A Social Identity Theory of Leadership by Michael Hogg | Free Essay Example

A Social Identity Theory of Leadership by Michael Hogg

Words: 1489
Topic: Business & Economics


Hogg, M.A. (2001). A Social Identity Theory of Leadership. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 5(3), 184–200.

Hogg’s article presents a vivid analysis of the social identity theory, which describes leadership as a group process rather than the role of an individual. The proponents of this theory review the meaning of leadership by using the collective attitudes, standards, beliefs, goals, objectives, and behavioral characteristics of groups and/or organizations. According to the article, the theory focuses on the significance of groups rather than the unique characteristics of an individual. According to the article, the individual prototype represents the needs of the entire group. This paper provides an analysis and critique of Hogg’s article on the social identity theory of leadership.

Main Concept of the Reading

The main concept expressed in the reading is the pragmatic review of the social identity theory of leadership that constitutes prototypical headship. Hogg (2001) discusses the numerous implications of this leadership in broad group aspects such as intergroup relations, uncertainty reduction, and extremism. According to the author, the social identity perspective entails a combination of behaviors that are exhibited by an individual who seeks recognition from the rest of the group members. Individuals exercise their eccentric traits within the groups in which they identify themselves. He refers to this practice as competition amongst the group members. As interaction deepens, these individuals achieve common objectives and goals for the group (Northhouse, 2012). According to Hogg (2001), individuals tend to emulate those leaders who contend with the prototypes of their group because they distinguish them as more compelling and responsive to their needs.

Nevertheless, the social identity leadership theory minimizes the aspect of individualism. Individuals assume the prototypical collective traits of a group or organization rather than conceiving themselves based on their idiosyncratic personalities (Hogg, 2001). Due to the assimilative nature of the social identity approach to leadership, individuals portray depersonalized intellectual functioning and behavior. Adaptation to group characteristics leads to disregard of self-cognitive functions that are necessary for leadership. The epitome of this theory depicts that a prototypical leader is bound to the interests of the group members (Connelly, Gilbert, Zaccaro, Threlfall, Marks, & Mumford, 2000).

In addition, social identity speculation fails to notice the eventualities of the past and civilization. As a result, advocates for the prototypical leadership have a preference for hypothetical, psychological, and sociological perspectives. The author asserts that social identity does not only depend on the prototypes of the group but also other factors that do not relate to the group.

The Main Conclusions/Arguments Presented by the Author

According to Hogg (2001), the effect of the social identity theory of leadership on organizations has triggered psychologists to abandon traditional social psychological analysis of group processes. The author concludes that traditional methods studied leadership based on sociological and philosophical perspectives. However, modern social psychological perspectives have enabled psychologists to review leadership based on predictable attitudes and behaviors of individuals and organizations. The author confirms that leaders can embrace the social identity theory alongside other theories of leadership since it has well-matched and correlated components such as social identity, intergroup relations, and self-enhancement (Hogg, 2001). The author claims that the theory has passed a number of evaluations that have proved its effectiveness in leadership due to the increasing interest in the social phenomenon.


The social identity theory provides crucial insights to psychologists in terms of modern ways of analyzing group processes through empirical research on social psychological phenomena such as social typecasting, preconception, self-concept, and intergroup relations (Hogg, 2001). Secondly, I have learned that leadership in the social identity construct is a product of prototypically ascribed traits and persuasion of other group members.

The theory implies that an individual’s opinion adjusts to the interests of the group, a situation that leads to depersonalization. There is a need to assimilate the construct of the social identity perspective in future leadership theories to achieve more complex and effective leadership styles. Contemporary leaders understand the need for one to familiarize themselves with group dynamics. Therefore, future leadership should appreciate the presence of groups within a social setting. Lastly, the social identity theory offers insights into the value and magnitude of contemporary research since it stimulates new knowledge about prototypical leadership from a psychological perspective (Connelly et al., 2000).

Questions that arise from the Reading

Two questions arise from reading. What factors define an individual as being prototypical in a group setting as opposed to being individualistic? What degree of uncertainty leads to disagreements between the prototypical leader and the followers? In the first question, the social identity leadership construct is based on the prototype of the group. In the social identity perspective, a leader has to bear behaviors that correspond to those of the group. Regardless of the presence of individuals as a collective entity, their personality traits remain in their cognitive thoughts. The theory has inadequate proof of the reduction or loss of personality traits through depersonalization and group identity.

The second question that arises from the reading is about the degree of uncertainty within the group that leads to the disagreement between the prototypical leader and members of the group. Mutual influence is a precondition of assuming a social identity within a group (Northouse, 2012). The social identity theory does not give an insight into the degree of disagreement that may possibly lead to uncertainty.

Assumptions and Justification of the Social Identity Theory

The authors of this theory make numerous assumptions. The authors assume the causal relationship between in-group identification and in-group bias. They fail to address the factors that determine the likelihood of in-group bias, such as the degree of group identification and relevance of the social identity to the members of the group. Persons get attracted more to other individuals due to other underlying factors such as affection and positive regard. The authors of the social identity theory of leadership also assume the issue of impermeability of the group boundaries. They do not take into account the external factors that may influence the in-group identification and in-group bias. The authors do not provide justification for the existence of positive correlations amongst group members.

The correlation between the group members is explained under complex philosophies that do not directly relate to positive interactions. The authors necessitate the need for constructive self-appraisal without comparing such a need with personal motives. The theory disregards self-identity in favor of social identity.

Concepts that I would Challenge

I would challenge the social identity concept from a psychological point of view. The authors of this theory claim that leadership emanates from the influence of a group. Essentially, this leadership depends on group prototypes (Hogg, 2001). However, the theory fails to explain the specific roles of the individuals in the in-groups. Regardless of their existence in a collective phenomenon, the eccentric characteristics of these individuals play a vital role in the manipulation of the group processes. According to Northouse (2012), the creativity and attractiveness of an individual in the group do not necessarily imply good leadership traits. Although the theory postulates that the group behavior eventually influences and evokes the leadership traits of an individual within the in-group, it fails to substantiate the change in the cognitive abilities of the individuals that make them assume the prototypical leadership.

General Implications of the Leadership Concepts and Perspectives

The concept of social identity and perspective of leadership has stimulated the engagement of researchers in more pragmatic research to examine and theorize other leadership concepts and perspectives. The social identity theory of leadership has challenged psychological and sociological researchers to expand their cognitive abilities to examine broad areas of social psychological phenomena such as intergroup relationships, stereotyping, and fanaticism. The social conflict theory also has implications on research studies that investigate social prejudice and discrimination, especially in workplaces.

The theory holds that the identification with distinctive groups in a social set up leads to in-group bias. Researchers use this fact to determine the causal relationships between in-group identification and in-group bias. Furthermore, the leadership perspective advances the knowledge of researchers on aspects of prototypical leadership, such as stereotyping. Northouse (2012) attests that the proponents of the theory limit the influence of individualism in leadership since they hypothesize that individuals within the group represent fixed mental opinions of the others.


The social identity theory is applicable in a variety of leading institutions. Despite its critics, there is a need to assimilate some of the theoretical concepts into other leadership styles, such as the situational and the trait approaches, among others. The concept of self-categorization and development of prototypical personalities is useful in solving some of the shortcomings of the abovementioned leadership styles. However, prior to the assimilation, researcher of the social identity construct have to focus more on the causal relationship that leads to in-group bias. In addition, they should explain the role of individualism in a group setting since it is psychologically difficult to preempt the cognitive functioning of an individual.

Reference List

Connelly, S., Gilbert, A., Zaccaro, J., Threlfall, V., Marks, A., & Mumford, D. (2000). Exploring the Relationship of Leadership Skills and Knowledge to Leader Performance. Leadership Quarterly, 11(1), 66-73. Web.

Hogg, A. (2001). A Social Identity Theory of Leadership. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 5(3), 184–200. Web.

Northouse, P. (2012). Leadership: Theory and Practice. New York, NY: SAGE Publications. Web.