Date of Award


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education

Dissertation Committee

Robert Donmoyer, PhD; Fred J. Galloway, EdD; Mary Woods Scherr, PhD


Chief Executive Officers--CEOs, Cross-case analysis, corporate, ethical leadership, spirituality, Leadership studies, management, qualitative


Almost weekly, there are news accounts of corporate and government leaders breaching ethical and moral standards. Indeed, in recent years, corporate corruption and misrepresentation of the truth have appeared overwhelming. At the very least, corporate and government scandals suggest that there is currently a crisis in leadership. A Spiritual Audit of Corporate America by Mitroff and Denton, a book called a “landmark contribution” by prominent leadership scholar Warren Bennis, found that individuals and organizations that have a strong sense of spirituality are “far less likely to compromise their basic beliefs and values.” Their data suggested that spirituality may serve as a possible antidote to leaders' unethical behavior. This study built upon Mitroff and Denton's work by examining the role of spirituality in ethical decision making. Specifically, the purpose of this qualitative research was to develop greater understanding of what it is like to be a chief executive officer in the corporate arena who self-identifies as having a strong spiritual foundation. More specifically, this research investigated what 11 CEOs had to say about the impact of spirituality on their approach to leadership in general and ethical issues in particular. The research questions that guided this study asked the following: How do corporate leaders who self-identify as spiritual describe their spirituality? What spiritual practices do they engage in regularly? and What do leaders who claim to have a rich spiritual life say about the impact of spirituality on their approach to ethical problems in leadership? All of the individuals who participated in this study indicated that spirituality is an important part of their leadership practice. They all also noted that their spiritual beliefs provide them with guidance in making moral and ethical decisions. There was considerable consistency on these points, despite different religious affiliations (Catholic, Protestant, Judaism, Muslim) and, in one case, no affiliation with an organized religion. The findings suggested that it may be possible for leadership studies and MBA programs to address ethical issues from a spiritual perspective while steering clear of sectarian commitments.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access