Building on recent work using Social Identity Theory as a conceptual framework for analyzing leadership dynamics (Hogg, 2001; van Knippenberg & van Knippenberg, 2003; Haslam & Platow, 2001; Lord & Hall, 2003; Kramer, 2003), we conducted two studies to examine how information about leaders’ responsibility for a negative world event and group members’ social identification affect leader favorability ratings. In contrast to traditional leadership research, which often focuses on intragroup leadership, we adopted an intergroup leadership dynamics perspective – which studies leadership in a multi-group context (Pittinsky, 2004) – and examined favorability ratings for both domestic and foreign leaders. In Study 1, conducted in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, we hypothesized that participants would be more favorable toward their own leadership when another nation’s leaders were largely responsible for a negative event. Data did not support this hypothesis, likely due to contextual political factors. A second hypothesis – that outgroup leaders would be rated significantly less favorably when responsible for the negative event – was supported. Study 2 replicated the first study in the United States, but this time strength of participants’ national identification was measured. Study 2 found that participants who strongly identify with their nation feel significantly more favorable towards their leaders when another nation’s leadership is responsible for a negative event. Participants who weakly identify do not show this effect. As predicted, regardless of strength of identification, participants view outgroup leadership more negatively when it is responsible for the negative event. Implications of these findings for leadership studies through the lens of self and identity are discussed.


Pittinsky, Todd L., and Brian A. Welle. "The Role of Leadership Responsibility and Social Identity on Intra- and Intergroup Leadership Favorability Ratings." KSG Faculty Research Working Paper Series RWP04-040, November 2004.