Additional Team Building Resources

Oct 21, 2022

12 Leadership Retreat Icebreakers & Activities to Warm Up Your Work Retreat

Madeline Purches

Team Building Enthusiast

Any company that values its leaders should consider a leadership retreat. Having your leaders engage in both workshops and icebreaker activities and games can not only liven up a retreat but can also have a large payoff. 

Icebreakers can lead to better collaboration and communication between your leaders and this sets an example for your employees. By including icebreaker games in your retreat agenda, you create fun, yet meaningful ways for your leaders to grow and the positive results will trickle down from the top to the bottom.

What Is A Leadership Retreat?

A leadership retreat is a time when company leaders can step away from time-consuming day-to-day activities at work and focus solely on the dynamics of leadership.

The length and location of retreats can vary. Some businesses hold weekend retreats away from the office while others may have a one-day retreat onsite.

company leaders having a drink

Benefits Of Leadership Retreats 

There are many benefits of holding a leadership retreat. Some major benefits are:

Building Relationships

Leaders have their hands full managing others at the office. There isn’t much time for leaders to get to know each other better. Leadership retreats are an opportunity for leaders to improve their relationships and build trust, resulting in increased efficacy in the workplace.

Improving Leadership Skills

Through the use of team-building games and icebreakers, leaders practice their leadership skills. They will also have a chance to reflect upon and adapt these skills for the future.

Providing A Time To Recharge

Leaders carry a great deal of weight when it comes to a company’s success. Giving them time to stop and breathe allows them to recharge. They will return to the office re-energized and with a new passion for the work that they do.

team member recharging

Sample Of A Leadership Retreat Agenda 

Below is an example of a one-day retreat agenda for a medium-sized group of 15 to 20 leaders. 

9:00 am – 10:00 am 

Employees arrive and get settled

Agenda is reviewed

Introductions, if needed

Icebreaker game to warm up the group

10:00 am – 12:00 pm 

Welcome presentation

Guest speaker or videotaped TED Talk on leadership and follow-up leadership game

team members watching ted talk

12:00 pm – 1 pm

Catered Lunch

1:00 pm – 4:00 pm

Work-related sessions 

• Review mission statement, discuss and set company goals, assess accomplishments, etc.

4:00 pm – 5:00 pm


Wrap up with a fun icebreaker game or activity

Group goodbyes

team members saying goodbye

Why use leadership icebreakers at a work retreat?

Leadership icebreakers, especially at the start of your retreat, help acquaint leaders who have not met before and start the relationship-building process among leaders who work together regularly. 

Moreover, just like icebreakers at the beginning of leadership meetings help the group relax before diving into a difficult task, icebreakers at a leadership retreat serve the same purpose.

Lastly, leadership icebreakers and games are an excellent way to break up the monotony of long work sessions. By dividing large chunks of work time with short icebreakers, your team will remain engaged throughout the retreat.

12 Leadership Retreat Icebreakers And Activities

Here are 12 leadership icebreakers and activities to ensure you have a productive and fun retreat.

1. Icebreaker Questions

Start your retreat with these short, simple, and not-too-personal questions, so group members can gain a bit of insight into each others’ personalities early on in the retreat. 

Materials: List of questions about likes, dislikes, and preferences. A few examples: 

Time needed: 10 minutes

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2. Minefield

Minefield is an ideal game to sharpen the crucial leadership skill of communicating effectively. Group members are split into teams and chose a leader. Everyone but the leader is blindfolded. 

Using only verbal instructions, the leaders must guide their team members through an ‘obstacle course’ made up of everyday office objects. The team that completes this task the fastest wins.

Materials: Blindfolds, objects such as office chairs, garbage pails, and cardboard boxes

Time needed: 15-30 minutes

employees blindfolding each other

3. Marshmallow Tower

This icebreaker builds cooperation, encourages innovation, and improves problem-solving among your leaders. 

Small groups of three to five people must build a free-standing tower using just uncooked spaghetti sticks and items to hold them together in five minutes. The team that builds the tallest tower (crowned with a marshmallow) that doesn’t fall over wins! 

Materials: Uncooked spaghetti, one marshmallow per team, scotch tape, paper clips, a stapler, and access to other office supplies

Time needed: 10 minutes (3 minutes to explain the game and distribute materials, 5 minutes for construction, and 2 minutes to clean up!)

marshmallow tower

4. Puzzle Race

This quick icebreaker game strengthens teamwork and lets the group be a bit silly. Teams of three to five people are each given a children’s puzzle to complete. The first group to do so wins. 

Materials: Several children’s puzzles (50 pieces or less)

Time needed: 10 minutes

5. The Barter Puzzle

This jigsaw puzzle game promotes cooperation, good communication, and negotiation skills.

Break your group into small groups of three to four and give each group a different jigsaw puzzle. 

Before your group arrives for the session, remove five pieces of each puzzle and redistribute them randomly to other puzzles. 

As the teams realize that some pieces are missing, they will have to negotiate with other teams to get the pieces they need that other groups have,

Materials: Several jigsaw puzzles under 100 pieces

Time needed: 30 minutes

couple putting together puzzle

6. Roses And Thorns

This game develops active listening, trust, and empathy as each leader shares one high moment (‘rose’) or low moment (‘thorn’) of their work week.

Materials: None

Time needed: 2 minutes per person

7. All Aboard

This leadership game practices problem-solving, cooperation, and leadership initiative. This game is better for small groups, but will also work if you need to split a larger group into several smaller groups. 

For small groups of three to four people, use duct tape on the floor to create a square of about two feet by two feet. Tell the team that they have five minutes to find a way to fit all members into the square. 

As the group works together to figure out how they can accomplish such a feat, a leader may emerge or the team may work collaboratively.

Materials: Duct tape

Time needed: 5 minutes

8. Thirty Seconds Left

This leadership icebreaker develops communication skills while also promoting team bonds. Tell your group members to pick one of the best moments of their life to share with the group. 

Once they have selected one, tell them they have only 30 seconds to talk about that moment. This forces them to distill something so significant into a tiny amount of time.

Materials: None

Time needed: 2 minutes for instructions and 30 seconds per person

team building activity

9. Zoom

This activity can improve communication as well as patience, a trait that any great leader must have. To clarify, this game is an in-person game, not a game to play over Zoom. 

The group is tasked with arranging a set of sequential images in the correct order so that once put together, they tell a story. Each person is given one image but is not allowed to show it to anyone else. They can, however, describe their image.

Once the group has decided on the sequence of the images, they place them on a table face down. Turn the images over to see if the sequence is correct.

This game is challenging so include time to debrief about what worked and what didn’t. This will enhance the learning experience.

Materials: Enough sequential photos that tell a story to give each group member one photo

Time needed: 30 minutes (5 minutes of instruction and set-up, 15 minutes for the activity, and 10 minutes to debrief)

10. Leadership Coat Of Arms

This activity encourages leaders to reflect on their leadership values and philosophy. Each group member will draw their own coat of arms. The coat of arms should have four sections each with a drawing of the four most important leadership traits they value. 

When the drawings are complete, each person explains the images on their coat of arms and what leadership trait they represent.

Materials: Large pieces of paper from a flip chart or another source, markers

Time needed: 25 minutes (5 minutes to explain the activity, 10 minutes of drawing, and 10 minutes for group discussion)

team drawing together

11. Compliment Circle

Though not a leadership game per se, this game teaches the importance of appreciation. It serves as a reminder that leaders should take the time to demonstrate their appreciation to those they lead. 

Have everyone stand in a circle. Ask someone to start by complimenting the colleague to the left of them. It can be as simple as “I like how your office is decorated” to something more meaningful as “I admire your approach to problem-solving.” 

The game ends once everyone has received a compliment. This activity works well as a retreat wrap-up activity so everyone leaves feeling good!

Materials: None

Time needed: 5 minutes

12. The Art Thief 

This exciting mystery game is great for your leadership retreat as it improves collaboration, problem-solving, and communication all at once. 

The Art Thief is fully-facilitated as a high-energy host comes to your retreat location ready to lead the game. Because it doesn’t require anyone to lead the activity everyone gets to play!

Before the activity, your host sets up evidence stations around the room. Once your group arrives, they will be split into teams who compete to solve the mystery.

Each team is provided with a box filled with clues. They also have access to an online dashboard with immersive videos to provide an overview as the investigation unfolds. The team who solves the mystery first wins! 

Materials: Your host brings the game materials, staff, and the fun;you provide a space, and A/V equipment!

Time needed: 60-90 minutes to play the game; note that the host arrives one hour before set up the game

art thief

Final Thoughts

Integrating icebreakers into your leadership retreat enables your leaders to get to know each other better while also reflecting on their own leadership styles. While traditional skill-building activities like brainstorming solutions to potential work scenarios are effective, leadership icebreakers are much more fun. Make your retreat a memorable one and your leaders will be ready for more!

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