Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The intersection of punctuated equilibrium and leadership emergence within the framework of naturalistic decision making
by Moerschell, Linda, Ph.D., Walden University, 2009, 187; 3342456
Abstract (Summary)

Punctuated equilibrium, a theory of unexpected and sudden change arising out of evolutionary biology and paleontology, has been applied to decision sciences, physics, organizational theory, and group behavior but never to leadership emergence theories. The purpose of the study was to discover how leadership emerges during a period of punctuated equilibrium, a sudden and unexpected change event, using a naturalistic decision making framework. Thus, the research question probed how leadership emergence could be theoretically modeled in a critical event. This grounded theory study was particularly unique because it drew from, and helped unify the four scientific foundations of complexity science, leadership emergence, punctuated equilibrium theory, and naturalistic decision making. Data from 40 retrospective accounts, described in 15 interviews with critical incident intervention specialists, first responders, and wilderness leadership trainers residing in the northeastern region of the U.S. were supplemented by survey and observational data. Initial analyses employed a reflective coding matrix and a concept identification chart. Analysis of synthesized themes identified an event continuum model in which instinct, compassion, and responsibility served as motivating factors for leadership emergence that appeared in close proximity to the change event. Subsequent observable indicators of leadership emergence often included a sense of calm, quick situational assessment, and the tendency of individuals to ignore physical risk. This study found that punctuated equilibrium stimulated leadership emergence in individuals. The most profound implication for social change was that leadership arose in a time of need guided by compassion and a profound sense of responsibility toward one another regardless of formal position in the group.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Lao, Teresa M.
Commitee: Banner, David K., Singer, Thea
School: Walden University
Department: Applied Management and Decision Sciences
School Location: United States -- Minnesota
Source: DAI-A 70/01, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Management, Organizational behavior
Keywords: Critical incident, Decision-making, Leadership, Leadership emergence, Punctuated equilibrium, Sudden change
Publication Number: 3342456
ISBN: 978-1-109-78325-4
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