|Abstract or Summary
- Wildland firefighting is environmentally and socially a risky and complex occupation. Although much attention has been given to understanding the physical components in fighting wildland fire, much less time has been devoted to understanding and developing the capacity of wildland firefighters to handle the dynamic pressures of the physical and social environments. For this reason, human performance in the field of Exercise and Sport Psychology was used to inform this research. The purpose of this dissertation was to explore the two conceptual processes of mindfulness and self-compassion in relation to effective leadership and decision making of fire personnel. In the first manuscript a quantitative approach was adopted to explore facets of mindfulness and self-compassion in relation to their ability to predict supervisor self-rated leadership, and crewmembers' perceptions of their supervisors' leadership capabilities. The sample was comprised of 43 wildland fire crews consisting of their primary supervisors (N= 43) and crewmembers (N=246). A partial least squares path modeling approach was employed to test hypotheses regarding the relationships among mindfulness, self-compassion, and leadership. Findings revealed that aspects of mindfulness were significant predictors of crewmembers' scores and especially crew supervisors' scores of leadership. The specific aspects of mindfulness that predicted supervisor leadership were very similar between crewmembers and supervisors. Furthermore, although not as strong, aspects of self-compassion were also significant predictors of perceived supervisor leadership. However, unlike mindfulness, the aspects of self-compassion that predicted supervisor leadership were more varied between crewmembers and supervisors. Overall, the results indicate that mindfulness and self-compassion were predictors of desired wildland fire leadership, and is suggestive of potential roles they could serve in the development of leadership in wildland firefighting. The second manuscript consists of a qualitative feasibility study that investigated a mindful and self-compassionate awareness program developed for the wildland fire environment. The program was based on using a conceptual tool to refocus awareness and move self-compassionately through key aspects of present moment happenings with the self, others, and the surrounding environment during a 6-month period. A sample of federal fire managers and crew supervisors (N=8) located at three locations in the Western United States was used to assess the program in depth. Through an action research methodology, program and tool receptiveness, implementation, and suggested improvements were explored. Key findings closely aligned with other positive psychology interventions in that participant experience was influenced by a person-activity fit, desire to overcome initial challenges, belief in potential effectiveness of the program, age, and experience. In general participants had varying degrees of receptiveness, implemented the conceptual tool in a variety of ways that were unique to each person and situation, and suggested that future implementations occur during trainings across a firefighter's career. Conclusively, it was found that the conceptual tool outlined in the program is viable for use in the wildland fire environment while taking into consideration important factors surrounding a firefighter's age, experience, and potential fit with the program. Considering the two studies presented in this research, the wildland firefighting community should consider ways of implementing mindfulness and self-compassion into various trainings for the growth and development of personnel as leaders and decision makers. Furthermore, adaptability of any program is an important aspect that needs to be taken into account when deciding how, when, and where to implement mindfulness and self-compassion development tools, such as the one found to be feasible in this study.