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What were you thinking? Do wilderness leadership guides' actions match their employers' intenions in hiring a good employee?




Swetnam, Sunshine, author
Bright, Alan, advisor
Foley, Jeffrey, advisor
Pettebone, David, committee member
Quick, Donald, committee member

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This study explored the hiring effectiveness in wilderness leadership professionals. A gap in the wilderness leadership body of knowledge identified a need for the understanding of judgment, decision-making, and leadership in wilderness leadership professionals. An understanding of these concepts will be beneficial to those that hire and train wilderness leaders. The study involves two phases. The first phase explored wilderness leadership practitioner considerations when evaluating an applicant's level of good judgment, good decision-making, and strong leadership that comprised one's expertise. Eleven hiring practitioners from the wilderness leadership industry were interviewed in a semi-structured, qualitative format. The interview explored how the practitioner knew if a future employee has the judgment, decision-making, and leadership. A narrative ethnography was used to analyze the seeking emerging themes in the data. Six themes developed from phase-one. They were the applicant's character and reputation; applicant's holistic approach, awareness, and people skills; applicant's experience, references, certifications, and skills; practitioners observing leadership in action; and applicant/practitioner using mentoring, apprenticeship, and empowerment. The second phase was a phenomenological ethnography; it investigated the wilderness leader's internal process of judgment to examine if they made good decisions and executed strong leadership in the field. This involved field observations and robust field notes to record instances of decision-making and leadership. Conversational interviews were conducted post-observation. They were designed to reveal a leader's judgment or their internal process. The participant was reminded of the field observation moment and then asking them "what were you thinking?" to discover their internal process. This was identified by their external process of making a decision or the execution of leadership. Themes emerged regarding one's judgments that lead to their decisions and leadership. The themes were communication, safety, and teaching tactics. Finally, a triangulated approach in the discussion and synthesis chapter investigated if wilderness leadership organizations were hiring the caliber of employee they intended, which was revealed through semi-structured interviews multiplied by the actions of the professionals they hired. The study's emergent implications were accountability, mentorship, and leadership in action. Recommendations were made for hiring practitioners in the wilderness leadership industry.


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