What we are about to tell you is a radical reframing of leadership.
Traditionally leadership practices put considerable effort into discovering the personal traits, strengths and qualities that mark out great leaders. Even when needs of team members have been taken into account, the emphasis has been on the characteristics of the leader and how these map on to the situation or team member needs.
Yet, the evidence shows that the psychology of leadership is never about ‘I’. It is not about that special characteristic that only a few possess that elevates them into a position of power. It’s about how leaders and team members come to see each other as part of the same ‘identity’ – as members of the in-group and part of the ‘we’
Successful leadership actually has very little to do with the personal attributes of the leader and everything to do with whether they are seen as part of the team, as a team player and able to create a compelling and powerful identity that team members are proud to be part of. It’s involves allowing team members to contribute to shared goals, to contribute to the team’s identity and to want to be part of this process. In short, leadership is very much a ‘we’ thing.
If leadership is truly a ‘we thing’, and the overwhelming evidence suggests that it is, then we need to understand exactly what this means, where it comes from and how it works. Answers to these questions, all centre around the role of social identity.