Shared social identity content is the basis for leaders’ mobilization of followers

Matthew J. Slater*, Pete Coffee, Jamie B. Barker, S. Alexander Haslam, Niklas K. Steffens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: There is growing research interest in the social identity approach to leadership in sport. Researchers have examined how leaders’ representation of a shared social identity allows them to motivate group members but has neglected the role that identity content plays in this process. The present research addresses this issue in two experimental studies that examine the effect of sharedness in identity content (i.e., beliefs about what it means to be a member of a group) on leaders’ mobilization of group members.

Design: A 2 X 2 experimental — between-participant — design, with two shared and two non-shared conditions.

Method: In Study 1, 160 athletes imagined themselves in one of four sport team scenarios and responded to measures of mobilization (e.g., willingness to invest time on task). In Study 2 (laboratory experiment), we manipulated sharedness and assessed 114 participants’ behavioural mobilization and task performance. 

Results: Study 1 supports the hypothesis that identity content that is shared (rather than non-shared) between leaders and group members increases members’ willingness to invest time on a task. Study 2 replicates these results and also shows that increased effort among group members mediates the relationship between shared identity content and members’ improved task performance. 

Conclusions: The present research is the first to provide evidence that sport leaders’ capacity to mobilize the effort of group members rests upon their ability to build shared identity content.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)271-278
Number of pages8
JournalPsychology of Sport and Exercise
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019


  • Followership
  • Group dynamics
  • Leadership
  • Mobilization
  • Performance
  • Social identity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology


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