Leadership Skills and the Game of Checkers | AboutLeaders.com

Sticky Leaderhip SkillsCan we teach leadership skills from the game of checkers?

In this day and age of iPhones, iReaders, iPads and iBlogs, etc., we are consumed by technology as adults, and our children even more so.

In my day and age as a kid, the closes thing I had to an iPhone was a stick to write in the dirt.

But, I digress…

Playing the Game

The other day I noticed my nine-year-old daughter looking at her iReader. I thought about how technology has developed over the years. I wandered what happen to games like, checkers, chess or common card games. I then asked my daughter if she wanted to play a game of checkers.

To my surprise, she responded, “Dad, I do not have any checkers, and I do not know how to play.” My jaw about hit the floor and my thoughts were “what have we done?” We have not taught our daughter the game of checkers, the classic of all board games, which in my view should be in every home.

Leadership Checkers

Time for Bonding

I thought about how checkers allowed me time to bond with my single parent mom as we talked and played. It allowed teaching opportunities for me with my mentors in my young adult life in the barbershop and in the military.

I wanted to create that opportunity for my kids and made it a priority to teach my daughter the game of checkers. While out looking to purchase the board game, I began to think about what leadership lessons I could teach my daughter? How can someone apply the game of checkers to their leadership development?

Here is what I came up with:

  • Strategy
  • Vision (see the big picture)
  • Things are not always what they seem
  • Never give up even when cornered
  • Patience
  • Kings have authority (title is not leadership)
  • Nonverbal communication
  • Learn from mistakes
Related:  When Leadership Strengths become Weaknesses - Part 2

What Leadership Skills can You Add?

Teaching Leadership Skills

Learning Leadership Characteristics

I also decided I will use this opportunity to develop a lesson plan with my leadership students. We will cover leadership characteristics and after the quick lecture we will play checkers with a twist. The twist added to the game will be before you can jump your opponent’s checker the player will verbally provide them with a leadership characteristic.

If you have a king you will need to provide two characteristics and characteristics cannot be repeated. I am looking forward to experience this with my students and daughter.

I can also see how this could be beneficial for business leaders and managers to do with their teams as a fun and out of the ordinary teambuilding or leadership development exercise.

I am looking forward to teaching my daughter the game of checkers and our first official match. While teaching her the game we will engage in conversation, just as my mother did with me.

King Me

King Me!

Some takeaways from this experience is to not lot technology raise my kids. To use every opportunity to build an everlasting relationship that will keep the lines of communication open. This will be very important as our children move into their teens and adulthood.

Finally, if you have not pulled out the checker board lately, or like me have not taught your children this game. I encourage you to do so, to bond with your child and to hear them say KING ME!

Leadership Skills TakeawayWhat games or resources can you share that you have played with your kids, students or teams that develop their leadership skills?

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Greg Martin

Greg works for Sedgwick County Department of Corrections and owns Martin Leadership & Management Development. He is a U.S. Army veteran & holds a MS in Leadership and Management from Friends University.

  • Greg,
    Great article as usual. I found myself chuckling a couple of times having experienced much the same response with my own children. They are older now but technology stills rules. My wife and I sat there on Easter for a good hour with everyone in our family quietly while all of them stared at their phones. My wife and I will not usually let that go so eventually we asked them to put down their phones and talk. With a bunch of muffled under-the-breath comments they did and we had a nice time together after all.
    Technology is great but it has its place. Younger children, like yours and my grandchildren, need to learn how and when to use technology correctly. I often fear as a society we will lose the capability to communicate face-to-face. I receive résumés often and it’s amazing how many individual do not use correct English or even full words when writing to me. One thing I see very often is their own name starting with lower case letters. Another one is the use of “r” for the word “are”. Since we live in a global marketplace, I wonder if business people in Europe, or any other country for that matter, would talk to us this way in a business environment.

  • Greg, this brought back some great memories. I was also reminded of the hundreds of times I’ve visited Cracker Barrel Countr Store & Restaurant and watched as young children sat and played checkers, smiling, laughing and having a good time.

    I “King You” for your great article.

  • Hi Greg, Loved your article. I used to play checkers with my dad. Love that board game. When I saw that my kids were glued to the ipads. I searched and found out that you can play a lot of board games on the ipad including checkers and chess. Best part is none of the pieces get lost and it is easy to carry whenever we are on vacation. Me and my kids love playing checkers on the ipad. 🙂 Take care and have fun playing checkers with your kids. Priya

  • Thank you all for your great feedback and taking the time to read my article. It is appreciated. Lead Well, Greg

  • What a find! I am currently writing a session on leadership for a team building event and wanted to encourage everyone to see themselves as leaders which empowers everyone to role model leadership when needed. The game of checkers (we call it Draughts in the UK) will provide me the perfect learning tool in the restricted time frame available to me.
    Thank you

  • Greg,it’s a wonderful work. leaders ability to bring followers to understand and follow a social or development vision is a priceless competency skill. Your project is a great work in that direction. I appreciate it.

  • Agree 100%. I wouldn’t over think it though — I would just play. If you want to go to the ultimate level, I would suggest any of the real forms of croquet. Tactics, strategy, risk/reward and execution — not to mention that it is active and gender + age equal. Sport evolved.

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