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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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!