How Do You Define a Spiritual Leader?

As with most any abstract concept, different people will have different definitions for “spiritual leadership.” What is Christian leadership? What makes a Christian leader? Pondering the idea of “Christian leaders” may be something you have spent some time on as you plan or complete a degree from Colorado Christian University. Regardless of your degree program, as a college graduate, you will eventually be called upon to be a leader in some fashion in the workplace. If you’re already an active member of the workforce, you may be very familiar with all that comes with spiritual/Christian leadership. However, if you’re new to your career or have just begun your coursework, you may not have given much thought to the concept of what being a Christian leader means to you.

Christian Leaders in the Workplace

Let’s take a look at the marks of a spiritual leader and explore what characteristics and/or traits are common to inspirational Christian leaders.

The International Institute for Spiritual Leadership, an organization that studies workplace spirituality and spiritual leadership, has developed a “Spiritual Leadership Theory” to outline current leadership theories and to investigate the various aspects of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual elements of human interaction in organizations and the workplace. Simply put, the Institute claims, “Spiritual leadership generates hope/faith in the organization’s vision that keeps followers looking forward to the future. Spiritual leadership requires that an organization’s culture be based on values of altruistic love.”

Spiritual leadership, simply put, is demonstrated through a leader’s attitude and behavior. Spiritual leadership produces a “sense of membership” and a sense of being understood and appreciated. Could you imagine if all leaders in the workplace followed a theory such as this? Everyone would go to work each day feeling valued and important. People would be more joyful about their work, more enthusiastic and more motivated to go above and beyond the call of duty.

The Institute’s spiritual leadership theory asserts that spiritual leadership leads others toward spiritual well-being, psychological well-being, satisfaction with life, commitment to the organization (job), productivity, sustainability and overall good general health and well-being. Spiritual leaders (i.e. Christian leaders) must experience a sense of being “called” to their work–that their life and work have meaning and purpose. Christian leaders show genuine care and concern to others and have an appreciation for themselves and others in the workplace.

Let’s take a look at some qualities that you would find in a spiritual leader: Vision, Altruistic Love, and Hope/Faith.

  • “Vision” is a word you will often hear in discussions about leadership in the workplace. What is your company’s vision? What is the vision your boss has for your future? How do you envision your role evolving in this company? Your company’s vision is a picture of the future direction your company hopes to take. A clear and compelling vision will help to motivate and inspire employees, contribute to a feeling of commitment from employees, and set a standard of excellence for all to partake in and follow. Christian leaders will create a vision that defines the company’s destination and encourages faith in employees.
  • Altruistic love is described by the Institute as “a sense of wholeness, harmony, and well-being produced through care, concern and appreciation for both self and others.” According to the Institute’s spiritual leadership theory, the fields of medicine and psychology have both begun to study (and confirm) that the power of love is able to overcome destructive emotions such as anger and fear. Christian leaders exhibit traits such as integrity, patience, forgiveness, loyalty, truthfulness, and selflessness in the workplace (and their personal lives).
  • Let’s take a look at the Spiritual Leadership Theory’s definitions of faith and hope. Faith is a belief in something for which there is no firm evidence. Hope is desire with the expectation of fulfillment. When employees have faith in the company for which they work and have hope for their future in that company, there exists an incentive to do well–to strive to be the very best one can be. Hope and faith are what leads to achieving the vision created by the Christian leader.

CCU prides itself on creating an educational/spiritual environment with a clear vision for its students. As you can see on our Vision and Mission page, “We envision graduates who think critically and creatively, lead with high ethical and professional standards, embody the character and compassion of Jesus Christ, and who thereby are prepared to impact the world.”

If you want to be a part of the CCU family, please read more about adult student admissions and financial aid opportunities.



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    The Lord calls his people to lead in every sphere of influence as we possibly can, whether at home or in the workplace. We are called to lead others in a Christ-like manner. As, we do so we can expect for God to honor our diligent work and act on our behalf. There is never a dull moment when a Christian leader sets himself or herself to serve and guide other people in his Spirit. “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty” (Zech. 4:6, NIV).


  2. DeAnna says:

    It is my opinion that in order to be a good leader the most important thing is to be honest and trustworthy. For me working for someone who is a spiritual is a plus because you know they have a foundation on doing what is right from wrong. I know for me being a leader in my organization I believe that honesty is the best policy. It is so important for your peers to trust you and as a boss your team must trust you. The more they trust what you say and do the more productive your department will be. I know for me I work for a company that the owner is very spiritual and values family. It is awesome to work for someone who preaches family first. I am never questioned when I have to go and watch my kids play sports or someone in my family needs my help, as long as I get my work done and make up my time it is never a problem. I think this is the change that needs to happen in businesses today, more value on family and God.

  3. Brian says:

    For the most part, people yearn for the sense or feeling of being needed. We see it in all relationships and aspects of life. A person may fulfill this need as a friend taking a late night call to give advice to another friend in need. The same goes for a career. People who feel they are needed love their job and the people they work around. Without that sense of being needed, people will begin to experience the feeling of “unwanted” or not cared about. A true spiritual leader fills that void in the work place. A spiritual leader looks at each person and identifies that person with a need in the organization and makes it known and expands on it. Once a person knows they fill a need, efficiency and productivity will begin to increase and then people have a whole new aspect on their job. A true spiritual leader influences that sense of worth in each and everybody. We may label it as “Spiritual Leader”, but it’s really called being a leader.

  4. Jennifer says:

    “How Do You Define a Spiritual Leader?”
    I believe spiritual leaders must also be sacrificial leaders and guide others to become the best they can be in and out of the workplace. In addition successful leaders of the next generation must practice supportive leadership. As I reflect on the events of the movie theatre shooting that occurred the early morning of 7/20/12 I am reminded of how many individuals are true sacrificial service leaders including police officers, fire fighters, and military personel. It is a reminder to me that sacrificial leaders are all around us.

  5. Mark Abeyta says:

    The Lord has called me personally in my current position to be a servant for Him and Him only. I feel that it’s important for a servant leader to follow their heart within Christ and implement that following to his or her servant ship into practice. Bill Armstrong has shown a significant amount of this servant leadership in what he does here at CCU. I have enjoyed this very much. To be able to work for an organization that is teaching me how to be more effective through being a servant leader is a HUGE and tremendous Blessing.

    Thanks to Christ, Bill, my immediate supervisors Jenifer, and Chuck.

    Thank you
    Blessings to all of you

  6. Jude Johnson says:

    How would you define spiritual leadership?

    Spiritual leadership is a process whereby a leader leads by their faith based conviction. A Christian leader is one who leads following the examples and teachings of Jesus Christ. Jesus led as a Servant Leader. Northouse defines servant leadership as a process whereby leaders empower their followers by putting them first in order to develop their full potential (Northouse, 2013). Jesus as a servant leader washed the feet of his disciples; came to empower us to live godly lives, help us become all that God created us to be. In John 10:10 we learn that Jesus came that we may have life and have it in abundance. Jesus came and gave of Himself, died on the cross so that those who believe in Him will spend eternal life with Him in Heaven. A Christian leader should be like Christ, putting his followers first and empowering them to maximize their God given potentials.

    A Christian leader is one who should first and foremost know Jesus and have a relationship with Him. It is through a consistent fellowship with Christ, the word of God and leading of Holy Spirit can a Christian leader be effective.

    God is preparing me in becoming a Christian leader, and that is the reason I am doing my MBA program at CCU. I am happy and blessed that my homework assignments and readings are integrated with the Bible.

  7. Holly says:

    Being a Spiritual Leader is not very different from being any other sort of leader. An individual in this position need to realize that they need to acknowledge the other members in the group. The person with the leadership function needs to make sure that everyone is heard and that everyone feels appreciated and granted the opportunity to express their own opinion of the situation.

  8. Michelle P. says:

    Could you imagine if all leaders in the workplace followed a theory such as this?
    My hope is that this can be a reality in the workplace as we move forward to educate students on Leadership attributes. At the core of who we are as human beings, is a strong desire to be loved and cared about. Creating an enviornment in the workplace of alturistic love, would transform workers and businesses to their full potential.

  9. mindilee says:

    Altruistic love is not a characteristic that one often thinks of when evaluating the traits of a leader, but it is crucial to Christian leadership. We should look to the leadership of Jesus in his interactions with those at every level of society and see that he saw people as his Father sees people – as valuable and loved, despite the trappings of society. It is important as leaders that we look beyond the surface to see what is underneath before we jump to conclusions.

  10. Kaley T. says:

    Spiritual Leadership is an interesting concept and I feel very lucky to have seen it in action in my workplace. I work for a Christian (Seventh Day Adventist) hospital that very much makes spiritual well-being a priority for both patients and staff. In order to demonstrate spiritual leadership, I think the spiritual well-being of others must be a priority, even though it may not have a direct impact on the good of the company by increasing profits or productivity. My organization invests time and effort (and money) to reaching employees on a spiritual level. Several programs are in place that focus on fostering a spiritual work environment, and chaplains and counselors are available free of charge as a resource for anyone needing prayer, consoling, guidance, or fellowship. Spiritual leadership is more than the spiritual strength of the leader; spiritual leadership means actively seeking to improve the spiritual health of the workplace.

  11. mthompson says:

    He came to serve, not to be served (The Message). Christ is the model and very definition of spiritual leadership. Northhouse shares a number of criticisms of this type of leadership including, “being a servant leader implies following and following is viewed as the opposite of leading” (2013, p. 235). Few would agree that Christ was a follower as suggested by this viewpoint. These are the same few people that would tend to confuse meekness with weakness.

    Costco CEO Craig Jelinek has continued to demonstrate the importance of this type leadership that their former CEO, Jim Sinegal espoused for the company. Jelnick has set the organization apart from competitors with his commitment to the employees. Even Political activist, Ralph Nader in is open letter to Jelinek concerning raising the minimum wage acknowledged that Costco “understands that the success of it business relies on the prosperity and happiness of its employees” (2012). A June 6th, 2013 MSN article, Costco may be the happiest company on Earth provides a great case that this type of leadership can be an effective leadership approach today.

  12. mthompson says:

    Spiritual adj. Of, relating to, consistent of, or having the nature of spirit; not tangible or material.
    Spiritual leadership, by definition is an intangible leadership quality. Extraordinary leaders possess intangible aspects of leadership from popular approaches. Leading from the spirit starts with understanding who we are in Christ. “I have received the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Jesus, the eyes of my understanding being enlightened” (Ephesians 1:17-18, Amplified Bible). Central to the “spirit of wisdom” is having the courage to allow the Holy Spirit to work in our life as a spiritual leaders. Being sensitive to the Holy Spirit is the beginning point to growth and becoming a spiritual leader.

  13. Tyler Schlageel says:

    After looking over the centennial institute’s website, there are really a few things that need to mention. Firstly that they are in the conservative politics realm, they are a conservative think tank that is aligned with the mission and vision of Colorado Christian University. Second the centennial institute seeks to bring back the spirit of 1176, which is basically a fancy way of saying we need to return to traditional way of doing things. This is a great organization that is seeking to help the people of America return to the way that things should be done.

  14. Heidi Hodges says:

    Body Art
    Leviticus 19:28 (NIV) says “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.” How do Tattoos fit into society today? It wasn’t long ago that this practice was shamed upon. Like many commands given from the Lord, we twist instruction to fit our own desires. What use to be perceived as an act of rebellion has now become a form of self expression and identification. Tattoos are now becoming increasingly popular. New technology has transformed simple tattooing into “body art” and it has become easier and more appealing. The quality of an image is sharper and can be magnified to match what the person is trying to express. Many tattoos are symbolic. This trend has become a culture that the media and celebrities are promoting. It is rare to see those within the younger generations today that do not have at least one tattoo. It has become as acceptable as ear piercing. According to David Rockne Corrigan (June 16, 2013) “people are using tattoos as a new way of connecting with themselves and others; the practice has become something akin to religious experience.” Are we trying to find our identity in symbolism or in Christ?

  15. MBsLegacy says:

    Melanie Sturm, in her Centennial Institute blog, “Desperately Wanting to Matter” (2013, p. 1), describes her experience of running into a “scantily clad, tattoo-festooned woman on whose neck and jaw was emblazoned the ultimate gotcha question: “Who are you to judge?” Taken aback, Sturm’s first reaction was a feeling of shame, “after all, what compassionate, well-meaning person could answer her question without seeming prejudicial? Don’t we judge people by the content of their character, not the color of their skin — even when it’s multi-variegated dragons or flowers” (2013, p.1)? Sturm goes on to discuss the reasoning behind such a tattoo and the trend which beyond rebellion is a kind of defensive acting out of a traumatic experience. Or it may be a need to feel significant in a culture where we idolize teen movie stars and athletes or what Doonan (2012, p.1) calls the ‘screen-centered life.” Sturm’s article motivated this student to look into the reasons people get a tattoo, and not just one, but the trend now to get many. I found some interesting reasons for, and some good reasons to not join the trend, where 1 in 5 US Adults say they have one (Kelly, 2013, p. 1) or a reported 45 million Americans (Doonan, 2012, p.1). A generation ago, tattoos were a sign that you were scary or evil, not to be messed with, like a gang member or convict, (who even admit the process is painful)! Or it was a sign of bravery (or drunken peer pressure), a military rite of passage for many and something my Father, a Sailor during the Korean War, still regrets and has tried to have removed with little success and a forever scar. I often wonder if people think long term, “what will my tattoo look like when I’m 80 and it’s wrinkled or disfigured by aging?” They probably do not think much about being old, like most young people. I laughed aloud at Doonan’s comment about the cost not being worth it, at about $150 per hour and 40 hours for a full “sleeve.” He continues, “Another $6,000 for laser removal when you hit late middle age and it’s gone all creepy…went from being the girl with the dragon tattoo to the old hag with the squashed-squirrel tattoo…only cost you $12K and hours of agony” (Doonan, 2012, p.1). Thus, I believe that is it more than “permanent bell-bottoms” (Doonan, 2012, p.1) or a fashion trend like miniskirts, which are easily changed with the season. I contend that getting more than one is an addiction. Most Americans are addicted to something that makes them feel good, in control or admired for having much. “It’s a culturally sanctioned form of delicate cutting” (Doonan, 2012, p.1). There are other reasons seemingly less rebellious, particularly done in honor of someone you love, someone who has died, or “God.” But this too has sinister roots. Leviticus 19:28 says, “You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the Lord” (King James Version). reports that most scholars believe these practices “were related to mourning for the dead….any kind of self-laceration or marking of the body was prohibited among the Hebrew people. Such cuttings were associated with pagan cults that tattooed their followers while they mourned the dead” (2013, p.1). They make a good point about not grieving as “those who have no hope” (I Thess. 4:13). But also suggests that those who had tattoos before they were Christian should not try to have them removed. I suggest that believers consider deeply why they want to brand themselves if they are considering joining the trend and defiling the temple of God (1 Cor. 3:17). Consider that it is more than just “art,” but can prevent you from landing some jobs (Kelly, 2013, p.1), and consider the fact that you are 9 times more likely to get Hepatitis C or lymph gland diseases from ink dye processing (Doonan, 2012, p.1). Weisbord (2012, p. 331) talks about getting the whole system in the room and discussing if we “should or should not” make a change. Discuss this body change with trusted family and friends. Change for the sake of change is not a reason. If you come to my church, there are many with tattoos. I will still smile at you and recognize that you are loved by God. I have my own scars from bad choices or events out of my control. For whatever reason the woman Sturm ran into had her tattoo done, Sturm suggests we can instead choose to rejoice as she (and I) recently became a breast cancer survivor (2013, p. 1). Rather than become defensive or rebellious, become joyfully grateful and use your voice and your art (I love script…on a scrapbook for my children that outlives me)! We are called to be separate from the world around us (2 Cor. 6:17).
    Doonan, S. (2012, April 13). Why do we really get tattoos? The Slate Group. Retrieved from
    Kelly, J. (2013, September 30). Why do people go back for more and more tattoos? BBC News Magazine. Retrieved from

    Sturm, M. (2013, September 14). Desperately wanting to matter. [Web log post]. Retrieved from (2013). What does the Bible say about getting tattoos? [Web log post]. Retrieved from

    Weisbord, M.R. (2012). Productive workplaces: Dignity, meaning, and community in
    the 21st century. (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

  16. bstamer says:

    Jesus was the ultimate Spiritual leader. He had unbelievable faith, and vision for what he was on earth for and accomplished it with precision and hope. In the work environment, it is possible to lead without a spiritual aspect, but I believe that when incorporated, and everyone on the same page in terms of vision and desire, that’s when Christian based companies and non profits have most success in achieving their mission.

  17. Severiano Carbajal says:

    After perusing the Centennial Institute’s website, I decided to read the blog post about zombies and the Apocalypse. This blog discussed the reason behind the growing fascination of zombies and the end times. The writer, David Huntwork, asked the question of why this has become so popular. His response was very accurate in my opinion. He speaks of a growing fear of things in this nation coming to an abrupt end. People have lost hope for the future of America, and even the world. We see financial problems, international crises, and overpowering government, and think there is no way through this. I would agree with Huntwork, but I also believe that we can change this. Too often people see little or no hope and give up. Which is the easy route. With such a big God there is no reason to fear the future, and there is definitely no reason to lose hope. We need to continue to focus on the important things and take our eyes off of the problems that are piling up. We need to look at how big God is, rather than look at how big our problems are.

  18. Denver Klaus says:

    After reading the article, “Indifference to History Equivocating Soviet Evil”, it made me take a deeper look at the Olympics and how easily people forget the evil of the Soviet people. First of all, I believe that we need to forgive people who were associated with the Soviet Union and may have made immoral decisions. I also think we should be filled with grace for the people who were affected by the Soviet army. We shouldn’t punish people who currently are Russians who may have been following a specific regime to keep a job and possibly their lives instead we should show them a Christ-like love. I also think that we need to be very sensitive how we handle these people. People who lived in the Soviet Union had first hand experience in the realities of Communism. The author explained it perfectly by saying that NBC had down-played the 70 year period of evil that was very recent. I think they should have honored the people who went through struggles during this time by telling some of their stories. As Christians, we need to show our love and grace to these people who have gone through struggles and live as Christ by serving them in anyway we can.

  19. Michelle says:

    I believe a spiritual leader should possess the same skills necessary as in any other leader (i.e. leader in the home, organization leader, etc.). Leadership is a calling to serve others and to lead them toward a goal, which in the case of a spiritual leader should be towards Christ. Kouzes & Posner (2004) state that the challenge put forth to leaders is to “1. Model the way, 2. Inspire a shared vision. 3. Challenge the process, 4. Enable others to Act. and 5. Encourage the Heart” (foreward p. I). These objectives remain the same regardless of the situation the leader is tasked with. To me, the most important of these for a spiritual leader is # 1 because Christ modeled the way for all leadership. If a spiritual leader follows in the footsteps of Jesus they are sure to be successful.

    Kouzes, J., Posner, B. (2004). Christian reflections on the leadership challenge. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

  20. Tricia Allen says:

    Being a good spiritual leader is how a person in their congregation becomes closer to Christ and in their own spiritual walk. I loved the points you made regarding the leaders and what their purpose was. Not only does this work for the leaders within the church and other organizations, but these points could also be good for us as individuals to follow as well. We could stand to inspire and share our visions with others as well as encourage someone’s heart. If we cannot do it with people in our church we sure can do it in our own family. I know with my two young girls I need to be the example and encourage them, inspire their dreams, and also give them challenges along the way. Sometimes I struggle with using these principles, but I know that following some of the guidelines that were mentioned maybe it could help. Another thing I really enjoyed reading was “Spiritual leadership, simply put, is demonstrated through a leader’s attitude and behavior. Spiritual leadership produces a “sense of membership” and a sense of being understood and appreciated.” Many of our “leaders” are not appreciated and you could also put parents in that category as well. Children do not appreciate the things that their parents do for them and therefore lack the respect that they deserve. I feel that our spiritual leaders are sometimes treated as parents they look out for their “children” help guide them where they need to be, and try to solve their problems the best way they know how. How do some of us repay them? By being disrespectful and sometimes hypocritical. “Vision, Altruistic Love, and Hope/Faith.” are important qualities for anybody to have and like I said prior by using these different guidelines not only can our spiritual leaders portray those attributes, but maybe we can as well and use them within our own home. This article was great and I absolutely love CCU’s mission statement “We envision graduates who think critically and creatively, lead with high ethical and professional standards, embody the character and compassion of Jesus Christ, and who thereby are prepared to impact the world.”

  21. Melissa Noah says:

    Different ideologies exist in our country and what is missing is an understating of the different groups associated with varying ideologies and an understanding from the general public about what is at stake. Huntwork puts forth a list of essential conservative principles that are meant to help distinguish and define conservatism from the multitude of groups and labels that are thrown around both the political arena and media (2014, para. 8). By defining conservatism better individuals can discern what issues are important to fight for and stand firm as a collective group to support their cause. I agree that clearer definition is needed and agreed with the points Huntwork made, however, as I looked at the list something was missing. The Centennial Institute and University have strategic objectives. Amid the other items on the list of university and institute objectives is the item I feel was missing from the Huntwork’s list. It is missing the need to impact the culture by supporting compassion for the poor (Centennial Institute, The institute, para. 3). I am sure if you read between the lines you could surmise that it was encompassed by items such as upholding traditional morals and ideals, good citizenship, or even corporate responsibility (Huntwork, 2014, para. 8). Deuteronomy 15:11 says “For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land’ ” (NASB). It is too important of a Judeo -Christian principle to be left off the list or vaguely implied. Compassion for the poor is a conservative ideal in that we take care of our neighbors not because we are mandated to give to them by our government but because it is the right thing to do.
    Centennial Institute. (n.d.) What we are. Retrieved on February 27, 2014 from
    Huntwork, D. (2014, February 17). Conservative principles and the common man. Centennial Institute. Retrieved from

  22. Debi says:

    After reading through several of the issues posted, I decided to look into “Conservative principles and the common man.” There are so many things in our society today that cover up the true conservative principles that we should be looking at. The education system actually plays a large role in this. Looking at it from a liberal perspective, it makes sense. The biggest problem isn’t that liberals have principles, it’s that they don’t necessarily have principles, but attitudes toward ideas. It’s always easy to decide where a person will stand on an issue if he/she has a liberal outtake on things. The conservative principles listed in the blog are all highly important to our future. A lot of them go back to the principles our country was founded on. If the mindset of the country could shift back to these incredibly basic ideas, many of the issues we face today wouldn’t be as severe as they are. For example, government would become minimal, gun control wouldn’t be as strict as it is now, and people would be trustworthy.

  23. Sarah Ehambe says:

    I read the blog concerning “The war for poverty”… and I could not agree more. Things seem to be getting worse not better, and in the 21st century that doesn’t and shouldn’t make sense. It is not okay that we are “smarter” than ever “technologically advanced than most” and yet have increasing rates of dependency. The outside of our nation screams “independence” but the stats tell us that in all actuality, we are creating more “dependence.” In my opinion the solution is hard to reach, but an easy enough formula to follow if practiced and applied with perseverance in mind. Speaking generally, you create dependence because of the lack of a capability right? So the old saying goes, “Give a man a fish, he eats for a day, Give a man a pole and he eats for a lifetime.”

    I believe an increase of programs such as need to be increased and available in every major metro and throughout the states surrounding smaller cities. This is a place where young kids – young adults are exposed to different vocations and trained on how to become a “master” in them. Options become more obvious on paths they can pursue and the backbone of the whole thing is trust and faith in a Jesus who makes all things new, and looks at ashes and calls it to life and says “beautiful!” Programs like these are unstoppable if it had a chance to be exposed to the masses. I believe this would help cut off the poverty mentality and get people dreaming more than they ever had before.

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