Date of Paper/Work


Type of Paper/Work


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Amy Ihlan

Second Advisor

Martha Hardesty

Third Advisor

Suzanne Otte Allen


Organizational Leadership


The religious landscape of the U.S. is changing drastically with an increasing number of individuals identifying as non-religious (Pew Research Center, 2014). While these individuals do not associate with a particular religion, they may be spiritual, have some religious based beliefs, or identify as atheist, agnostic, or yet another category (Baker & Smith, 2009; Cragun et al., 2012; Edgell et al., 2016). These individuals are our neighbors, friends, and family members. They are also leaders in our communities. However, U.S. society tends to have a negative perception of individuals who identify as non-religious as a person’s religious affiliation often serves as a public marker of their personal morals (Smith, 2017). With regard to leadership, this perception is important as morals play a significant role in establishing a leader as ethical and credible (Zhu et al., 2015). This study examined how individuals who identify as non-religious navigate others’ stereotypes and perceptions of their identity to establish themselves as credible leaders by reviewing the existing literature, analyzing relevant theoretical frameworks, and highlighting the experiences of individuals who identify as both non-religious and as leaders through semi-structured interviews and a focus group.