Creative Workshop Exercises: Easy and Engaging Workshop Activities #15  Explore the Leadership Development Journey with Tell Your Story Cards

Tell your story cards


Impact:  Awareness of key leadership development experiences

Materials Needed: One pack of Tell Your Story Cards per person.

Remember, should you decide to buy one or more packs of cards, you can get 10% off your first shop order with a newsletter subscription

Professional Use:  This exercise will be useful for organisational development professionals, trainers, workshop leader, leadership coaches,  and human resource professionals.

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Who is Leadership Development with Tell Your Story Cards for?

This exercise is for anyone assisting others to understand and tell the story of their development as a leader. Using the cards makes the task of tracking and exploring the leadership journey so far more tactile, visual and easier to share. The conversation can then spring-board to exploring possibilities for the continuing leadership development journey.

How does it help with learning from the leadership journey?

By turning key moments of their development journey into an externalised, visual path that can be super-imposed on their linear leader role journey, this exercise helps participants understand what experiences and opportunity create real development of leadership skills, abilities, and knowledge. By externalising key events on the leadership  journey with images and symbols, this exercise helps people not only identify the key points on their leadership development journey, but also to share that with others, so strengthening the depth of understanding.



NB, this exercise can be done with an individual leader, with the coach acting as the ‘partner’ to the exercise. 

Ask each participant to draw a timeline that represents their experience as a leader. This may involve sticking two pieces of flip chart paper together.

Ask them to leave about the last third of the second sheet for ‘the future.’ 

Mark the key transitions (e.g. promotion, job change, significant restructure etc.) along the line. 

At the beginning of their timeline ask them to write the date they first became a leader, and at the end the current date.

Put these aside. 

How to run the exercise

Divide the group into pairs to interview each other about their experiences so far. The sample questions given below are for people currently in leadership, so for a group of very new or yet to become leaders, the questions would need to be adapted to enquire into their experiences of leaders.

Tell me about your leadership journey, from when it began to now
What have been some of your highlight moments as a leader?
What are some of the best qualities you believe you bring to leadership? How do they show themselves?
When have you felt over-whelmed, stumped, frustrated or otherwise challenged in your ability to offer leadership?
What got you through that patch?

If possible, allow 30 minutes for each person to talk about their experiences.

Give each pair a pack of cards and together identify 10 images, emojis or other symbols that best represent the ten most important elements of the first person’s leadership story: high, lows, challenges, strengths and other attributes.

For example, together the pair might identify these cards for the first person’s leadership journey key learning points.


These represent their story that....'My first leadership position was to leader of a team I was working in. It was a great team, they all helped me learn about being a leader and we had a  lot of fun.

After a couple of years the company offered me the opportunity to apply for a better paid position abroad. It sounded very exciting and I wanted to save for the future, so I applied and got it. 

But the culture was very different and I just couldn’t make anything happen. All my initiatives were blocked by my senior manager who just wanted me to do as he said. 

I realised how important it was to me to be able to use my initiative and how important the ‘team spirit’ and general atmosphere of the first team had been to my ability to work well and feel good. But I felt trapped by the salary. 

I was rescued from that job by being made redundant when they closed half their branches. It was only then that I realised how unhappy I’d been and that I should have moved on much earlier. I realised that progress as a leader can’t be judged by job title and salary! 

I fell pregnant around then, and decided to take a few years out. I have just got a new position as a team leader with a slightly larger team. Now, I see my role as being to hold an umbrella over my team, to create space for us to create a culture and to perform to the best of our ability. I’m aware that I need to learn how to manage upwards better, to engage with the strategy and politics of leadership while protecting my team from that. I also need to learn more about how to help everyone in my team be the best team member they can.' 

Take that person’s timeline and position the cards appropriately about it e.g above the line for high points, below for low points. Draw a line to connect them.


This now shows their linear leadership journey, and their developmental leadership journey. Here is an example of part of the journey described above



Repeat the exercise with the other partner, using another pack of cards.

Invite the pairs to reflect on the similarities and differences of their journeys so far. 

Depending on the group size, extend this to a whole group discussion or gather the pairs into groups of six. Invite them to consider what this exercise tells us about the process of becoming leaders.

An extension of the exercise

Depending on the time available, the exercise can be extended to the future.

Place all the cards back on the table, and invite each person in turn to select three cards that represent particular skills they wish to develop, experiences they wish to have, or knowledge that they feel they need to keep developing as a leader.

For example, our person might select these three cards to represent their aspirations for future development.

I need to get better at understanding the organisational dance, of power, politics etc.
I need to learn better how to manage dinosaurs
This one, the music one, is an expression of wanting to be able to create ‘great music’ from the varied ‘notes’ of my team members.


Get them to talk to each other about the significance of the cards and to arrange them as a continuation of their developmental leadership journey line on their chart. They can then construct the future ‘career line’ that they would need to enable this type of development opportunity.

 The Tell Your Story Cards packs featured here are available at the Positive Psychology Shop. A discount of 10% is available to new newsletter subscribers 

If you have any queries about the exercises as described, please contact We will publish any queries and answers in the next newsletter to the benefit of all.

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Sarah Jane Lewis