Being ‘Of the Group’ and ‘For the Group’: How Followership is Shaped by Leaders’ Prototypicality and Group Identification
Previous research has focused on the importance of leaders being seen to be of the group (i.e., to be prototypical of a group) but less on the impact of leaders’ own degree of identification with the group. Also, little is known about the combined impact of leader prototypicality and leader identification on followers’ responses. This paper reports two studies that address these lacunae. Study 1 shows experimentally that perceived leader identification and prototypicality interact to determine followers’ personal identification with leaders and their perceptions of leader charisma. Findings indicate that high identification can compensate for low prototypicality such that high-identified leaders are able to inspire followership when leaders are low-prototypical. Study 2 replicates these findings in the field by examining followers’ responses to workgroup leaders. In addition, results demonstrate that the above responses are more pronounced for highly identified followers. The present research extends social identity theorizing by demonstrating that leaders’ inability to inspire followership derives as much their failure to project a sense of ‘we’ and ‘us’ as part of their self-concept as from a failure to exemplify group-typical attributes.
Steffens, N.K., Schuh, S.C., Haslam, S.A., Perez, A., & Van Dick, R. (2015). Being “of the group” or “for the group”: How followership is shaped by leaders’ prototypicality and group identification. European Journal of Social Psychology, 45,180-190. doi:10.1002/ejsp.2088