A Kumiai Project: Leadership and Social Influence In Response To a Community Crisis

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Communication Studies

First Advisor

Keith V. Erickson

Advisor Department

Communication Studies


Despite recent scholarly endeavors in leadership and crisis communication as well as numerous actual instances of tragic or embarrassing and incompetent crisis leadership, little research has addressed the question: How did leaders effectively influence constituents' reality and reactions associated with a crisis? Consequently, the purpose of this study was to investigate, identify, and explain the rhetorical features and strategies enacted by constituents as they attempted to manage the meaning (Pearce & Cronen, 1980) of a community crisis. In particular, this study investigated the means by which Chief Influence Agents® as leaders affected the process of making sense of events, shared experiences, and related with constituents in an attempt to cope with and survive a potential community crisis. Community leadership discourse during an actual meeting convened to consider the impacts of the declaration of war by President G. W. Bush on Iraq in 2003 was the specific setting for the investigation of social influence and crisis management. The study concluded chief influence agents as leaders should use natural rhetorical devices such as dialogic discourse to prime enthymemes, frame constituents' reality, and direct the collective construction of a new social reality for community development, crisis management, and community sustainability. In particular, the art of framing discourse is a useful rhetorical technique to address significant topics, construct master themes, assign and manage meaning, and co-create a meaningful and acceptable rhetorical vision for shared reality.