18 Leadership Retreat Ideas & Activities

By: | Updated: August 25, 2023

You found our list of leadership retreat ideas and activities.

Leadership retreat ideas allow industry leaders, company managers, and top professionals to work, play, and connect outside the typical work environment. Examples include skill-building sessions, wellness activities, and trivia. These activities aim to help participants work, recharge, and strengthen their leadership skills.

Leadership retreat ideas are similar to executive retreat activities and group retreat ideas. These ideas help employees develop leadership skills, become strong leaders, and manage remote teams more effectively.


This article includes the following:

  • leadership retreat ideas
  • leadership retreat activities
  • leadership retreat games
  • leadership retreat objectives
  • leadership retreat icebreakers
  • women’s leadership retreat ideas

Here we go!

List of leadership retreat ideas

A great blend of leadership retreat activities, strategic sessions, and team bonding is crucial in ensuring a leadership retreat is worth the time, resources, and effort. When done correctly, these retreat activities can help participants learn and retain leadership skills and form bonds with their colleagues or other professionals in the industry. Here are some of the best ideas for your next leadership retreat.

1. Kick-Off Dinner

Having a pre-retreat dinner the day before the leadership retreat officially starts is a great idea. Since the rest of the retreat will likely feature a full schedule of activities and presentations, this event will allow participants to bond with one another in a casual setting.

This dinner can serve as a welcome get-together party, with a menu and with or without a theme. If participants had to travel to the retreat, which is usually the case, then the dinner also allows them to relax and unwind.

The kick-off dinner does not necessarily require a formal agenda or plan. The event organizers may talk briefly about the retreat and the scheduled activities. This step will help set expectations and build enthusiasm in the participants’ minds. A great idea would be to incorporate some leadership retreat icebreakers or plan conversation topics to help initiate discussions amongst the group.

2. Inspirational Speaker Series

An inspirational speaker series at a leadership retreat involves inviting accomplished individuals from various fields. These professionals will share their unique journeys, experiences, and wisdom with the participants. These speakers often provide valuable insights into leadership, resilience, overcoming challenges, and personal growth. Through stories and interactive sessions, attendees gain fresh perspectives, motivation, and practical advice that can shape their own leadership approaches. The speaker series encourages open dialogue and allows for direct engagement with successful role models. Additionally, this activity fosters a dynamic learning environment where participants can apply newfound insights to their leadership roles.

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3. Community Service and Giving Back

Doing community service and giving back during a retreat centers around contributing positively to the local community or a charitable cause. This experience goes beyond the traditional leadership retreat exercises by emphasizing values such as empathy, teamwork, and social responsibility. Participants engage in volunteer activities that might involve environmental conservation, helping underprivileged individuals, or collaborating on projects that address community needs. This idea strengthens the team’s bond and highlights the importance of leadership that extends beyond organizational boundaries.

4. Team Culinary Experience

A team culinary experience retreat adds a flavorful twist to leadership development. Participants engage in cooking classes or challenges that require effective communication, collaboration, creativity, and adaptability. As folks work together to prepare meals or solve culinary tasks, they learn valuable lessons in teamwork, delegation, problem-solving, and time management. Sharing the resulting meal provides an opportunity for informal discussions, reflection, and strengthening interpersonal relationships. This activity fosters a relaxed atmosphere where participants can discover new talents, break down barriers, and build camaraderie through a shared culinary adventure.

5. Future Trends and Industry Insights

A future trends and industry insights exercise will equip participants with a forward-thinking mindset. Industry experts will share their knowledge about emerging trends, disruptive technologies, and shifting market dynamics relevant to the team’s field. Through presentations, workshops, and discussions, participants gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities on the horizon. This retreat encourages critical thinking, strategic planning, and innovation as attendees collaborate to envision how their leadership roles can adapt to an ever-evolving landscape. By preparing for the future, participants can better guide their teams with informed decisions and a proactive approach.

6. Skill-Building Session

When planning a leadership retreat, one of the crucial elements to focus on is skill building. The retreat should offer an opportunity for participants to develop hard or soft skills, which are essential to succeed in their roles. Asking team members or participants before the retreat about skills they would like to improve can give organizers some ideas for this session.

Depending on the budget, the retreat may feature multiple optional sessions, allowing participants to make their own choices. For example, suppose attendees are interested in improving their social media knowledge or software skills. A participant who is skilled in the topic may facilitate the session.

The organization may invite external speakers to lead training sessions during the retreat or host presentations to motivate and encourage participants. The speaker can vary depending on the retreat theme or the type of skills the group needs. These individuals may be experts in the industry who offer specialized knowledge on specific professional topics like creative leadership, diversity, and inclusion.

For soft skills like creative thinking and problem-solving, the retreat may feature work-related challenges, icebreakers, or a brainstorming session for participants to devise innovative solutions to problems.

Here is a list of workshop ideas.

7. Outdoor Activities

Depending on the retreat’s location, consider allowing participants to spend some time outdoors, exploring their environment. Especially in a case where a good part of the retreat is indoors, participants can use this opportunity to get some fresh air and visit new places. While places may not relate to the business directly, the activity will help participants to refresh and reenergize their minds.

Some activities to consider during this exercise includes:

  • Outdoor games
  • Visits to exhibitions or museums
  • Walking tours
  • A visit to an amusement park
  • Horseback riding
  • A trip to a cultural site

This exercise also offers opportunities to learn new lessons, have fun, and even get fresh ideas. This experience also helps leave a lasting impression of the retreat in the participants’ minds.

Here is a list of outdoor team building activities.

8. Icebreaker Games

Icebreakers make for great leadership retreat games. Icebreaker games are activities like contests and quizzes that help group members interact and discover more about one another.

​Here are some leadership retreat icebreakers to try:

  • Introduction game: Team members introduce themselves and share a unique or interesting fact about themselves.
  • Word association: Starting with one word, the following participants say the first word that comes to mind, creating a chain.
  • Speed networking: Participants sit in a circle and take turns asking each other questions for a specific amount of time.
  • Name the Tune: Play a snippet of a song, and team members try to guess the title and artist of the song.
  • Two Truths and a Lie: Each team member shares three statements. One of the statements is false, with the other two are correct. Other participants try to guess which of the statements is a lie.
  • Human Knot: All the participants stand in a circle, and each player holds onto two different players. The group then works together to untangle themselves.
  • Jigsaw: Divide the whole group into small teams and give each team a piece of a puzzle. Team members must work together to solve their puzzles and complete the picture.

These games can come in at the start of the retreat to help participants feel more comfortable with themselves and facilitate relationships within different groupings. Icebreaker games can serve various purposes, from encouraging team spirit to problem-solving and creative thinking.

Check out more icebreaker games for small groups.

9. Team Sports

Team sports allow participants to exercise physically and have fun while working together. Some of the most popular games are bowling, volleyball, and football. These fun games are easy to play and are relatively easy to pick up for participants who may not have played before.

Some other fantastic alternatives to team sports may include mini golf, rope courses, and an escape room. While deciding on the location for the leadership retreat, it is essential to consider what sports amenities are available at the resort or hotel and nearby places.

For inspiration, here is a list of field day activities.

10. Employee Perspective Discussion

Apart from having fun and bonding, another essential goal of a retreat is to identify workplace problems and brainstorm possible solutions. Having leaders and managers together in one place is a great way to get workers’ perspectives about the business and spotlight areas or problems that the company needs to address.

Here are some simple but constructive questions to ask:

  • Where was our organization a year ago?
  • Where are we now compared to then?
  • What has changed?
  • What are the areas where we need improvement?
  • Where are we headed in the future?
  • Are we headed in the right or wrong direction? If wrong, what can we do to change it now?

Participants should be encouraged to actively participate in the conversation. Additionally, it is important to allow employees to be honest with their feedback without fear of being penalized for voicing their opinions.

Check out this list of employee engagement survey questions.

11. Wellness Activities

Leaders carry out numerous workplace responsibilities, and this affects their work-life balance. Leaders should take advantage of this break from work to develop their wellness and self-care practices.

​Some of these wellness activities may include:

  • Yoga classes
  • Meditation
  • Golf or tennis games
  • Spa treatments
  • Team workouts
  • Swimming

Wellness activities help to keep participants refreshed, recharged, and ready to take on more productive, work-related activities during the retreat.

Here is a list of employee wellness activities.

12. Casino Night

A casino night helps to add some low-stakes gambling fun to a leadership retreat. Poker, roulette, and blackjack can serve as icebreakers for any team or group size, and no actual cash is necessary. Alternatively, participants can also play with Monopoly money with an auction for fabulous prizes after the game. This activity may be an all-inclusive casino night package or a virtual casino night.

The casino night may also serve as a competition where participants get raffle tickets after winning the games. At the end of the game, participants then use these tickets to enter a big prize draw.

13. Self-Reflection Exercise

During the retreat, leaders should have time to reflect on personal and business performance. The idea of any retreat is to get leaders away from work distractions, giving them time for self-reflection. Organizers may provide a list of questions for participants to answer in a group setting or independently.

Some examples of self-reflection questions include:

  • What do you consider to be your most significant success over the past year?
  • Are there any failures or challenges you encountered over the past year? If yes, what can you do to overcome them?
  • Did you learn anything this year, whether about yourself or the business? How will you build on what you have learned?
  • Is there anything you plan to focus on this coming year, personally or professionally?

Self-reflection allows participants to assess their abilities and performance and develop new strategies for the coming year.

14. Group Painting or Art Class

Having a painting or art activity together during leadership retreats can help reduce stress and help introverts feel more at ease. Team art classes also fuel participants’ creativity without pressure to produce a professional painting. This session may be a booked class at a local painting gallery, a botanical dye workshop, or a ceramic studio. Since art is a great form of self expression, this activity is also among the top women’s leadership retreat ideas.

15. Tallest Tower

The focus of this game is to encourage teamwork, active listening, creative problem-solving, and communication between team members. Participants break out into groups with an even number of players on each team. To play, each group gets a variety of building items, such as toy blocks, newspapers, and toothpicks. Each team then attempts to use the provided items to build the tallest freestanding tower within a specified time frame, and the group with the tallest tower that does not topple wins. The time frame, building items, and number of group members can vary to suit the business.

16. Minefield

This exercise is a classic game for teaching leadership skills like cooperation and communication. Team members take turns practicing their listening and comprehension skills and their ability to communicate clear and specific instructions. For this game, organizers create a “minefield” with tape borders or rope and form small mines with obstacles like crumpled paper, boxes, or balls.

To play the game, each group chooses a member who will wear a blindfold and another member to guide the blindfolded participant. The guide then stands outside the minefield, directing the blindfolded player from one end of the course to the other without touching any of the mines. The blindfolded player has to listen to the guide and follow their instruction. If the blindfolded participant touches any of the mines, then the team has to start again. The first team to get to the other side of the course wins the game.

17. Leadership Crest

For this game, participants create leadership crests modeled on classic family crests. This activity encourages team members to consider their leadership values and how they align with their company’s objectives and achievements.

In this game, participants draw a crest shape and divide the crest into four sections. In each quadrant, the individual draws illustrations or motifs representing influential values, leadership skills, recent achievements, and workplace satisfaction. Once the individual completes the crest, the team member uses their communication skills to present it to the rest of the group, discussing the drawings in each quadrant and why they are meaningful.

18. The Sinking Ship

The sinking ship game teaches participants to effectively prioritize tasks, communicate their opinions, and listen to the viewpoint of others. All participants must plan their survival strategy through creative thinking and teamwork to survive the sinking ship.

During this game, participants are in an imaginary sinking ship with other team members. An island is in sight, and participants only have enough time to seize five items from the ship before it sinks.

Participants must brainstorm, mention which items they consider helpful while waiting for rescue, and give reasons for picking them. Team members listen to each other’s opinions and offer feedback on whether they think the suggestions are good and why. Participants note the five most popular items amongst group members. Once the team has five complete items, if a new item goes on the list, the group will have to reach a consensus about which items are worth saving and which ones are not.

The group continues playing until they are fully satisfied with their list or run out of time.

Check out more problem-solving games.


Leadership retreats offer a wealth of benefits to leaders, from professional development to team building and networking. These retreats are a unique opportunity for leaders to reflect, learn, and work on developing their leadership skills and strategies. With the activities listed above, emerging and existing leaders can develop essential skills like communication, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and active listening, all of which are essential for becoming effective leaders.

For a retreat to be productive, it is essential to set clearly-defined leadership retreat objectives. Investing quality time to set SMART goals for the retreat will help the planners and participants to follow a unified theme and keep the focus. A well-executed and productive leadership retreat will significantly impact the participants and the entire organization.

Next, check out our list of the best leadership games and leadership activities.

We also have a list of leadership training programs and a list of the best corporate retreat venues.

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FAQ: Leadership retreat ideas and activities

Here are frequently asked questions about leadership retreat ideas.

What are leadership retreats?

Leadership retreats are out-of-office gatherings or corporate events designed to combine play, work, and build connections outside the typical work setting. Leadership retreats allow organization leaders to escape from their day-to-day operations and recharge. The participants of these retreats may include team leads, supervisors, managers, and other established and aspiring leaders within an organization.

What are some good ideas for leadership retreats?

Some good ideas for leadership retreats include leadership games for skill development, group painting or art class, and karaoke. By spending time together in a focused and relaxed environment, leaders can improve communication with their colleagues or peers in the industry and build stronger relationships.

Leadership games are another essential leadership retreat element. Leadership games and activities focused on skill development increase engagement and learning outcomes for participants. These games can also form bonds among team members, colleagues, and other professionals who want to gain the skills to work better and be effective leaders.

What is the purpose of leadership retreats?

A leadership retreat aims to provide a dedicated and focused environment for leaders to work, play, and develop their leadership skills. The main focus of leadership retreats may include the following:

  • Professional development
  • Strengthen team bonding and cohesion
  • Define or refine the organization’s vision, mission, and strategy
  • Encourage creativity and innovation
  • Building problem-solving and decision-making skills
  • Recharge and refresh
  • Progress evaluation and goal setting
  • Build new connections
Author avatar


People & Culture Director at teambuilding.com.
Grace is the Director of People & Culture at teambuilding.com. She studied Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University, Information Science at East China Normal University and earned an MBA at Washington State University.


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