Do emergent leaders experience greater workload? The swallowtail catastrophe model and changes in leadership in an emergency response simulation.

Although positions of greater responsibility imply greater workloads and consequences for actions, the experience of emergent leaders might be different. People who gravitate toward leadership roles might have a better understanding and skill set for the task requirements, and thus report lower workload. However, they might also report greater workload because they recognize demands that others do not foresee. Either way, the demands could impact a person’s willingness to play a leadership role. This study examined workload effects within the framework of the swallowtail catastrophe model for leadership emergence. The experiment involved an emergency response simulation in two sessions; 348 undergraduates were organized into 44 teams of various sizes. Workload was experimentally varied by team size, number of attackers, and time pressure. Subjective experience was measured by standardized ratings of individual and group-level sources of workload. In the empirical models, team discussions contributed to the asymmetry parameter, group size contributed to the bifurcation parameter, and team performance corresponded to the bias parameter. Changes in leadership between sessions were explained by the same dynamics, but here, individual ratings of performance demands and frustration also contributed to the bias parameter; moreover, ratings of coordination demands—a type of group-level workload—contributed to the asymmetry parameter. Participants who were not leaders in the first session but assumed leadership roles later were less frustrated by the task, perceived the performance demands as greater, and perceived the coordination demands to be less compared to others. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)