Date of Award

Winter 3-14-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Industrial/Organizational Psychology (PhD)


Industrial/Organizational Psychology

First Advisor/Committee Member

Dr. Paul R. Yost

Second Advisor/Committee Member

Dr. John Thoburn

Third Advisor/Committee Member

Dr. Glenna Chang


narrative leadership, strategic leadership, narrative, sensegiving, sensemaking, time perspective


This dissertation explores leader storytelling and the use of temporality in leader enactment. Although narrative leadership is broadly described in previous theory as leading with storytelling, a formal theory of narrative leadership has not yet been developed. Recently, researchers have identified the narrator’s ability to locate a story within a meaningful time continuum of past, present, and future as potentially important. Using a grounded theory approach, the question that guided the research was: How does the use of time in narrative impact the enactment of leadership during a strategic change?

With the goal of developing a theory that emerges from the ground up, a three-pronged approach was utilized. A review of the literature on narrative, leader sensegiving and sensemaking, and current conceptualizations of temporality (including cosmic versus phenomenological time; chronos, kairos, and chaos; monochronic, polychronic, and cyclical orientation; and near-distant-deep time) was conducted. Then, seven leaders identified as exemplars in the use of storytelling for organizational change were interviewed. These interviews were coded and analyzed for emergent concepts to build a theoretical model of story and time. The model was assessed with the reflections of employees of a sub-set of the original leaders and researchers’ reflexive journals.

The process model of time-based narrative leadership that culminated from these steps includes three critical components: action, identity, and meaning. Action refers to the new or changed cognition or behavior that the leader’s story prompts; identity is the centrality of the leader’s past experience for facilitating listener engagement and visualizing a landscape for future action; and meaning is the leader’s sensemaking for understanding and learning at personal or collective levels.

Furthermore, it is proposed that the theory of sensegiving provides the best framing for the observed stories, and that the study’s culminating model contributes important directions for future research. In the leaders’ stories, giving sense to others in the organization pivots on the leaders’ own personal experience as landscape for the unknown future. Implications of the culminating model and directions for future research are discussed.

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