up, the foundation is expanded, and skylights are added.

Think of your group as the building that you are constructing. What did the structure look like when you took over leadership of the group? What do you want the building to look like when you finish construction?


Think about recent changes in your organization and how staff members were informed about them. Is the way your organization communicates change to its employees, more like a scene from:

  • Doonesbury;
  • Bizarro;
  • FoxTrot;
  • Cathy; or
  • The Duplex?

Explain your choice.


Which of the following books on leadership have the leaders in your organization been reading recently?

  • The Black Belt Manager: Martial Arts Strategies for Power, Creativity, and Control;
  • The Ethical Imperative : Why Moral Leadership Is Good Business;
  • The Bureaucratic Entrepreneur: How to Be Effective in Any Unruly Workplace;
  • Everything’s Negotiable When You Know How to Play the Game;
  • Five-Star Leadership : The Art and Strategy of Creating Leaders at Every Level; or
  • The Bulletproof Executive: Armour-Plated Strategies for Career Success, If You’re Employed or Not!

Explain your choice.

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