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16 Leadership Activities from Israel

A few years ago, I was at a dinner party when someone told me about a free business trip to Israel.


Your boy couldn’t wait to sign up.

The business trip was called the Schusterman REALITY Tech trip.

It’s a one-week trip to Israel with 50 other people who applied, and I got accepted this year.

Even though the trip is to Israel, it’s not just limited to Jewish people. 50% of the attendees weren’t Jewish.

The 50 attendees included:

  • People who sold multiple successful businesses
  • A vice president at Nike
  • An entrepreneur who met the Pope

I just got back from Israel and I had an insane trip where I learned a lot about leadership so I’m gonna share with you 16 leadership activities that I learned there that you can use in your business, for your marriage, for your synagogue, company… whatever it is that you work on!

16 Leadership Activities (You Can Do Today)

Leadership Activities #1: Goat-Herding Workshop

Goat herding

Yes… a goat herding workshop.

I’ve never really done anything like this before—it’s hard to do unless you have a goat or sheep—but if you think about the Bible…

Where’s Jesus standing when he shepherds the goats?

In the back.

He leads the flock from the back.

We assume most leadership is from the front, like a man or woman at the front of a crowd with a flag saying, “Let’s go everyone, follow me!”

But you may need to challenge your assumptions.

Try it out (somehow… maybe you don’t use goats) and see how it changes your leadership strategies. And yet, it’s still possible.

Leadership Activities #2: Compliment & Hug

Number two is compliment and hug.

For this one, you just get into small groups and you compliment someone and you hug them. I don’t think that happens enough in companies.

Awkward? Yes.

Powerful? Hell yes.

Leadership Activities #3: Gratitude

Number three is gratitude.

So every single morning we started off the workshop with gratitude.

And sometimes you don’t really want to do it.

You know what I mean? When they have everyone hug someone (why is it always hugging?) or everyone high-fives someone?

But gratitude was actually really nice.

Each morning a new person led the gratitude session so it was always different, and the overall idea was about how you can incorporate gratitude into every single meeting or maybe every weekly meeting.

Leadership Activities #4: Group Birthday Guess

So for this one, have everyone guess the likelihood of anyone else in the group having the same birthday as themselves.

Then ask what the minimum number of people you need to have 2 people with the same birthday is (it’s 23 people, btw).

Then go around and have everyone say their birthday.

And then what we did is everyone in the group went around and said their birthday and surprisingly (or unsurprisingly, statistically) two people had the same birthday — which was freaking awesome.

Creates a sense of connection and camaraderie.

Leadership Activities #5: Calisthenics

This is actually something we do at Sumo Group every single Monday at 10 am.

I learned this from my friend Simon who worked in Japan where they do it almost every day in the factories.

So every Monday at 10:00 am we do a bunch of jumping jacks, push-ups, stretches, and other things like that.

But it’s also a great way to unite the team and not just be like, Alright it’s Monday, I hate Mondays…

It’s a great way to get started.

Another thing that we do is when we end our meetings, we all clap at the same time.

So if not everyone claps at the same time, we keep doing it until it’s all in unison.

And one more thing when you’re doing calisthenics, what I like to do, is when we do our push-ups we always do 10—and on the 11th we hold it and say “Sumo” (you should probably say your company name).

And one of the things that was really interesting about this is that you actually can hold things and do more than you think.

Most people can do more than they can imagine.

I know… cheezy.

Leadership Activities #6: Hippy Breathing

So we did this on the top of Masada which is this crazy huge mountain where they built tons of amazing stuff (#history) and Stephanie, who’s the nicest person I’ve ever met (she’s a Burning Man person if you know what I mean—or Burning Woman), she led this.

I don’t know what it’s called, but we did this breathing exercise where you breathe through your stomach, and then you breathe through your chest, and then you breathe through your mouth—and you do it really fast.

And you do that for a minute.

It’s weird, but it kind of gives you this light-headed euphoric feeling and it was a really interesting way that we worked on leadership and self-improvement and thinking about ourselves and just kind of gets your brain to another point of view.

Leadership Activities #7: Eye-Staring

This is advanced and quite uncomfortable.

With other people in your company or with your significant other, sit across from one another and just stare into their eyes for 30 seconds.

Don’t say anything. Try not to laugh.

If you do laugh or break eye contact, re-start the 30 seconds again.

I can’t even do 10, but try to do it and you’ll actually really connect with someone on this strangely amazing level.

It’s super intimate and super intimidating. But also relaxing and calming.

Try it.

Leadership Activities #8: Sad Time You Were Grateful For Later

Get into small groups and share a time in your life that was sad or horrible or really bad that later turned out to be something you were grateful for.

It’s a little confusing, but for me, it was getting fired from Facebook. For you, maybe it was something bad that happened but turned out to actually be a blessing in disguise.

Leadership Activities #9: What’s Your Favorite Memory With Your Family?

This is another small group activity to do in your companies.

It’s a great way to build connections and bonds when you’re working on something together.

Mine was when I was 6 years old, eating strawberries and whipped cream at a buffet in San Francisco.

What’s yours?

Leadership Activities #10: Bless Someone in Your Company

We did this on one of the final days and it was really interesting.

Go around and bless someone with something positive, like:

  • I hope you find love
  • I hope you find clarity
  • I bless you and hope you find happiness in your work
  • I bless that you find fitness

Or whatever it is.

Some of this stuff feels frou-frou but I think in these times when you actually try to go deeper with people you work with—or people that are in your lives in general—it’s actually a really great way to connect.

Talking more and sharing more leads to better connections which leads to better organizations.

Leadership Activities #11: Leadership Dilemmas

Each person gets 15 minutes to share their challenge and get feedback about it.

You have 15 minutes per person, and you have to partner up with someone (or in a small group of people) you haven’t spent a lot of time with.

In those 15 minutes, one person talks and the other(s) listen and give feedback.

Here’s the structure:

  • Introduction (4 min): Explain your problem
  • Clarifying (4 min): Talk through questions to really understand the problem
  • Duct tape (4 min): The observers talk to one another, the speaker stays silent
  • Integration and dialog (3 min): The observers finalize their thoughts and recommend an outcome to the speaker

In 15 minutes, you’re not going to cure cancer (unless you do, which would be really impressive) but what’ll happen is that these people are a little less biased and so they’ll probably give you more straight answers. But what I found out from this activity is that you realize what you already know.

Which is kind of frustrating, right? Because you want some magic golden and answer…

But you find out that these people are validating what you already know you need to go do.

Leadership Activities #12: Build a Raft Together

Do some type of group activity where you have to self-organize.

What’s interesting is that everyone participating in this retreat was a different personality type. Imagine eight different personalities trying to build something together and co-operate…

Yeah, it’s a problem.

We were in groups of 8, given a guide book, and told we had 30 minutes to build a raft with 4 barrels, rope, and some logs.

No one was the leader, and it was total chaos.

I’ve never been a part of the group where I don’t take over as the leader, so to be with a bunch of other Type A people and figure out how to work together was interesting.

Biggest takeaways were to do more planning ahead and then debrief after the experience.

Leadership Activities #13: “You can talk to me about…”

This was the first thing we did when we arrived—it’s an amazing icebreaker.

We went around the circle, introduced ourselves, and then said, you can talk to me about: X and Y. I said magic and bicycles.

Someone else said you can talk to me about drugs, you can talk about meditation, you can talk to me about whisky, you could talk to me about legality…

It was a great way to share so people could easily approach others about a topic later, like ”Oh, were you the person that said this…?”

Leadership Activities #14: Artifacts

This was very powerful and intimate.

You had to bring an artifact or picture of an artifact that represented a major point in your life. I brought my dad’s Shabbat candle holders and a picture of my bikes. Then you shared the stories behind them.

I was surprised how much people were sharing.

You quickly realize how much deeper you can go, and how much more you like these other people.

Leadership Activities #15: What Kind of Leader Are You?

We did this interesting experiment where they talked about four types of leadership and they used a Bible reference.

There was no religious stuff on the trip, but the idea was each of us has a leadership style:

  • Moses – Visionary: They have ideas about where to go
  • Joshua – Operations: They make sure shit happens
  • Miriam – Cheerleader: They are supportive and help everyone stay positive
  • Sara – Spokesperson: They let everyone internally and externally know what’s happening

It’s not that you can’t be more than one, but we got into separate groups and talked about what the benefits and negatives of each one are and what it’s like to be this person.

I thought I was a Joshua—I like making things happen—but maybe there’s times when I’m a Moses.

What’s interesting about this is you try to understand the types of personalities of the other people you work with. Helps to figure out who in your groups should take on which roles.

Leadership Activities #16: Perceptions

We did this at the end of the trip where you went around in small groups and asked what you thought of the person before and now.

Super interesting.

What was interesting was what the group leader said: Instead of trying to be the person that people think of when they first meet you—be the person that you ACTUALLY are all the time. The one that they know now.

Try to be more of your authentic self when you first meet people

BONUS Leadership Activities #17: Nights Out

This was one of the craziest leadership examples I’ve ever seen anyone do, so I’m adding it on as a bonus only

But it was really powerful.

They dropped us off in the middle of the desert and gave us two rules:

  • You must talk to yourself outloud for 10 minutes
  • You can’t stop talking

Go find a park, yard or anywhere safe and quiet to do this.

I was shocked how talking to myself outloud gave me so much clarity.

What was fascinating was that you could only have one voice. It’s very interesting to hear your thoughts out loud because there’s a lot going on in our heads so when you talk out loud it actually helps you get clarity

You never know what you’re going to get out of different experiences. I’m very grateful to go on the trip and hope you got something out of my notes.

Group shot #2

“Reflect every morning what a great life looks like then ask yourself what is holding you back from greatness.”

I hope you learned one leadership activity you can try with your company or with friends or your partner. If you try any out, let me know in the comments below!

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23 responses to “16 Leadership Activities from Israel”

July 6, 2018 at 9:00 pm

It sounds like a beautiful experience. Thank you for sharing the lessons taught and learned, they are transferable beyond leadership.

Nigel Elder
June 29, 2018 at 5:18 am

Is that photo taken in the main street in Jaffa?

June 20, 2018 at 12:07 am

I don’t have much to say other than this sounds fucking cool.
This sounds like a REAL leadership training course vs. sitting a room talking about it.
Thanks for sharing your experience about this. It’s piqued my interest, for sure.

Russ hamilton
June 18, 2018 at 9:06 am

“Reflect every morning what a great life looks like then ask yourself what is holding you back from greatness.”

I like this quote and agree with its challenge. I know super successful people with a shitty life-hate their wife, kids are on drugs. Then there is this guy at the parking lot toll booth, and he is the most pleasant person I’ve met.

We can achieve great things in life, but we have wasted our lives if we do not treat others greatly.
This is what I must review each morning-who’s life can I help today? Then actually do it.

June 17, 2018 at 10:12 pm

“Then ask what’s the minimum amount of people you need to have 2 people with same birthday….It’s 23 people btw. ”

It seems you left out part of the explanation here. As written, the answer is 2. Or 364 depending on interpretation.

23 is the minimum number of people you need to have a 50% probability of two people having the same birthday.

June 16, 2018 at 12:52 pm

Some really amazing ideas for connecting with humans… lol. It seems so easy, right? These are quirky enough that I could use them all. Thanks for the post Noah.

Daniel Mac Sweeney
June 16, 2018 at 3:52 am

This was a lovely post Noah. Looks like you learned a lot about yourself on this trip. I especially like talking to yourself for 10 mins or so as it could help when talking to others and being more confident. Looking forward to your next adventure I bet ?

June 15, 2018 at 4:04 pm

Really liked this nugget ” Major takeaway is to be the person people perceive you as when they first meet you. ”

thanks for sharing Noah.

June 15, 2018 at 11:57 am

This was a really unique & interesting post to read. Thanks for sharing Noah!

Paul Warren
June 14, 2018 at 9:20 pm

Some really great takeaways in this blog piece Noah.

Thanks for sharing.

June 14, 2018 at 7:17 pm

I also like bicycles……..

Athena Moberg
June 14, 2018 at 5:32 pm

Thank you, Noah. Like Sonya, I’d love to know, what was the biggest or most surprising thing you learned about yourself??

June 14, 2018 at 5:10 pm

Great Article! Loved it

David Gilbert
June 14, 2018 at 3:36 pm

Mazel Tov Noah for having such a wonderful experience, and for sharing with the world.

June 14, 2018 at 12:48 pm

Really great video! No fluff, filled with practical advice. Sounds like it was an awesome trip!

Dan Millar
June 14, 2018 at 11:41 am

Very interesting post, I think I’ll have to revisit this and put some additional thought into points 11, 13 and 14.

I find the quote at the end both interesting and troubling as it seems to push the person to assume they don’t already live a great life. Who is the quote from?

Scott Hack
June 14, 2018 at 11:11 am

Thanks Noah! I really appreciate you sharing this with me. I think there are 2 or 3 nuggets that I can weave into my residential real estate brokerage.

Sonya Looney
June 14, 2018 at 10:56 am

Super interesting trip and lessons! What was the biggest thing you learned about yourself?

Ms HEIDY Waywell
June 14, 2018 at 8:10 am

I love this so much. It has given me tons of inspiration to share with my colleagues and peers. Thank u x

June 14, 2018 at 7:44 am

Noah – thanks for sharing. Your notes about these different activites are just what I want to (and will) incorporate into our team meetings.

I really love the one about artifacts. I’ve learned that there is so much reflection that comes from sharing artifcats with others. It can be from a major point in your life, as you noted. Or, an artifact from the work on a recent team project. When you share them things show up that would have otherwise been missed.

Thanks again

All the best!


Marc Torio
June 14, 2018 at 7:29 am

Noah, one of the great posts about leadership in a while from the different blogs and newsletters I read. Great way to share it from a story point of view. Looks and sounds like your definitely an impacted person from the experience! Have a great day!!!!

June 14, 2018 at 7:24 am

Powerful lessons. Great takeaways. Thanks for sharing Noah.

June 14, 2018 at 7:19 am

Thanks for sharing Noah. Very cool activities. It says something about you and your fellow 49 attendees that you were up for it and not just there for the tech but the personal growth (that leads to great tech indirectly).

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