Can we teach leadership skills from the game of checkers?

In this day and age of tablets and smartphones, we are consumed by technology.

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

Playing the Game

One 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 happened 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.

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. I made it a priority to teach my daughter how to play 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

What leadership skills could you add?

Learning Leadership Characteristics

I also decided I would use this opportunity to develop a lesson plan with my leadership students. We would cover leadership characteristics and then play checkers with a twist.

The twist added to the game was that the player will verbally provide their opponent with a leadership characteristic before jumping their checker.

If you have a king, you will need to provide two characteristics. And characteristics cannot be repeated.

This could be beneficial for leaders to do with their teams as a fun way of team building or leadership development exercise.

King Me!

Some takeaways from this experience is to not lot technology raise my kids.

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 haven’t taught your children how to play it, I encourage you to do so. Bond with your child and hear them say, “king me!”

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

Which Games Can Help Teach Leadership Skills?

If you have ideas that you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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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.