U. S. ARMED FORCES MEDICAL
JOURNAL (Vol. VIII, No. 11 November 1957) 1658-1663
Presented at the annual meetings
of the American Sociological Society, Washington, D. C., 1955.
Hospital, Oakland, California. Lt. Briggs is now assigned to
U. S. Naval Hospital,Yokosuka, Japan.
OBSERVATIONS ON THE
DYNAMICS OF LEADERSHIP
A Methodologic Approach
DENNIE L. BRIGGS, Lieutenant. MSC,
IRVING D. BERG, Lieutenant, MC, USNR
While stationed in a large naval general
hospital for the past two years, we were impressed by the interaction among
various staff members; between medical, surgical, and psychiatric patients; and
between staff and patients. In addition to the medical staff, consisting of
career and reserve medical officers, there were medical administrators,
officers of the allied medical sciences, nurses, and hospital corpsmen, all
with distinct symbols as to their rank either in military or civil service. The
patients were officers and enlisted personnel, both men and women, of various
ranks and rates, in addition to dependents.
We often were struck by the interaction
that took place in so many different ways and on so many different levels,
particularly in the formation of groups within the military structure. Often,
in the hospital, extraordinary situations occurred that involved personnel with
higher or lower professional status and that called for personal and social
adjustments not encountered elsewhere in the military. Even within groups
formed spontaneously, there was the factor of interrank relationships, where
social status was not recognized as easily, but where prescribed behavior was
In the course of observations made while teaching, conducting group therapy,
and holding ward staff meetings and discussion groups, we were impressed by the
development within the groups of a certain hierarchy that seemed to establish
itself automatically. We also were aware of what seemed to be the assumption of
positions of leadership, followership, and going
alongship by members of the groups. We became interested in how the
language, perspective, and viewpoints varied among the different groups. We
thus became curious as to what went on in these natural groups and
what factors took place in the establishment of the hierarchical arrangements
within the groups, in addition to finding out more of the purposes served by
Noting the observations made by
Parsons,1 Caudill and associates,2 Stanton and
Schwartz,3 Fox,4 and others concerning the participation
of the hospital as a social system in the treatment and course of illness, we
were interested in developing more systematic methods of observation,
particularly of the groups that formed and of the dynamic interaction that
occurred within these groups.
Any particular group that was not formed
artificially by calling together various individuals as subjects into a
nonmeaningful group became a subject for investigation. We observed the
patients getting together themselves, hospital corpsmen working together, the
staff of a particular ward, et cetera; thus our studies represent particles of
the vastly complex interaction going on in a military hospital.
In this article our main interest is to
present a methodologic approach that was designed to integrate sociologic,
psychologic, and psychiatric theory and technic. We wished to recapture the
social setting of the particular group under study with a minimum of disruption
by research procedures. Each technic was chosen as one with which the members
were familiar, or one that contributed to the atmosphere being investigated.
The groups selected were natural groups in the sense that the
members themselves had gotten together as friends or associates, or were
working together in a staff-patient relationship. Those groups studied had
close contact with the investigators in a teaching or therapeutic relationship.
It was bur belief that the spirit of co-operation exhibited contained little or
no acquiescence. The technics themselves were chosen and adapted to keep the
setting as natural as possible within the framework of the hospital.
In considering the
feasibility of adapting acceptable research procedures from the various
disciplines to contribute to a holistic approach, we chose those methods that
we believed were sound experimentally and acceptable to our participants.
Before using any procedure with which the group was not familiar, its use was
discussed and worked through in the group. For example, when tape recordings
were useda procedure familiar to most of the participantsgroup
members operated the recording apparatus themselves and were allowed to listen
to the playback at any time.
We selected the Rorschach test because it
is an accepted technic in clinical psychology, was a familiar procedure at the
hospital, yet presented a relatively unstructured stimulus that most of the
group members had not actually seen previously, although all knew it was a
device to reveal material unknown to the testee. Thus some test
anxiety was mobilized as part of the experimental procedure. This was
utilized and accounted for, as we shall discuss presently.
The Rorschach test was individually
administered, and was interpreted in the traditional manner as presented by
Beck.5 Later, a modification was introduced that had not to our
knowledge been used previously. In one of the group sessions, it was announced
that the next session would be devoted to an experiment. In the following
session, the Rorschach cards were shown to the group as a stimulus for
discussion. The members were asked what they saw as a group in each card in an
allotted time, and their impressions were recorded. Immediately following this
session, their individual impressions were taken again to measure any possible
aftereffects of the interaction that had occurred.
The Rorschach test thus was used
clinically to obtain a personality description of each member and of the group
as a whole, in addition to being used thereafter as a somewhat familiar
stimulus for discussion. Its unique feature in this experiment, however, was
that in a sense we also obtained a measure of the group
personality, together with an estimate of both individual and group
dynamics in operation. We saw an individuals private thoughts as well as
those he voiced publicly and the manner in which he operated in a group. In
addition, we watched similar interaction for the group as a whole. An
individual might see a percept that through previous research has been
established as one indicating a particular disturbance in psychic functioning,
and introduce this percept into the group discussion. If the percept was
ego-alien or not acceptable to the group, disagreement might ensue and the
individual would be forced to make a stand or withdraw. Through later content-
analysis of the percepts, we were- thus able to gain insight into the
particular meaning of the individuals thinking, both privately and in the
Group sessions were tape-recorded and
transcribed. The interaction was charted according to a modification of
Bales Interaction Process Analysis,6 momentarily
disregarding interpretation of the psychologic meaning of the test
At another session,
the groups were asked to make various choices of the members behavior,
utilizing Tagiuris Relational Analysis
technic.7 Each member was seen individually for psychiatric
interviews and an associative anamnesis was taken.8 Impressions also
were noted from the content of the group meetings (i. e., reactions to
lectures, feelings expressed in therapy sessions, et cetera) by the investigators
who were meeting with the groups.
The observations presented here are
tentative and warrant extremely cautious interpretation and generalization. We
have not yet subjected them to statistical verification and have not applied
them outside the clinical setting of the hospital. They form the basis of a
number of hypotheses that we are investigating.
We observed through the interaction and
the Rorschach responses that there were many personal feelings and ideas
present which a person would not voice publicly (i.e., his private ideas), and
others that a person could not reveal even to himself, as he was not conscious
of their existence. Our research thus far brings out the following points
regarding the interaction of the group and the dynamics of the leader in a
spontaneous social setting:
(1) In group discussions, the members
were selective in the material they brought forth, and tended to reveal those
private ideas and feelings least disturbing or alien to the group; i.e.,
they revealed most often those ideas that were more acceptable to the group
or group syntonic.
(2) Where some of the group-apparent
material coincided with ego. alien material (i.e., material which was
unacceptable to the ego and therefore not previously capable of being
integrated by the ego) the ego-alien material became integrated into the
individuals experience and following the group experience, they could
safely add these ideas to their conscious repertory.
(3) The leader, as obtained by
sociometric choice, was the one who was more capable of incorporating by his
ego-integrative capacity ideas that came from the group, and possibly ideas
that he could not previously have brought to acceptance; i.e., those
that might have been unacceptable to him before. Interestingly enough, this
factor appeared to operate in groups of psychiatric patients as well as in
(4) The degree of freedom (via the group
conscience) seemed to be more limited than that of the individuals composing
the group. Socially unacceptable ideas that were not privately ego-alien still
tended to be treated as unacceptable in the group. The group served to censor
ideas and admitted those considered socially mature and thus more socially
acceptable. The individual privately entertained as acceptable ideas that in a
social setting were voiced as unacceptable, thus establishing and reinforcing
mores and social controls.
(5) The leader subtly introduced his
private ideas to the group. If they were rejected, he did not enforce them. (He
did not want to press the point when he noticed the tenuous status of his ideas
with regard to acceptance by the group.) Did the other members take on his
ideas privately, while not publicly?
(6) Those persons whose egos were more
capable of integration, while not of leadership caliber, did this more often
(i. e., they functioned more at a private level). Are these persons capable of
becoming more of a leader in another group, after absorbing something of the
leader that they did not have before? We believe they are, depending on the
social climate of the new group and the new dynamics
(7) The going-alongers were
the least affected by the responses in any group. They also were the most
disturbed clinically, both socially and psychologically (less participation in
community affairs, et cetera). They manifested ambivalences of their
roles and ideas as contrasted to the leaders and the followers, who presented
active expressions of their roles. The members who went along with others only
hesitatingly raised points, mainly agreed, and went along with the
(8) In general, group experiences seemed
to reduce potentials for expression (reduce the number of private ideas that
were expressed publicly), but what was individually retained was more reality
oriented and thus more socially acceptable. (After group experience, ideas were
less frightening to the individual. This is perhaps one of the most important
processes involved in group psychotherapy.) Original ideas were not lost, but
were condensed or diluted.
(9) The leader was one who was more able
to accept his private ideas plus the ideas of the group and to integrate these
into his own thinking.
(10) Leadership imparted to the follower
and to other group members certain crucial and important information for
It is recognized that mere participation
in any sort of experiment engenders a certain amount of apprehensiveness, as
does participation in most social situations. We have attempted to minimize
test anxiety by familiarity with the investigators and by working
through the feelings of the group members who are being studied prior to the
procedure being introduced.
In the group setting, the leader has to
make a choice as to whether he will run the risk of revealing some of his
private thoughts and endure the stress involved in facing the possibility of
losing his position. If he choses to do so, this course of action is socially
meaningful and presumably gives some measure of his stability where real or
imagined stress is involved. Thus a man may be an acknowledged leader by
military rank, social status, or as empirically defined by Bales or
Taguiris procedure, but under the stress of revealing his inner thoughts
he may break down. In a benign setting, decisions of this type are made under
no great stress such as would be involved under threat of starvation, loss of
ones life, or extreme pain; yet under these and other types of stress,
leaders selected by the best available means do break down. The effect on
morale to their associates and to their countrymen, in the case of those to
whom the Nation has entrusted its security, is far reaching.
We entered into this research with no
preconceived ideas, and have made no attempt to test hypotheses. The research
is still in progress and specific findings must await statistical verification.
The next phase of our research emphasizes the determinants of ideas that are
made public in a spontaneous, small, social group, making use of sound motion
pictures to capture the social setting as much as possible.
Our intention in this article has been to
present a methodology and an approach to observations on leadership. We hope
eventually to arrive at a well-studied, central appraisal, involving the use of
acceptable methods drawn from sociology, dynamic psychiatry, psychology, and
other behavioral sciences combined in a total approach, rather than from any
1. Parsons, T.: Illness and role of
physician: sociological perspective. Am J. Ortbopsycbiat. 21: 452-460, July
2. Caudill. W.; Redlich, F. C.; Gilmore, H.
R.; and Brody, E. B.: Social structure and interaction processes on a
psychiatric ward Am J. Orthopsycbiat. 22: 314-334, Apr.
3. Stanton, A. H., and Schwartz, M. S.:
The Mental Hospital. Basic Books, Inc. New York, N.Y. 1954.
4. Fox, R.: Sociological Study of
Stress: Physician and Patient on a Research Ward. Unpublished Ph. D.
thesis, Radcliff College, 1953.
5. Beck, S. J.: Rorschahs Test.
Volumes 1, 11, and III. Grune & Stratton, Inc., New York, N. Y., 1944, 1945, 1952.
6. Bales, R. F.: Interaction Process
Analysis: A Method for the Study of Small Groups. Addison-Wesley Press,
Inc., Cambridge, Mass., 1950.
7. Tagiuri, R. Relational analysis; an
extension of sociometric method with emphasis upon social perception.
Sociometry 15: 91-104, Feb.- May 1952.
8. Deutsch, F.: Associative anamnesis.
Psycboanal. Quart. 8: 354-381, July 1939.