Authority, Leadership, and Human Diversity

A 3-day Tavistock group relations conference

Co-sponsored by the

School of Education & Department of Psychology
Jackson State University
Jackson, Mississippi
and the
Chicago Center for the Study of Groups and Organizations
A. K. Rice Institute

14 - 16 November 1996

  • To foster here-and-now experience and examination of how social systems (groups, organizations, institutions) form, interact, work, avoid work, and manage change and transformation
  • To explore, through direct "here and now" experience and reflection, the group/system processes that occur in the conference as a temporary educational institution and community containing racial, cultural, religious, and other human diversity
  • To learn from experience about the complexities of exercising authority as leaders and followers in settings marked by human diversity
  • To study experientially the nature and impact of hidden social processes affecting the relations and politics among diverse groups/subsystems pursuing similar or complementary tasks within a single institution
  • To inform and extend insight into human behavior in complex, international social systems in a more direct fashion than reading or traditional lecture and symposium formats permit


This Tavistock working conference on group relations is composed  of a series of exercises or events, each designed to highlight different facets of system and subsystem dynamics.  The method of working encourages a culture of inquiry, in which participants use intellect and emotion to explore their relatedness to groups as total systems.  The objective is to become aware of and to express the experience of being engaged in conference events, while also reflecting on the meaning and character of the engagement.

Participants learn by collectively examining their experiences (thoughts, feelings, behaviors, observations, fantasies, and discussions) in the here-and-now.  The aim is to make sense of what is happening and why it is happening, in terms of the group/subsystem as-a-whole.  Key concepts employed in this collective inquiry into institutional life are: primary task, boundaries, covert and unconscious processes, role, authority and authorization, leadership, followership, competence, and collaboration.

The conference structure supports the open examination of shared unconscious processes, because their significant effects on individuals so often determine a system's or institution's ability to accomplish its aims and tasks.  Although the examination of here-and-now experience can at times prove stressful, the group relations model is not designed to address or resolve personal difficulties.  The conference does not focus on individual  dynamics, problems, or personalities.


Through the experience and study of both visible and invisible kinds of relationships or connections, as they arise in the conference enterprise, participants may better understand the requirements for effective management of shared group and organizational tasks.  The systems or group-as-a-whole perspective used in the conference may permit participants to learn not only to think in new and deeper ways about  multicultural, multiracial organizations but also to think more clearly and act more wisely within  them.


This educational event is designed for individuals who wish to study the exercise of authority and leadership in social systems marked by human diversity or who are attempting to understand, act, and work effectively within multiracial or multicultural systems/institutions.  No previous familiarity with the experiential method of study is necessary or assumed.  Since learning about group relations is linked to the sequence and relationship of events in the temporary education institution that is this conference, those individuals who cannot be present for all scheduled sessions should attend at another time.




Stan DE LOACH, Ph.D.
Management and institutional transformation consultant, Advisor in Leadership and Synthesis, México, Distrito Federal, and New Orleans, Louisiana; member, Chicago Center for the Study of Groups and Organizations - A. K. Rice Institute; consulting member, Mexican Institute of Group and Organizational Relations, México, Distrito Federal


Richard CHILES, O. Praem., Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Psychology, Jackson State University; member, Chicago Center for the Study of Groups and Organizations - A. K. Rice Institute; Pastor, Christ the King Parish, Jackson, Mississippi

Vicki SEGLIN, Ph.D.
Licensed clinical psychologist, private practice, Winnetka, Illinois; member, Chicago Center for the Study of Groups and Organizations - A. K. Rice Institute; Instructor and Clinical Associate, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois

The following staffpersons, in a range of consulting roles, will work together with conference members to pursue the stated learning tasks:

Brenda DEAN, Workplace Association, Paris, France (R.I.P.)
Raymond LEWIS, Jr., MSW, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas
Debra A. NOUMAIR, Ed. D., Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, New York
Janice E. RUFFIN, Ph.D., Family Court Mental Health Services, New York, New York (R.I. P.)
Ronald M. SHARRIN, Ph.D., Private Practice, Portland, Oregon


Thursday, 14 November, from 4:30 p.m. to 9:45 p.m.
Friday, 15 November, from 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Saturday, 16 November, from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Conference materials will be available between 3:30 and 4:15 p.m. on Thursday, 14 November 1996.  The conference itself will open precisely at 4:30 p.m.

An optional informal social gathering follows the conclusion of conference events on Saturday evening and will take place from 7:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m.


School of Education Building (SEB), Jackson State University, 1400 John R. Lynch Street, Jackson, Mississippi  39217

A list of local housing options is available upon request.


$110 for registration and full payment before 1 October 1996
$150 for registration and full payment on or after 1 October 1996

The fee covers tuition, materials, and light refreshments between most events.  The deadline for receipt of the application form, which must be accompanied by payment of the full fee, is 4 November 1996.  A $25 administrative fee will be retained if an application is withdrawn before 1 October 1996.  No refunds will be issued for withdrawals on or after 1 October 1996.

(photocopies are acceptable)

* Last name_______            * First name_______

* Preferred title______       + Gender______           + Age________

+ Race or cultural heritage_______       Home phone (____) _________

Work phone (___) ________      FAX (___) ________

Full mailing address_______________

* City___________        * State_______        Zip code________

* Employing organization or institutional affiliation________

+ Description of your present duties or studies____________

*  Conference management makes this information available to other participants.

+  Conference management uses this information to form groups.

Please mail full conference fee, payable to JACKSON GROUP RELATIONS CONFERENCE, and the completed application form to:

Richard Chiles, O. Praem., Ph.D.
Associate Director, in Charge of Administration
2303 John R. Lynch Street
Jackson, Mississippi  39209

I have read the brochure for this conference and hereby apply for membership.  I understand that this brochure constitutes a contract between me and the sponsoring institutions, which I authorize to conduct the conference in the manner described.  I certify that I am fully able to function in a conference where substantial stress is a part of the learning experience.  My total fee accompanies this application, and I understand and agree to the above-stated policy regarding refunds in the case of withdrawal.

 Date:   ____________                            Signature:   ____________

  • Develop a more complete understanding of the complex dynamics of authority and leadership in today's multiracial, multicultural institutions.
  • Study the influence of social characteristics, such as gender, race, religion, and age, on the exercise of individual authority and leadership.
  • Examine your style of leadership and followership, as well as the roles that you tend to take up in (or for) small and large groups and social systems.
  • Increase your ability to identify hidden dynamics and unspoken assumptions in groups and organizations, large and small, visible and invisible.
  • Experiment with coalition-building, collaboration, and competition in interactions with other groups or subsystems and their politics.
  • Explore the application of conference experience and learning to your work, community, and family life.

Supplementary information, not included in the brochure:

This conference offers a perspective on how group, intersystem, and institutional processes can at different times impede our work and at times release our creative potential.

Joining a group or social system is no simple process.  Individuals must decide that they want to join, complete an application process (which typically entails commitments of time, money, and/or work), gain acceptance, and then take up one or more roles within the system.  Each member accepted brings to the conference a complex bundle of dynamic thoughts, feelings, and intentions.  These relate not only to the state of their current life, but also to their past experiences in joining other social systems and previous experiences with other known members and staff of the institution joined, reactions to the brochure, issues relating to the fee or to pre-conference arrangements and information, to name but a few possible issues.  As a system is formed and begins to function, group dynamics develop from the interplay of each member's contributions.

People create and shape government, communities, institutions, and organizations to achieve social, economic, spiritual, political and educational objectives.  However, under the surface of social life are powerful non-rational processes that grow out of unconscious anxieties that covertly shape us and our institutions.  The press of work, as well as social defenses, obscures our vision of the underlying system processes that distort, defeat, or facilitate the agendas of our institutions, organizations, and governments.  Powerful, dynamic forces in groups,  social systems, organizations, and communities influence us everyday in the multi-racial, multi-cultural environments in which we live and work.  How do these dynamics influence the businesses, schools, and political institutions that engage us, enrage us, and aim to accomplish the tasks necessary for our well-being and survival?  Clearly, organizations do not always act rationally.

Groups, social systems, and society in general are confronted with the tension between the creative potential for innovative transformations and the threat that arises when differences emerge.  Differences in culture, race, gender, and politics (and many others) provoke stereotypical assumptions about others and ourselves.  These assumptions covertly shape life within our institutions.  Rational analysis is not alone sufficient to understand them.

Diversity has traditionally given rise to some of our communities' deepest, most painful issues; the mythologies that we have about our own and others' diverse qualities require examination.  We yearn for change and transformation; yet we also resist them.  The Small Study System event allows for the study of face-to-face intra-subsystem relations, which are parallel to families, committees, and small work groups.  The Large Study System permits the study of intra-subsystem relations in larger configurations, such as assemblies, rallies, or mobs, where sides appear to be taken spontaneously, subgroups or subsystems form and split, and myths begin to emerge.  In large groups and the Large Study System, size prevents face-to-face interaction, thus creating its own dynamics.  The Intersystem Event permits members to form their own groups or subsystems with a focus on the relationships among the member subsystems; these relationships parallel those found within our communities and between various groups within a single institution.  The Institutional System Event continues the inter-subsystem focus, but shifts to include the study of relationships between members and conference management and of how leadership is being exercised within the conference.  This event allows the exploration of how authority relations within a total system affect each and every subsystem and how all members of a community are interrelated.

In addition, some events are designed for members and staff to think together; they do not have a here-and-now or experiential focus.  They include plenary meetings of all staff and members, discussion events, and application sessions, in which the aim is to examine unresolved conference issues as well as to consider the relevance of the conference learning to members' work settings.

The conference is designed to be educational as a whole, and not simply in its parts.  Although it is not expected that members will be exposed to levels of stress beyond those ordinarily encountered in groups, organizations, and institutions, individuals who are going through a period of serious personal difficulty should postpone participation to another time.  The conference is not designed to resolve or help with personal problems.  Because the opportunities for learning come not only from the separate events but also from their sequence and relationship, individuals who know in advance that they cannot attend all events are encouraged to defer attendance.  Experiential learning can be exciting and enriching and can lead to significant personal insight.  But the conference is not designed to be a form of psychotherapy or to be of help in the solution of personal problems.  Participation can be both an enriching and strenuous experience.  Those persons who are ill or undergoing a period of personal difficulty should attend at another time.  The conference is not intended to furnish psychotherapy.


The method of study employed in this conference is learning through experience, analysis, and reflection.  Members participate in a series of sessions or events that provide opportunities to study institutional life from a variety of perspectives.  In some events, learning will be through examining behavior as it occurs in the here and now; in other sessions, staff and members will take time to review and reflect upon conference events and processes.  Staff members will be available in each event, though in different roles, to aid learning about the ways authority and leadership are expressed in small and large social systems.

The conference is designed to study the conscious and unconscious dynamics in a temporary social context that has many of the characteristics of existing organizations and social institutions or systems.  Members may take on a variety of roles in the conference.  Here-and-now events enable members to learn about social  systems and institutional processes through direct participation in and experience of them.  Discussion or reflection events encourage the examination of conference experiences and their application to back-home institutional, community, and family settings and roles.  The conference is a temporary institution formed by the participants (that is, both staff and members).  Through their registration, the members in effect hire and authorize the staff to provide this temporary institution with education and consultation about institutional and system dynamics.  Events are designed to emphasize learning from direct experience, rather than from lectures or written material.

The staff is a collection of people who belong to various social categories, have differing work roles, experiences, belief systems, and values; they have a range of personal experiences related to the themes of authority, leadership, and diversity.  What they have in common is a commitment to the Tavistock approach to understanding systems and institutions.  This approach is based on the idea that social systems and their subsystems take on meanings for their members and that these meanings, usually not examined or discussed, are powerful in influencing the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of the institution's members.  The staff will offer their observations and interpretations of the processes of subsystem and system formation, interaction, and the development of roles and meaning, as they emerge.




  ii 2016

vi 1999