Organization, Information and Learning Sciences ETDs

Publication Date



Given the increasingly complex and fluid nature of organizations today, there is an urgent need to study the role that leadership can play in helping organizations to successfully navigate through difficult and turbulent times. This dissertation investigated the journey of six participants who served as leaders in organizations during periods of change and turmoil. An interpretive phenomenological approach was the primary method of data collection, analysis, and interpretation used to organize the data gathered primarily through interviews with the participants. Personal experience, as well as current leadership and change theories served as the background and frame of reference for this study. Extensive interviews were conducted with each participant. The transcripts from those interviews were carefully analyzed, resulting in a rich description of each individual lived experience. Finally, the individual lived experiences of the participants were analyzed in order to arrive at a composite review, or universal experience, of the participants. Key findings indicated that a leaders worldview is a significant determining factor in their responses to the interview questions. Some common leadership qualities that emerged from the data include: embracing change, collaboration, effective communication, thinking globally, developing others, managerial courage, and ongoing reflection. Additional results pointed to the importance of transparency, dialogue, accountability and inclusivity in an organization, especially during periods of change. Finally, the results suggest that a successful leader appreciates the value of networking, willpower, flexibility, and creative chaos in the organizations that they manage. This exploratory study warrants further investigation, especially regarding the influence of empowerment, managerial courage, reflection, systems-thinking, and creative chaos in organizations. Findings from this study may also provide leaders with suggestions on how to be more effective as they attempt to guide organizations in these unpredictable and rapidly changing times. Rooted in a systems-oriented theoretical framework and using an interpretive phenomenological approach, this qualitative exploratory study offers an example for future researchers focusing on the role leaders play in helping organizations to succeed in turbulent times.

Degree Name

Organizational Development

Level of Degree


Department Name

Organization, Information & Learning Sciences

First Committee Member (Chair)

Galvan, Ruth Trinidad

Second Committee Member

Noll, Bruce

Third Committee Member

Salisbury, Mark




Leadership--Research, Leadership--Case studies, Qualitative research

Document Type