A good team building exercise will help each participant realize the challenges of leading and get the team to discover how to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles… together.

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Team Building Exercise

Leadership Development

Years ago when running an Army ROTC program in Boston, I witnessed the value of our annual trip to the Leadership Reaction Course (LRC) on Cape Cod.

Cadets prepare for a national assessment at the end of their junior school year, which carries significant weight when determining their standing on a national Order of Merit List (OML). OML position impacts career choice, so it was very important for cadets, and cadre as well, to get an idea of everyone’s capabilities.

At the start of each school year, we traveled two hours by bus to spend a critical Saturday practicing leadership skills in a challenging environment.

A Team Building Exercise

The LRC had multiple stations. What our cadets did not realize was that the probability of success at each of these stations was … not likely.

Every junior had his or her chance to lead. Like the real world, they did not receive enough resources, yet they were expected to overcome insurmountable obstacles. Somehow, they were supposed to guide their team of 6-7 people and find a way to achieve success.

One of our stations involved a couple of 55-gallon oil drums and some wooden planks.

At each station, we conducted an After Action Review (AAR) once time expired. After several iterations, our cadets began to realize that the purpose of the LRC was not about succeeding. Instead, it was to discover how they communicated with their team and whether their could inspire others under challenging circumstances.


Having participated in these post-mortems from the time when I was a cadet years before and throughout my career, I knew the value everyone would receive from the feedback from the Army’s AAR.

As expected, cadets learned quite a bit about themselves. I learned too. What I had forgotten were the war stories. During the bus ride home, cadets shared with each other how they would have accomplished the impossible if only given another chance. It provided the perfect opportunity for these future leaders to bond together; another key part of our leadership development plan.

The LRC environment of sharing hardships and working together proved to be one of our best team building exercises. The LRC was instrumental in accelerating everyone’s individual growth. Most important, it taught everyone how to work together as a team, lessons they carried into their senior year and beyond.