Identity Leadership

What is it?

Leaders and followers are bound together by their being part of – and by their sense that they are part of – a common group. Indeed, more generally, leadership can be seen as a process of social influence (Turner, 1991; Turner & Haslam, 2001) that arises in part from the capacity of an individual to represent this sense of shared social identity (e.g., as suggested in the social identity model of leadership).

  • Identity advancement - A variety of stereotypical leader qualities are actually the consequence of perceived prototypicality – such that we regard leaders as more trustworthy, fair, and charismatic to the extent that they are seen to represent and advance the interests of a common ingroup (Steffens, Haslam, & Reicher, 2014)

  • Identity prototypicality - Leaders are more likely to be endorsed by followers, and to influence them in desired ways, to the extent that they are seen to be representative (or prototypical) of a common ingroup (Hogg, 2001; Platow & van Knippenberg, 2001).

  • Identity entrepreneurship - Before they can mobilize and harness the power of the group, leaders first have to act as entrepreneur of identity (Reicher et al., 2005) who create a shared sense of group identity among followers (Carroll & Levy, 2010; Fransen et al., 2015).

  • Identity impresarioship - They also have to act as champions of identity who behave in ways that advance the interests of the group that they are leading (rather than those of other groups or their personal interests) and as impresarios of identity who engage in activities that translate “the idea of us” into group members’ lived reality (Haslam et al., 2011).

Identity Leadership Diagram

How could you apply this theory?

The 5R Leadership model provides a structure to develop leaders according to the identity leadership theory

The theory describes how and why people come to follow certain people. This could be applied when analysing a group leader or trying to develop the skills of existing leaders.

Example of theory applied

The creation of coordinated local "leader groups" for each region in Cane Changer

Why is this theory important for behaviour change?

It explains how leaders come to be seen as leaders/how they obtain followers.

Leaders are important to groups and social identities - they create and set the standards for group norms. Thus, leaders and identity leadership are important to consider when trying to change the behaviour of groups.


Hogg, M. A. (2001). A social identity theory of leadership. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 5, 184–200. doi: 10.1207/S15327957PSPR0503_1

Haslam, S. A., Steffens, N. K., Peters, K., Boyce, R. A., Mallett, C. J., & Fransen, K. (2017). A social identity approach to leadership development: The 5R program. Journal of Personnel Psychology, 16(3), 113-124.


Related Concepts

Social identity theory

Self-categorisation theory