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Leadership and Followership

The Exercise of Authority in Turbulent Times

Wednesday 17th January 2018 - Sunday 21st January 2018

Connors Center of Boston College, Dover - MA, USA

Center for the Study of Groups and Social Systems (CSGSS-AKRI)

Primary Task
Info & Fees
Web Sites


Leadership in organizations—businesses, schools, hospitals, agencies, places of worship, government—can be invigorating, compelling, bewildering, and maddening. What are the factors that create successful leaders and create followers who feel engaged and committed to the mission?
This is what we will do at this conference. Working over five days, we will create a temporary institution together to explore how group/institutional pressures might influence how we lead and exercise authority.
Vision, expertise, level headedness, and the mobilization of cutting edge technology are all significant contributors. What may be too often overlooked or misunderstood is the role of powerful emotional experiences in leaders and their followers. Passionate commitment to a mission, experiences of disengagement and indifference and a range of others may play a more significant role than we might appreciate.

What if hidden dynamics and individuals' confusing feelings aren't grasped as essential to understanding organizational life? What if they are instead overlooked or seen as bothersome "irrationality"? And if so, what if we uncover these dynamics and engage this irrationality as an opportunity—a risky one to be sure—to explore passion and liveliness in the work place?

“Rest in reason; move in passion.”
​— Khalil Gibran —

Imagine that we could build a special institution where we could wrestle with all these questions. What if we could learn about the “under the surface” forces that influence how we come alive at work or find ourselves less present and engaged? What would we learn about the complexity of group membership and institutional dynamics? What new perspectives would we have on how we might take up leadership roles?

"The only source of knowledge is experience."
​— Albert Einstein —

I invite you to join this intensive 5-day conference sponsored by the Center for the Study of Groups and Social Systems (the Boston affiliate of the A.K. Rice Institute).

The mission of the Center for the Study of Groups and Social Systems is to further the understanding of groups and organizations as social systems, with particular attention to unconscious and covert processes in group and organizational life, the dynamics of authority and authorization, power and other differences within and among socially diverse groups, and the negotiated use of interpretation to facilitate collaborative learning.

Using the Tavistock group relations tradition of open systems and psychodynamic theories, CSGSS develops group relations conferences, meetings, and other events to further learning about group processes. CSGSS is the Boston affiliate of the A.K. Rice Institute.

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Conference Aims and Primary Task

Increased effectiveness through greater awareness of the impact of group processes on the exercise of leadership and authority.

To achieve it's purpose, all aspects of the Conference are organized around the primary task of providing opportunities to learn about the nature of authority and leadership and problems encountered in their exercise. The primary task is informed by the purposes and values of the Institution and is expressed through all aspects of the design, structure, and method.

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The Learning Aims:
  • Exploring “under the surface” forces and emotional territories that impact people, groups and institutions.
  • Understanding your leadership style, how it is shaped by groups and how it affects groups.
  • Developing your leadership capacity in uncertain, turbulent and less inspiring environments.
  • Improving strategic thinking through a deeper understanding of how organizations are related to their social, cultural, economic and political environments
  • Recognizing the impact of liveliness and passion and their absence on group collaboration.
  • Increasing your effectiveness through a deeper understanding of people in context, as individuals, members of groups in institutions and as part of the wider society.
  • Maintaining your role without falling victim to confusion, boredom and defensive disengagement.
  • Understanding how the irrational substrata of organizational life affects the success of individuals, groups, teams, and institutions.
  • Applying your conference learning to your professional and personal organizational roles.

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Relentless change, globalization, technological disruption and increasing complexity pose deep challenges for our organizations and institutions. Leaders, managers and practitioners are expected to take roles in new ways, or take new roles altogether, often with the expectation of fostering change. At the same time many feel overwhelmed, discounted or disempowered, yearning to work with passion, creativity and purpose.

How leadership and authority are exercised play a decisive role in meeting these challenges. They too evolve as organizations evolve, requiring new ways of thinking that shape our effectiveness as individuals and the ability of our Institutions to fulfil their purposes. The pressing need to enhance individual, group, and systemic capabilities requires deeply attending to the realities that people and organizations face today.

Among the major challenges we face are:

Mobilizing organizations and networks around common visions and shared goals while valuing differences, but not at the cost of the liveliness of individuals;
Creating environments where people take personal responsibility for collective output;
Enabling people to question unhelpful norms and practices through passion and engagement, not withdrawal.

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This approach to learning, developed at the Tavistock Institute in London, is based on the recognition that groups and organizations develop their own dynamics – often out of awareness – that play a vital part in their success or failure, and deeply affect efforts to bring about change.

The method developed at the Tavistock Insitute and extended by other organizations around the world has several major elements: primary task design, temporary institution structure, experiential learning model, and a focus on the group or system level.

Some concepts & definitions that are important to the perspective used by the staff:

Temporary Institute: over the course of the conference members and staff create an organization for learning which represents a microcosm of our diverse world. It is a temporary institution that develops its own practices, culture and ways of working which, in turn, generate opportunities for learning.

The right to take action and make decisions on behalf of a group. A right that can come from various sources, such as from above, below, formally or informally.

Experiential: rather than learning in the traditional format from teachers or experts, the approach is based on learning from experience itself. This conference offers direct experience of the challenges of managing the complex forces that impinge on the work of groups and organizations, and how these interact with the experience of individuals. It is a setting in which these dynamics can be experienced and explored, first-hand, within groups, between groups, and within the system as a whole. The thoughts, feelings, behaviors, impressions and observations about one's experience as a member of several groups within the conference are the raw materials for the learning process. Examining and making sense of them, and linking them with those of others, creates opportunities for understanding about groups and organizations, and about how you function within them.

System Focus: all systems - teams, groups, networks and organizations -- are more than the sum of their parts. The conference focus is on the systemic level rather than on the individual. Doing so provides unique opportunities to experience and learn about the dynamics of groups, the factors underlying leadership, and the exercise of authority in “real time." Staff consultants participate in the learning process by focusing on the dynamics and work of the group-as-a-whole. At the same time, what each participant learns is unique -- no attempt is made to prescribe what should be learned.

Authority: the right to take action and make decisions on behalf of a group. A right that can come from various sources, such as from above, below, formally or informally.
Taking action on one’s authority involves risk as well as recognizing accountability.

Boundaries: separate and connect what is inside and outside. This includes boundaries between organizations and their environments, between sub-groups, between the individual and the group, and between the person and role. Organizational effectiveness is closely linked to how boundaries are managed and they determine where particular responsibilities and formal authority begins and ends.

Leadership: exercised by offering meaningful direction that recognizes the needs of an organization or group. It is not attached to position and can arise from anywhere in a group or system.

Role: a particular part of the overall task that is assigned to, or taken up by, an individual, a group or an organization. Roles are both formal and informal, and carry with them expectations of behavior.

Primary Task: Activities that must be accomplished for an organization to achieve its purposes. It informs choices about design, structure, and methods with the core values and purposes of the institution.

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Anyone wanting to develop their ability to act effectively within their groups, networks and institutions, no matter age or walk of life. No prior experience is necessary.

A wide variety of organizations have been represented in the conference membership

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The Conference design is based on two types of events, Experiential and Review:

EXPERIENTIAL EVENTS provide members with immersion in different types of groups that are vital for organizational life. What happens in them is examined in the “here-and-now” of unfolding experience, something akin to being put under a microscope, so that members have the opportunity to learn about processes that are ordinarily out of awareness yet have a profound impact on outcomes in these different kinds of settings:

Small Study Group
Groups of 8-12 members, with a staff consultant, for learning about the dynamics of teams and small groups, and about the formation of leadership and followership relationships in “real time.”

Large Study Group
All members, with several staff consultants, to learn through experience what is evoked in large groups. This simulates the process and dynamics of larger social systems as they struggle with formation, transition, collaboration, cohesion and fragmentation, and rapid change.

Institutional Event
All members and staff focused on how subgroups are established, how they develop relationships with each other within a total system, and what these reveal about the Institution. Issues involved with organizing and joining groups, establishing cross-group or inter-departmental relationships, assuming roles, identifying emerging leadership, managing differences in power and authority come to the fore in this effort to understand the dynamics of complex systems.

REVIEW EVENTS provide opportunities to review and crystalize member’s experiential learning to enable them to apply their insights to the groups, systems and institutions in which they ordinarily function:

Plenaries (P)
Three plenary meetings involve all members and staff working together. The Opening Plenary introduces the specifics of the conference and reviews issues of entry. The second addresses the meaning and experience of the Institutional Event. The final Plenary, on the last day, focuses on making sense of the overall Conference.

Application Groups (AG)
Consisting of 5-7 members with a staff consultant, these meetings are aimed toward exploring the relevance of member’s conference experience to their outside roles and systems, and how they function within them. This bridging work, between conference experiences and “outside” roles and organizations, is designed to provide opportunities for members to develop insight that will have concrete and practical importance.


Samar Habl   
Director of Admissions at the Austen Riggs Center; Former board member, Center for the Study of Groups and Social System. M.D., American University of Beirut; residency in adult psychiatry at the Mayo clinic; four year fellowship in psychoanalytic psychotherapy at the Austen Riggs Center.

Associate Director for Administration
Chauncey Collins  
Chief Operating Officer/Chief Financial Officer at the Austen Riggs Center. M.B.A. Eisenberg School of Management, University of Massachusetts.

Associate Director
Candice A. Crawford  
Leadership Consultant, Konu KKC.; Executive Coach, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health; Core Faculty, William James College - Organizational and Leadership Psychology Program; Former Teaching Fellow in Adaptive Leadership, Harvard Kennedy School of Government; Board Member-at-Large, Center for the Study of Groups and Social Systems; Member, A.K. Rice Institute; Member, Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues. Psy.D. Clinical Psychology, The George Washington University

Assistant Administrator
Cathy Chen-Rennie  
OD Practitioner at Google; Board secretary, Center for the Study of Groups and Social Systems. MA Organizational Psychology, Teacher's College Columbia University; MS Information Technology, Capella University; BS Electrical Engineering, University of California at Berkeley.

Consultant Staff will be drawn from the following
Megan Kolano  
Psychologist and Postdoctoral Fellow in Psychoanalytic Studies at the Austen Riggs Center; Member-at-large, Center for the Study of Groups and Social Systems. PsyD, The Chicago School of Professional Psychology; training in forensic, hospital, school and residential settings.

Dannie Kennedy  
​Principal, Worklab consulting, Cambridge MA; Former board member and President, Center for the Study of Groups and Social System; Associate, A. K. Rice Institute; Co-Director of 2012—13 Hauser Grant Group Relations Conferences and Workshops, Harvard University. Ph.D., LICSW, Simmons School of Social Work; Certificate in Organization Development and Human Resource Consulting, Boston Institute for Psychotherapy;

Keith Lequay  
Organizational Psychologist, Adjunct Lecturer. Advisory Board member HRM at A. Lok Jack Graduate School of Business, University of the West Indies (T&T); Member, Human Resource Management Association of Jamaica; Former president, Trinidad and Tobago Association of Psychologists; Associate and consultant of the AK Rice Institute. Ph.D. Organizational Communication & Social Psychology Howard University; M.A. Organizational Psychology Brooklyn College, CUNY; B.A. Economics & Government; University of the West Indies (Trinidad).

Richard Morgan-Jones  
Organizational and Group relations consultant; Director of Work Force Health, Consulting and Research; Training Analyst for British Psychotherapy Foundation; Author of The Body of the Organisation and its Health. Original graduate and post-graduate education at Cambridge, Oxford and Exeter Universities UK in Anthropology, Theology and Education; Qualified and Registered member of British Psychoanalytic council (BPC). Elected Board member of International Society for Psychoanalytic Society of Organizations (ISPSO). Mentor for AKRI.

Nimer Said  
Clinical Psychologist & organizational and group consultant; Clinical Psychologist in charge for the public clinic for mental health, Calalit Medical Services, Nazareth, Israel; Member, "OFEK" the Israeli Association for studying group and organizational processes; Member, the AGPA-The American Groups Psychotherapy Association. M.A., Clinical Psychology Program, Department of Psychology, Tel Aviv University.

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Info and Fees

Fee: $3,500
(Tuition, room and board)

Registration closes on January 14, 2018
CSGSS, AKRI or Tavistock members receive a $1,000 fee reduction.

Fee reduction for multiple members from same network.
$1,000 per member for two.
$1,250 per member for three or more.

​Contact Chauncey with any questions or to apply for financial assistance, see website below.

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Above discounts cannot be combined.
Financial assistance, if eligible, is available in addition to above discounts. Contact Chauncey Collins, Associate Director of Administration, to apply for financial assistance.

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Web Sites

CSGSS: http://
Connors Center:
Registration: http://

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