My PhD Research Project

The aim of my research is to gain empirical plausibility by examining the relationship between participation in wilderness experience and the development of authentic leadership attitude and behavior. This objective will be achieved by researching the conditions, transference processes and perceived outcomes by samples of leaders of private and public organizations (FNL participants).

This research objective addresses the following research questions:

1) Why do people participate in a Wilderness Experience Program (WEP)?

2) What are the perceived benefits of participating a Wilderness Experience Program (WEP)?

3) What is the impact of the WEP on participant’s mental dispositions towards leadership (pre- and post WEP)?

4) What is the impact of the WEP on participant’s leadership behaviors (pre- and post WEP)?



Scholarly findings tend to support the notion that participation in wilderness experience programs results in positive benefits, such as enhanced self-awareness and sense of personal control, and negative results from participation are virtually non-existent. However, in their compilation of research-based literature Friese et al. suggests that much of the research in the field is reported in non-peer reviewed outlets and “grey” literature, with less than expected in scientific journals and serialized professional outlets. Consistent with this observation is a lack of rigor noted in the sources of data on which the findings are based (heavy to surveys) and the principle research methods used (few experiments or comparative studies). Additionally, there are very few long term studies.(Friese, Pittman, & Hendee, 1995)

The importance of the scientific significance and the societal relevance of developing effective, genuine, values-based leadership and researching its enablers seems evident in these times of crisis and increasing complexity. Whereas many anecdotal stories, and however scarce scholarly publications, indicate that wilderness experience is a powerful enabler to foster self-awareness as foundation for the development of authentic transformational leadership behavior, there is wide gap in the field of empirical research. Therefore my study aims to contribute to fill this gap by examining the relationship between the emergence of self-awareness related to wilderness experience, and the positive development of leadership behavior. It will provide this by analyzing the work of the Foundation of Natural Leadership (FNL). The research project will make use of all the available data from this community. From FNL there is a great willingness to cooperate and contribute.

Boy van Droffelaar 2012