the traditional look of leadership

Virtual Team Building Activities for Leadership

Nov 21, 2023

11 min read

Harness the Power of Play for Your Online Leadership Activities

Are you looking for unusual virtual team building activities that will engage your remote leadership? Well look no further my friend.  This article contains not only unique online leadership activities, but why they work and how to use them to create effective leaders.  We will dive into what makes a good leader, and what makes for good virtual team building activities, specifically for leaders.     

Since you came here for virtual team building ideas for remote teams, I will not make you wait.  This is not a recipe blog on “How to Make Tender Chicken, but first, my journey to becoming homecoming queen…”  Ugh.  The ideas below are my top three picks but there are lots more below along with the reasons why they work great for leaders at all levels. 

Three Virtual Team Building Activities that Develop Leadership

  1. Texas Hold’em Poker.  Yes, poker.  This game has math, people skills, and resource management… and just the right amount of luck. It is our number one choice for virtual leadership development activities.
  2. Risk board game.  Global resource management, aggression, and patience are the hallmarks of this classic war game.
  3. Shark or Tank. This is a quick game you can play as an icebreaker.  Grab any mundane object and “Pitch” it to the “Sharks”.  Practice making features and benefit statements, identify definitive buying motives, and have a few laughs along the way. 

If you want a deep dive into how to effectively plan any game, check out our Best Practices for Virtual Team Building.  You can also skip ahead to our full game list below.  There is a table of contents to the right, so jump to anything that strikes your fancy.  There is no quiz at the end, BUT if you stick with me, you will learn why play is the key to choosing the right virtual leadership team building activities. 

Three images of typical leaders.  Mad Men, Office Space, and a cardboard box representing a fired employee.

Back in the olden days….

Traditionally, leadership was perceived in a hierarchical and authoritative manner. The leader was seen as someone at the top of an organizational structure, providing (hopefully) clear instructions, and expecting subordinates to follow orders. Leadership was associated with control, authority, and the ability to command.  Questioning authority could result in a quick trip out the front door and possible loss of stapler. 

In today’s global business culture, the definition of leadership has evolved to embrace a more inclusive, collaborative, and adaptive approach.  With the shift to remote work, employees have taken one small step (often just to the dining room table) for employee-kind, and managers must now take one giant leap towards true leadership.  Today’s definition of a good leader is someone who:

  • Develops others to their potential.  Understanding one’s team well enough to bring out the best in each individual makes for a stronger overall group.
  • Creates a positive and collaborative work environment. Individualism, diversity, and culture combine from around the office and the world.
  • Aligns their team’s skills.  Being friends is great, but being friends who further the company’s mission is much better.
  • Never loses sight of the goal.  Maintaining product performance and customer satisfaction at a high level is all in a day’s work.

Whew, that is a lot of pressure!  Just do everything right and no one gets hurt.  So easy a child could do it.  Not really, but did you know that childhood is where we learn to lead?  The playground is a mini office ecosystem where small humans learn how to get along with each other.  It is a literal sandbox for developing interpersonal skills and of course digging holes and driving dump trucks around.   

Three images to show activities at different ages.  Children playing jump rope.  Teens running in a park, and adults at a team building event.

What Can Leadership Team Building Activities Teach Us?

What do virtual team building games have to do with leadership, you ask?  A whole heck of a lot.  Play is where we learn what works and what doesn’t, and because we spend years playing with our peers, we are able to build on those talents over time.  Finding your leadership groove has long-term implications.  Maybe you became captain of the football team, started a band, or took a journey to becoming home coming queen.  Or if you are a nerd like me who actually lettered in speech and debate, you became an entrepreneur and are trying to figure out how to be a good boss. 

Now this is supposed to be about virtual team building activities for leadership skills, so let’s get into it.  Getting to know people at the office happens casually through random interactions, when you are working remotely the opportunities to run into each other at the eater cooler are much harder to come by so engaging in leadership activities virtually take on more importance.

Whether we are on the playground as kids or running a leadership team building activity virtually for 200 employees games teach us in two main categories: how we relate to others, and how we improve ourselves.  These skills become the foundation for our leadership style. Like anything else in like these skills need focus and attention to improve. Engaging in leadership development activities has personal and professional results.

infographic showing leadership skills that are part of personal development and a second group that are focused on professional development.  All of these skills are improved through regular virtual team building activities/

Why Do We Need Online Leadership Activities?

In a global workforce, leaders are expected to inspire and empower their teams rather than simply give orders.  Leadership is seen as a service to the team.  So why do virtual team building activities for leadership need to be different than those for the common folk?  Because we are seeking different results.  Effective virtual leaderships team building activities must:

  • Reflect business concepts.  Poker is our top choice because it does this in spades.  Budgeting, well-timed aggression, and situational awareness are all cross-over skills to the very real world of business.
  • Have an individual component. A good leader must possess the confidence to stand on their own and justify their decision-making process.  Games let them practice in a low-stakes environment. 
  • Be fun.  Leadership development does not have to be dull. The ultimate goal of online team building for remote workers is always to build camaraderie.  Having fun together is the key to staying engaged because bored people don’t learn anything.  

The best virtual team building activities for leadership have a business component that is woven into the fabric of play.  These allow participants to learn as they go, make mistakes, and see their own progress. 

There are hundreds of online team building options.  Seriously, if you need it, I have a post called 100 Innovative Virtual Activities for Corporate Teams. Some games are great for groups and some games really lend themselves to developing leaders.  All games meet the minimum criteria of team building.  They must be:

three images of games used for leadership development.  chess, poker, and risk

What Should a Good Virtual Leadership Development Activity Include?

Organizing a virtual team building activity that includes leadership development is not an easy task. Games need to have business skills baked in, they should allow for individual competition and still be unique enough to hold busy people’s attention. That’s a tall order. Because of these requirements we recommend that you bring in a professional to conduct the game, There are may vendors who host a variety of games. You cna contact The Poker People directly if you want to learn more about why we think Texas Hold’em poker is a great choice. Below we have our top ten games we recommend to develop leadership activities virtually.

Ten Fun and Engaging Activities for Building Leaders

Texas Hold’em Poker Tournament – Yes, I am touting the many benefits of poker as a team building exercise again, but over 120 million people worldwide play poker so don’t underestimate its appeal. It is the best virtual team building activity for leadership, hands down.

International Food Tour – A gift box of goodies from around the world is sent to all participants of this virtual activity and a professional expert joins the video meeting to lead participants through the tastings.

Bingo – Several online versions are available with or without hosts, but hiring a pro means the game will move quickly. 

Casino Night – A Las Vegas experience is a virtual team building activity because there is something for everyone.  Real dealers teach guests to play craps, blackjack, and roulette.

Escape Rooms – The popular in-person games make a great virtual activity for corporate teams.  Coworkers must solve a series of clues in order to escape in a set amount of time.

Jeopardy – Play the classic answer-question game as a virtual team building activity.  This game is best done with a professional company because it is more fun with a real game show host to manage the questions and scoring.  Some vendors can customize the answers to reflect company specific messaging.

Mafia – Team members are assigned roles such as “mafia”, “doctor”, and “citizen” in this team building game.  The “mafia” secretly tries to eliminate the other players while the “doctor” tries to save them.

Murder Mystery – Decide whodunnit and see if you’re right. Professional vendors can customize the game to your group size in this activity.

Office Olympics – A professional host will curate the games based on your company’s industry and number of participants.  “Events” can take place in one meeting or over the course of several sessions. 

Trivia – Players divide into teams and answer questions and compete for prizes or bragging rights.  We recommend hiring a host for your corporate team building version to make sure there are a wide variety of questions and topics. 

For your next Poker Team Building Event

three images of leaders in their offices planning remote team building activities

Effective Leadership Traits and Talents

We have established the importance of the role of leaders in a global workforce.  They are the key to keeping the team together and moving the company mission forward.  But what makes a team building game specifically good for leaders?  When evaluating a game, look for options that include the following:

Social Interaction and Relationship Building

Decision-Making and Problem Solving

Conflict Resolution and Negotiation

Management of Resources

Communication Skills

Team Collaboration and Inclusivity

Leadership Styles and Initiative

Applying Empathy

Taking Strategic Risks

Fostering Innovation

Team Building Games Specifically for Building Leadership Skills

Story Builder – One participant starts the story with an opening line and then the next participant picks it up from there.  This builds communications skills and logic patterns.

Texas Hold’em Poker – Easy to learn, hard to master, and hits every leadership skill in business. From budget management to emotional resilience, and everything in between.   

Pancakes or Waffles – Choose one and why it is best, then pit the winner against the next option.  Pancakes or waffles, waffles or kittens, kittens or cell phones?  The key to a good negotiator is understanding your opponent’s position.

Desert Survival – Team members must create a pack list of five items they would want with them if trapped alone in the desert and then defend their choices online. Resource management and allocation is key to a company’s success.  And to getting off the island.  

Branding Battle – Each participant or team has five minutes to come up with an exciting marketing campaign for mundane or boring common items, fostering innovation and creativity for out-of-the-box thinking.

My Best Day – Easy online team building activity where participants share a story about a time or activity that they really enjoyed.  The best leaders are empathetic leaders.

Risk Board Game – Try your hand at world domination in this land grab classic and learn to take calculated risks and strategy at the same time.

Shark or Tank – Participants are randomly assigned a mundane item in their home like a lamp or toaster and must pitch the product to the rest of the team who rate their presentation and the product’s potential.  Communication and presentation skills are not just for sales folks.  Every leader should be able to pitch their ideas.

Five Clicks Away – Link two seemingly unrelated topics through Wikipedia internal links.  Obama and Cheeseburgers.  How many clicks inside wiki will it take to connect them?  Attention to detail is important and seeing a path less taken can lead to innovation and growth.

Keep Talking and No One Explodes – One team member must follow instructions to diffuse the bomb and the other team members must convey their instructions from the complicated and confusing Bomb Diffusing Manual.  Team cohesion and the ability to work together under pressure are key strengths to a good leader and a good team.

You will see that we recommend games that include strategy, push for a higher level of thinking, and allow for individual play.  None of these are the traditional trivia or happy hour variety.  There is certainly a place for those games is a well-rounded team bonding schedule but games that focus on skill-building need to allow room for people to make individual choices.  Because of these components, participants can improve their communication skills, have fun with their friends, and still make gains in their professional growth.   

Three images of leaders.  Steve Jobs.  Pope Francis.  Beyoncé.

What Makes a Good Leader?

Effective leadership is indispensable to the success of any business.  A skilled leader possesses the ability to inspire their team and because of these skills, they create a motivated workforce. Good leaders align individual efforts with the broader objectives of the organization and steer their teams through change and uncertainty.  This level of expertise doesn’t come overnight.  You can’t play one round of Texas Hold’em and suddenly be Steve Jobs, Pope Francis, and Beyoncee all rolled into one.  That would be totally cool though. 

Building trust through empathy and positive reinforcement not only boosts employee satisfaction but also enhances loyalty and retention.  There is an old saying that, “People don’t quit companies, they quit bosses.”  Effective leaders are able to:

  • Impact employee morale.  Knowing your boss has your back creates a safe working environment.
  • Influence organizational culture.  Inclusion starts at the top.   
  • Maintain employee retention.  Keeping people in their jobs and performing is great for the bottom line.

This may sound like corporate-speak but the truth is people leave jobs easily, especially in the remote sector.  Because remote work is here to stay, leadership has to be more in-tune.  A recent Gallup poll shows remote jobs are stabilizing and will be a permanent part of the worldwide workforce.  Managers should be the strongest link in the chain from intern to CEO.

Virtual Team Building Activities Work for Everyone

The use of virtual team building is on the rise, especially in the world of remote work where teams are spread out and face-to-face meetings are limited. Working from home presents challenges like how to keep the team connected and communicating effectively. That’s where online team bonding games come in, bridging the gap between having fun together and developing important work skills.  

We have been focused on team building as a vehicle for leadership skills, but everyone can benefit from playing cards and blowing off steam.  The world has gone remote and no matter how governments and corporations try to get people back to the office, remote work is not going anywhere.

infographic saying remote work is here to stay and showing that 32.6 million Americans are projected to work remotely by 2025.

By using online tools, teams can do activities that help them bond while also improving skills like teamwork, problem-solving, and being able to adapt to different situations. As things in the working world keep changing, leaders are realizing how important it is to have a team that works well together, even if they’re not in the same place.  So, virtual team building has become a big part of making that happen.

Leaders who support these activities create a vibe where team members feel connected and ready to handle the challenges of working online.  In simple terms, virtual team building is key for leaders who want to build strong, flexible, and happy teams in the ever-changing world of remote work.

Why is Team Building Important?

In conclusion, the combination of play and professional leadership underscores the profound impact that these activities can have on leadership development. As leaders navigate the complexities of their roles, incorporating elements of play with games like poker can help them hone essential skills.   

By recognizing and embracing the benefits of play, leaders not only foster a positive and collaborative work environment but also cultivate the resilience and adaptability necessary for success in today’s ever-evolving professional landscape. I hope you enjoyed the information I presented and learned a bit as well.  I look forward to seeing you at the virtual poker tables one day soon.


Virtual team building activities for leadership are essential to a strong remote team. These development activities are not only skill-builders but are lots of fun.

What is the best virtual team building game to develop leadership skills?

Texas Hold’em Poker.  By far.  It has a perfect balance of strategic thinking, risk assessment, and effective decision-making while still being social and easy to learn.

Why is virtual team building important?

Working from home has a huge list of benefits but the downside is a feeling of isolation.  Playing games together gives co-workers the opportunity to build genuine relationships.  Feeling connected, valued, and safe is key to job satisfaction. 

What makes a team building game good for leaders?

Generally speaking, leaders want to be able to evaluate the environment and make independent decisions.  Strategic games like poker, Risk, or chess allow for individual expression in a game format. 

For your next Poker Team Building Event