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

What Leadership Skills can You Add?

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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.