Autonomic Synchronization, Leadership Emergence, and the Roles of Drivers and Empaths

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Society for Chaos Theory in Psychology & Life Sciences

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Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology, and Life Sciences

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PMID: 32960757


Synchronization of autonomic arousal levels within dyads and larger teams has been associated with several types of social-behavioral outcome. One previous study reported greater physiological influence (brain activity in one area of the parietal lobe associated with verbal activity) of leaders on followers than of followers on leaders; influence was measured pairwise within triadic problem solving groups. The present study explored synchronized autonomic arousal with leadership outcomes in two experiments with group sizes of three to eight members. Drivers, who had the greatest physiological impact on other team members were consistently less like the leader of the group. Empaths, who were the most receptive to autonomic signals from others, were not consistently associated with leadership roles, although they did show sensitivity to team dynamics in their ratings of cognitive and social sources of workload. The tentative conclusion, subject to future research, is that successful leadership requires a balance between the driver and empath orientations.


Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology, and Life Sciences, Vol. 24, No. 4 (October 2020): 451-473. PMID: 32960757.