The social identity approach to political leadership

Frank Mols, S. Alexander Haslam, Michael J. Platow, Stephen D. Reicher, Niklas K. Steffens

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Citation (Scopus)


Political leadership research has evolved in three broad phases. Early 20th century research focused on “charismatic” leaders, with Frankfurt School sociologists invoking Freudian principles to explain charismatic leadership and followership. Subsequent research focused on a match between context and leadership style. More recently, research has returned to the question of why some leaders have strong charismatic appeal and the capacity to cultivate followership. The social identity approach to political leadership advanced in this chapter offers a radical (fourth) alternative to this traditional individualistic analysis by focusing on the social and psychological group processes that leaders activate and engage with. In this approach, leadership results from a process of effective “identity entrepreneurship” in which influence derives from would-be leaders’ (a) capacity to redefine followers’ shared self-understanding, and (b) ability to present their political projects as epitomizing “who we are,” “what we are about,” and “who we want to be.”
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford handbook of political psychology
EditorsLeonie Huddy, David O. Sears, Jack S. Levy, Jennifer Jerit
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages39
ISBN (Electronic)9780197541333
ISBN (Print)9780197541302
Publication statusPublished - 29 Nov 2023

Publication series

NameOxford handbooks


  • Leadership
  • Fellowship
  • Social identity
  • Social influence
  • Social change
  • Perceived prototypicality
  • Group processes


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