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Authority and Social Identity Essay

In “The new psychology of leadership” (2007), the authors offer a new perspective about leadership, based not only on authority but on sharing a social identity with the people.

The new concept of leadership is the ability to attain success by having followers wanting to do it instead of enforcing or rewarding them. To accomplish their goals, leaders must be situated among their group, be part of it. When goals are shared by common circumstances, they matter to the group as a whole, thus leaders that are able to represent the group better, have more influence over them.

It should be a primary responsibility for the leader to understand values and opinions of the group in order to communicate effectively about what the group stands for and how their values should be reflected in their actions.

Leader’s behavior and character affinity to the group defines how much control and inspiration can be imparted. However, any trait that separates the leader will hinder the chance for effective leadership.

Other factors that influence leadership effectiveness are:•Show fairness when making decisions and resolving disputes, although fairness may depend on the perception of the group being led, therefore it is important to consider what it’s fair for the group.

•Leadership must shape and define norms conforming the group’s identity, which is based on shared beliefs and values.

•Group’s social identity must be aligned with reality, since there is no chance of success for unrealistic goals that will eventually disappoint the group. Leaders need to be in touch with reality, and when required, align the group’s identity with his own.

Based on the authors’ psychological analysis, leaders and followers must have the same identity that will be used to outline future actions. Many times in history, leaders lost their position because their actions depicted a different identity from their group, and in some cases, only their individual identity.

Development and nurturing a shared identity among leaders and their groups is the key for an effective and creative leadership.

In FocusJuly 31, 2007The New Psychology of LeadershipRecent research in psychology points to secrets of effective leadership that radically challenge conventional wisdomBy Stephen D. Reicher, Michael J. Platow and S. Alexander HaslamFrom the August 2007 issue of Scientific American Mind

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