Date of Award


Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Management Communication, M.S.


Communication Studies

First Advisor

Alexa Dare

LC Subjects

Corporate culture--Case studies; Fire fighters


This qualitative case study featured an interpretive approach to understanding the culture of a fire station utilizing participant observation and semi-structured interviews. The goal of this study is to investigate the layer(s) of Complexity Leadership that are enacted and valued by organizational members to create an adaptive and collaborative work environment. It also aims to understand the role of organizational culture (Pacanowsky & O’Donnell-Trujillo, 1982) in creating the collective identity of the fire station. In addition, the study navigates the tension between this collective identity, individual specialization and fixed place in the hierarchy when dealing with unpredictability. The results suggest that firefighters construct their culture through the negotiation of three main elements, which are organizational structure, social structure and episodic unpredictability. The interactive sense making of these elements lays the ground for the collective identity through constructing a shared cognitive understanding of organizational reality, active relationships and emotional investment (Melucci, 1995). This helps firefighters navigate uncertainty and unpredictability at a micro level by self-organization and formulation around specialization. In addition, the findings indicate that firefighters create an adaptive outcome at a macro level through the utilization of Administrative leadership (Uhl-Bien, Marion, & McKelvey, 2007) that enforces order yet practices Enabling Leadership to empower leaders. This empowerment allows the balance between order and presented social and professional chaos to maintain the level of complexity needed to deal with complex and unpredictable problems.


CST 599: Thesis

Copyright for this work is retained by the author.