From the Principal – What can we learn about leadership from Escape Rooms?

Posted 19 February 2021 11:41am

I write this just after farewelling the Year 7 students for camp, and lingering at the coffee van with the Year 7 parents; the start of a six-year journey for them. This camp is a great opportunity for our newest Senior School members to connect with their peers, start building friendships and, in some instances, lead.  

In the last fortnight, we inducted our Year 12 students as school leaders for their final year. In my Commencement Assembly remarks, I reminded all students that everyone is a leader and we all must continue to challenge ourselves to be better at leading people. Leaders represent the goals, leaders tell the story of the goals, but ultimately, we only ever lead people. Leadership is not about being in charge, but about taking care of those who are in your charge.

At CGGS, leadership means we put our colleagues or our fellow students first. Keeping the team together supports and strengthens everything else.

On the holidays, after much nagging, I was convinced to do an Escape Room with my family. The last year and particularly these holidays have seen Escape Rooms hit a new high in popularity.

Escape Rooms transport us to a parallel universe where we are detectives and explorers. We start by listening to a story, a different one for each room. It takes only a few seconds for us to feel like the main characters in this adventure. Suddenly and almost without realizing it, we have a mission with our fellow teammates: to escape.

In this game, a group of people who are locked in a room must find the key that will allow them to escape. They do so by following a series of clues and solving puzzles. They have a limited amount of time to find the key, usually an hour. Good leadership and the ability to lead a team is required if you wish to ‘survive’ during the high-risk hour. These types of activities demonstrate how teamwork helps solve problems that could not be solved by a single person (or at least not in a reasonable time). These tasks allow us to realise that we need to rely on other people, communicate well and collaborate with each other.

Hard work and cooperation, always produces the greatest results. What can we learn about leadership from the Escape Room?

The designers of Escape Rooms have reported they (broadly) only witness humans displaying four personality types during team or group work.

The first are the thrill-seekers, the “Explorers”. It was probably their idea to do the escape room. Next are the “Builders” who avoid thrills and seek stability and routine, and then come the “Negotiators” and yes, females tend to be better at negotiation (but men can be inclined to it as well). That leaves a final category, “Directors”; they are the competitive and decisive. In summary, leaders need to surround themselves with all four personality types to achieve peak performance for the team.

To the students I say, accept the mission, listen to those around you and put your people first.  

Mrs Anna Owen