Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology, and Life Sciences, Vol. 14, Iss. 2, April, 2010, pp. 179-204
@2010 Society for Chaos Theory in Psychology & Life Sciences


Self-Organization and Leadership Emergence in Emergency Response Teams

Stephen J. Guastello, Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI

Abstract: Emergency response (ER) teams can be formal or ad hoc citizen groups that respond to natural disasters or sentient attackers. This article examines the emergence of leaders in ER teams as a nonlinear dynamical process by which a group that is in a high state of entropy self-organizes into a social structure containing primary and secondary leaders and non-leaders. The empirical study involved 228 undergraduates who were organized into groups of 4 to 12 participants; groups worked against an adversary in a board game simulation. The analysis illustrated the swallowtail catastrophe structure, defined three control parameters, and explored the curious relationship between leadership emergence and performance. Group size, group performance, and competitive behavior contributed to the control parameters in the swallowtail model for ER Teams.

Keywords: leadership emergence, swallowtail catastrophe, emergency response, competition, Stag Hunt