Exploring dynamics of collaboration and dissent.
June 26 – July 1
While leadership and collaboration are words we may easily identify with, dissent is usually seen as an aggressive and dysfunctional stance. As Epictetus points out, as we grow up, we are taught to conform — to the status quo, to the opinions and behaviours of others, and to information that supports our views. The pressure to do so increases as we join formal organisations and begin to climb the organizational ladder. Conformity has been so pushed into us that as leaders we perpetuate it consciously or unconsciously in all our institutions – social, economic, political. It may well be that conformity and not consensus is the opposite of dissent – the kind of conformity that results in stultified, dying systems that do not have the capacity to innovate, to stay joyful and relevant.
Events globally are pointing us towards processes where leadership is increasingly understood to be located in persons rather than being seen as a process. And the leaders we seem to be collectively veering towards are those that encourage us to disassociate, divide, and simplify, to see the world in terms of false binaries without allowing for the multiplicity, nuances and contradictions that makes being human worth celebrating. We are being pushed in our organisations and societies to choose – either you are with us or against us – the middle space for the ‘either-both-and-or’ is shrinking.
Our societies and organisations are becoming more paranoid, more parochial, more anxious, less tolerant of the other – and any questioning is seen as an attack. To lead implies, among other things, an ability to influence people towards a goal or objective. It presumes that one first has the ability to lead oneself. It also implies that one is influencing oneself and others towards a goal that is worthwhile for the system and for society. This requires courage – bravery, boldness which has its roots in the Latin ‘cor’ ie heart. Therefore, courage seems to be most needed when we are exploring what we have hitherto held close to our hearts and also when we act from the new insights that emerge. Heart courage is also about the inner strength and commitment required for us to speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences – good and bad.
If we are to lead others towards a goal, we need their collaboration ie the ability to work with another. While much of the work in leadership and team building programmes focus on how members of teams can collaborate better, there seems less focus on how those exercising leadership impact the possibility, nature, and extent of collaboration in groups and systems. In the need to ensure a buy in, managers and leaders confuse: fitting in and belonging. Not only are they not the same thing, fitting in is one of the greatest barriers to belonging and to genuine collaboration. Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be in order to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we uniquely are and to be able to bring all of ourselves into work.
The Courage to Lead is a Group Relations Conference where you can explore how leadership implies welcoming dissent. About how real collaboration and groups co-creation is possible when leaders have the capacity and courage to invite different views to be aired, differences to be worked with, without getting paranoid or anxious. Group Relations Conferences offer a unique way of learning from direct experience through being a member of a temporary organisation. The focus is on the conscious and unconscious processes that we create and that impact us as members of groups and systems. Designed as it is, away from the busy-ness (and business!) of day to day life, and with a minimum of predetermined structure, it offers a fresh and different space to see the same things, but with new eyes. Note that we use the word conference in the sense of to ‘confer’ – to bring together – in conversations, dialogue and exploring together. The setting is not a series of lectures or speeches to a passive audience. Far from it!
If learning from direct experience and a methodology of learning based on one’s own authority appeals to you then this conference will be of immense value to you. We look forward to hearing from you and welcoming you to the conference.
Eliat Aram, CEO of the Tavistock Institute, is a consultant on the staff of the conference.
Sponsored by GRI: Group Relations India and the HIDF: the Human and Institutional Development Forum, India.