One person volunteers to be the first ‘observer’ and then closes their eyes.
Meanwhile, the rest of your group silently points to one other person in the circle to become the ‘leader.’
While the observer has their eyes closed, instruct the leader to start making a series of random movements.
The rest of the group will imitate these movements, as soon and as often as they occur.
Now, ask the observer to open their eyes and move into the centre of the circle.
The observer’s goal is to identify who is initiating the series of moves (leader) in less than five guesses.
Encourage the ‘leader’ to frequently change their movements.
Continue play for several rounds, allowing different people to assume the leader and observer roles.
Video Transcript for Follow the Leader
presented by Mark Collard
This next exercise we are going to involve a secret person. Now they’re not going to be so secret that no-one knows, but in a moment one person is going to nominate themselves and they are going to leave the space.
There’s no tricks here everything I’m about to share is going to be quite clear. It’s important that this person doesn’t see what’s about to transpire.
So when they leave this space they can literally honestly just turn away from most of the group. One other person in the rest of the group is going to identify themselves silently as being the leader. You’ll be familiar with this exercise.
The object is for this leader is to start moving physically, and the object for everybody else in the group is to copy their movements.
Follow the leader.
So let’s suggest that Ang happens to be the leader and Evan is the person who has left the room, doesn’t know that Ang has been appointed as the leader, and she starts moving like this.
As soon as you see Ang moving you copy exactly the same movement. And of course then she will change and do something else. She can even move from her spot. She can actually move around this space.
When Evan returns and we’ll tell him when he comes back, okay Evan your task now is to identify in no more than four goes, four guesses, who is the leader.
Now they can take a minute or so to observe the group to watch what happens. They’re going to be looking for those subtle changes that when they notice a change who was the one who initiated it, it’ll always be the leader.
So don’t you, if you’re not the leader, initiate the change because that’ll really screw up the whole system. It’s just the leader who initiates it.
Now let’s say Ang is the leader and if you could just start moving now for us Ang. Just anyway you like. Oh nice, very very move. Okay so we all start doing this. Now as Ang is doing this if we’re all going like this, do you think there’s a good chance that the person that comes in and wants to know the leader is? If you’re looking at them all the time that’s going to be a dead give away.
Now you’re going to have to of course at some point glance towards the leader. They may not always be in that spot, but you don’t want to give it away too easily.
Got the basic idea?
Alright we’re going to do this several rounds. Who would like to be our first volunteer, the person who would like to leave the space first? In fact they don’t even have to leave, you could just simply so if you want to turn away so you can’t see the rest of the group.
By raising your hand who in the group would like to be the first leader?
Okay so can we all just point so we all know it’s the same person. Okay fantastic. Alright so before you turn around Collette, can we now start moving?
(Group begins to follow the leader.)
Alright remember you can move your feet, you can move about the group. Alright Collette you can now come in. Feel free to move about the space. Come into the centre of the circle if you would.
So you’re object is to identify which one person is the leader. You have four goes at identifying who that person is.
(Group follows the leader.)
Remember you can move from the spot if you choose as a leader.
No it’s not. If you don’t happen to know their name it’s okay to simply point and say “Is it you?”
(Group continues to follow the leader.)
How To Play Narrative
An oldie but a goodie, particularly if you want to subtly develop focus and observation skills with your group.
Gather your group, form a circle, and explain that in this exercise, a series of individuals – one at a time- will volunteer to close their eyes, turn around, leave the room or whatever is necessary so that they do not see what happens next. Let’s call this person, the ‘observer.’
With the observer safely out of the picture, ask the rest of your group to quickly appoint one other person to assume the role of the ‘leader.’ Announce that the leader’s singular role is to initiate a series of random movements which the rest of the group will imitate.
Explain that it is critical that all of the others follow their leader’s movements exactly, and adopt any changes as soon as they become aware of them. It’s also useful to alert your group not to stare at the leader, lest the ‘observer’ will quickly work out their identity.
Upon asking the leader to begin a series of random movements, such as walking on the spot, or waving their arms a particular way, ask the observer to return to the group and stand in the centre of the circle.
At this point, the observer will start to look for any clues about who is initiating the movements which the rest of the group have coordinated in unison.
The rest of the group will keep moving at all times, secretly stealing a glance at the leader (or other early-adopter) from time to time to pick up any changes in the movements. The leader should try to change their movements every 5 to 10 seconds or so. Big moves are the best and the most fun to watch.
Allow the observer up to five (or whatever number of) guesses to identify the leader. As soon as the leader has been spotted, invite a new person to volunteer to be the next observer. Sometimes, it works well to invite the leader to become the next observer after they have been discovered.
Continue play for several rounds, allowing different people to assume the leader and observer roles in each round.
Practical Leadership Tips
The simplest way to nominate the two roles is to ask the ‘observer’ to close their eyes, and to ask the rest of the group to silently point at the next ‘leader.’ Ten seconds, done.
Always ask your observer to enter the middle of the circle. From this position, it is possible for the observer to have their back to the leader, which is the best time for the leader to initiate a move.
A quick game’s a good game. So, if the leader gets stuck doing the same movement for a long period, or the observer is not willing to make a few guesses, announce some sort of time limit.
You could integrate Follow The Leader as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to manage their emotions, thoughts and behaviours effectively in different situations and to achieve goals.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Controlling One’s Emotions
Demonstrating Self-Discipline & Self-Motivation
Setting Personal & Group Goals
Taking Other’s Perspectives
Demonstrating Empathy & Compassion
Recognising Strengths In Others
Communicate & Listen Effectively
Demonstrating Curiosity & Open-Mindedness
Making Reasoned Judgements
Anticipating & Evaluating the Consequences of One’s Actions
Promoting Personal & Collective Well-Being
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
This activity is nothing if not a wonderful opportunity to explore how to read and navigate social and emotional cues. The volunteer will need to be highly attuned to a variety of social cues not just from the secret person but the group as a whole. For the purposes of developing emotional literacy, be sure to invite your group to reflect on the presence and display of these social and interpersonal skills such as:
What signals did you see or perceive that helped you identify the leader?
Provide an example of an action or emotion that communicated something to you.
What subtle actions or emotions did the group observe in the volunteer? What did you make these mean?
Do you notice these types of behaviours and emotions in day-to-day life?
Are these observations useful in developing positive relationships?
Move & Mingle: Invite your group (including the leader) to mingle within a pre-defined space allowing the observer to move in and out of the group, too.
Statues: For high-performance groups, ask the leader to be a ‘statue,’ moving from one frozen position to another. Hint, the best time to move is when the observer isn’t looking.
Advanced Spotting: Take a look at Spot The Difference, The Rock and Wink Murder to enjoy three other games which focus on the subtleties of people’s behaviour as much as they sharpen observation skills.
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
Ask a volunteer to switch off their video and audio for 10 seconds or, if possible, place them into the Waiting Room for a short while (so they can not see or hear what’s about to happen.) During this time, ask one other person to clearly nominate themselves as the leader. Immediately, ask everyone to start moving in front of their screens (mimicking their leader’s movements.) Ensure all moves are within the scope of the camera. Per normal play, invite the observer to identify who the leader is in as few guesses as possible. Repeat for several rounds.
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Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this fun group guessing game:
How did it feel to be the observer, especially if it took you a long time to identify the leader?
As observers, how did it feel to watch someone struggle to identify the leader?
In our experience, what allowed this game to be fun?
When is ‘not fitting in’ a negative experience?
Can you think of other times in your life/work where you have felt left-out?
The inspiration for Follow The Leader, and many more creative and interactive group games, was sourced from the following publication: