Authority, Role, and Distributed Leadership in the Hybrid Workplace:
the challenge of transforming experience

NIODA Group Relations Working Conference

Live interactive onsite and online
30 October – 3 November 2023








Let’s take the time to discover together what’s really going on in organisations today…


An Invitation to Explore


We all know the familiar refrain of increasing complexity and disruption in contemporary work life, but how are we to respond, collectively and individually? As awareness of our interdependence, diversity, and vulnerability grows, questions about how we exercise authority and leadership appropriately demand our attention.

The concept of distributed leadership emerged in management and leadership discourses around the early 2000s. It marked a shift away from a preoccupation with identifying the desirable ‘leadership’ attributes of individuals to the recognition that leadership is a distributed, co-created and collective process. In the achievement of any organisational task, leadership moves from one part of an interconnected system to another. It can occur anywhere in the chain of exchanges between people in the course of work and it can shift from one person to another and back again. So when we speak of organisations shifting to more distributed leadership, this is perhaps less about an aspiration on behalf of a Board, CEO, or Executive Group of a desirable ‘thing’ to be achieved and transitioned to and more about a change in perspective about the true nature of leadership. This Group Relations Conference (GRC) provides an opportunity to discover distributed leadership in action in yourself and in others as we work together on the conference task.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have shifted to online or hybrid working arrangements. For most of us, this occurred so fast, that there has barely been time to consider the impact on ourselves, on our roles, on leadership, and on our work relations. As a temporary learning organisation, this GRC, structured as a hybrid offering, lets us learn deeply from our experience of how it works.

About Group Relations Conferences


The conference is created as a temporary learning organisation. It offers members and staff a unique opportunity to enquire deeply, to learn from experience, and to transform habitual ways of making sense of group dynamics and organisational life. As one past member described it,

‘the GRC experience is like clearing several layers of cobwebs from in front of my eyes; to make visible so much that can seem obscure and mysterious in the experience of taking up a role, leading and following in organisations. I now have so many more insights and resources to draw upon in how I go forward as a leader’.

This GRC is designed in the Tavistock tradition and is essentially an invitation to examine your experiences of relatedness (both conscious and unconscious) in organisations: between yourself and your role; between you and your co-workers; as between groups within the organisation; within the organisation as a whole and between the organisation and the wider community and global context in which it exists and operates.

The Primary Task of the Conference


The Primary Task of an organisation was originally described by the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations as the work the organisation must do if it is to survive. It defines its nature and reason for existing. This GRC is created to enable learning from experience about conscious and unconscious dynamics that exist in the temporary organisation of the conference. The aim is to discover new insights and promote understanding of ‘back home’ work phenomena.

Participants will join with conference staff to work on the Primary Task: with a spirit of enquiry, to explore and study the exercise of authority and leadership in the taking up of roles through the interpersonal, intergroup and institutional relations that develop within the conference as an organisation in its wider context.

Who Is The Conference For?


The conference is for those who wish to grow their understanding and practice of working with, leading and following others. You may be a leader, manager, consultant, educator, researcher, clinician administrator, student, service provider, professional or technical worker who seeks to promote organisational creativity, health and productivity through thoughtful action and reflective learning.

Previous experience of an experiential conference is not a requirement for attendance. The conference design caters for all levels of experience.

*We advise applicants who are undergoing significant personal stress to postpone attendance, as Group Relations Conference can, at times, be an intensive emotional experience.

What can you expect to experience and learn about?


In this conference, you will experience a learning model that is different from any other kind of conference. There are no ‘conference presentations’ as such. You will be engaged in various organisational learning tasks in groups with different configurations. Learning happens within these scheduled events, and in the spaces between events in the interactions with others. The learning is participative, immediate and continues long after the conference is over.

You Will Experience And Learn About:

  • The roles you take up in various work groups and contexts.
  • How you exercise and respond to leadership and authority in exploring creative disruption and the dynamics as they emerge in the conference.
  • Conscious and unconscious dynamics in groups at work.
  • The systemic forces in play within an organisation.

Conference Design


The conference is offered in the tradition of a Tavistock-style Group Relations Conference where members are invited to work in a range of system structures to study group dynamic

Entry sub-conference: for members for whom this is a first experience of a group relations conference.
Furthering sub-conference: for members who have previously attended a group relations conference and who wish to further their learning and understanding of group relations.

Conference Events
The conference is structured as a series of events where all members participate and learn from their experiences. Each event aims to build awareness of conscious and unconscious dynamics in role and authority relations through experiencing oneself as a member of groups of different sizes within the learning organisation as it is co-created.
The events include: discussion plenaries, ‘here-and-now’ events for studying small, large, inter-group and whole-of-organisation dynamics, and spaces to reflect and review one’s experiences and to apply one’s learning to ‘back home’ work roles.


Conference Staff


Dr Brigid Nossal

Dr Brigid Nossal

Conference Director

Dr Cath McKinney

Associate Director Entering Sub-conference

Assoc Prof Matias Sanfuentes

Assoc Prof Matias Sanfuentes

Associate Director Furthering Sub-conference

Ms Sally Mussared

Ms Sally Mussared

Associate Director Administration

Mr Thomas Mitchell

Mr Thomas Mitchell


Professor Peliwe Mnguni

Professor Peliwe Mnguni


Mr Seth Thomasson

Mr Seth Thomasson


Ms Ellie Robinson

Ms Ellie Robinson

Assistant Administration


Hybrid: onsite in Melbourne and live interactive online via Zoom 
Monday 30 October – Friday 3 November

9.30 am – 5.45 pm Melbourne 🇨🇰
10.30 pm – 6.45 am London 🇬🇧
6.30 am –  2.45 pm Singapore 🇸🇬
6.30 pm –  2.45 am New York 🇺🇸
4:00 am – 12:15 pm New Delhi 🇮🇳

Fees – onsite

Full fee AU$2,535

NIODA Alumni/AODA Members and
Group Relations Australia Members AU$2,435

Two or more participants from the same organisation AU$2,435

Early bird, registration open until 30 June AU$2,335 

 Fees – online

Full fee AU$2,120

NIODA Alumni/AODA Members and
Group Relations Australia Members AU$2,035

Two or more participants from the same organisation AU$2,035

Early bird, registration open until 30 June AU$1,965


Please contact Ellie Robinson, Administration Assistant for
information about partial bursaries for those unable to meet the full amount.

Cancellation Policy

Cancellations before 28 August 2023 receive a 100% refund (less the $100 booking fee). Cancellations before 25 September 2023 receive a 50% refund. There is no refund available after 25 September 2023.


Contact conference administration at


The National Institute of Organisation Dynamics Australia (NIODA) offers internationally renowned post-graduate education and research in organisation dynamics, and decades of experience consulting with Australian organisations. 

The study of organisation dynamics brings together socio-technical and psychoanalytic disciplines to explore the unconscious dynamics that exist in every group, team or organisation. Learning more about these theories, and reflecting on the experience of them, can support leaders and managers to unlock great potential in their organisations, tackling issues through a whole new light.

Get In Touch

PO Box 287, Collins Street West,
Melbourne  8007  Australia
+61 (0) 414 529 867

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