Igniting the Leadership Spark: An Exploration of Decision Making and Punctuated Change

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Emergence: Complexity & Organization

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This paper explores the emergence of individual leadership sparked by a punctuated change event. The authors argue that unexpected change causes leadership to emerge in an environment constrained by time, urgency, and rapidly changing conditions; its emergence is a spontaneous and unpredictable behavior. Leadership intersects with human decision-making within seconds and minutes of the punctuated event that sets off a series of subsequent events. Observable indicators identify the behaviors associated with the individual's first and second decision paths. Literature that supports this convergence arose from four divergent areas of science that include the following: complexity science arising from physics, leadership theories arising out of psychology, punctuated equilibrium theory arising out of paleontology, and naturalistic decision making arising from situational awareness research. Interviews were conducted with crisis responders, critical incident specialists, and wilderness leadership trainers. Additional research was collected by observation and interviews during a three-day wilderness trip in the Adirondack high peaks. This study links punctuated equilibrium, the decision-making process, and leadership emergence as one interrelated event. A result of the study found that decision- making in a punctuated event occurs at the top of the spike and is the point in which leadership emerges.