The goal of this study was to explore the connection between authentic leadership, spirituality, and human development theory to determine if spirituality contributes to the emergence or formation of an authentic leadership identity. An interdisciplinary research approach was conducted by reviewing literature on authentic leadership, spirituality, and human development. A sequential explanatory mixed method design was used to collect and analyze the personal beliefs and life experiences of individuals who were nominated as authentic leaders. Sixty-one participants completed a questionnaire and a subset of eleven participants completed semi-structured interviews. Quantitative findings identified that nearly 94% of participants considered themselves to be spiritual (n = 57). Most participants (90%) believe that spirituality influences their beliefs about leadership and their behaviors as leaders (n =55). Similarly, most participants (90%) affirmed that their spirituality influences their authenticity and self-awareness as a leader (n =55). Qualitative findings from semi-structured interviews identified that spirituality, or spiritual influences, experienced during the formative years, influenced participants’ values and beliefs, defined their principles and ethics, and provided a framework for how to live and behave. For most participants, these values and beliefs were informed by religious parents and/or a religious upbringing. When a participant did not reference a religious parent or religious upbringing, a sense of God, or higher power, or a strong sense of service was acknowledged instead. Findings also credit spirituality, or the belief in a higher power or God with having encouraged a participants’ journey or purpose. Participants acknowledged that spirituality has helped and continues to help define who they are, who they want to be, and how they want to live and work. Based on these findings, this study offers evidence that values and beliefs link spirituality to the emergence of an authentic leadership identity. While an individual's identity continues to be shaped and influenced across a person's lifespan, core values which influenced their emergence as an authentic leader were established during the early formative years, informed by parental and spiritual (religious) influences. As such, spirituality may be a mediating variable which influences the emergence of authentic leadership identity, as well as, encourages a sense of purpose, life-direction, and/or self-actualization.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Organizational leadership; Spirituality; Leadership; Authenticity (Philosophy)

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Mather, Barbara