Honors College Theses

Publication Date



Psychology (B.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Michael Nielsen


Religious leaders act in crucial roles throughout their communities, yet few studies have addressed these leaders. Despite numerous experiments having been conducted with religion and leadership, little has focused on specifically religious leadership. This study sought to contribute to the limited body of knowledge regarding the traits of religious leadership. We had developed eight preacher profiles that presented varying qualities of moral integrity, communal involvement, and the capability to instill personal meaning in individual religious members. After reading one of these profiles in an online survey, the 178 participants were asked to answer a series of questions to rate the preacher. We had predicted that preachers with low values in all three traits would receive the worst ratings, while preachers with high values in all three traits would receive the best ratings. However, the results only partially supported our prediction. Overall, after analyzing the data with a factorial ANOVA, profiles that presented high values for moral integrity had received better ratings, and profiles that with low moral integrity were rated poorly, regardless of other trait values. By comparison, when Christian responses were measured separately, moral integrity was still significant, but responses were also influenced by whether the profile presented a high or low value of communal involvement. We concluded that while moral integrity may be a consistently significant trait for religious leaders across affiliations, communal involvement and instilling personal meaning may vary in importance between religious groups.

Available for download on Monday, March 30, 2026