The Mainstream Is Not Electable: When Vision Triumphs Over Representativeness in Leader Emergence and Effectiveness

The Mainstream Is Not Electable: When Vision Triumphs Over Representativeness in Leader Emergence and Effectiveness

By
Nir Halevy, Yair Berson, Adam D. Galinsky
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. April
5, 2011, Pages 13

Theories of visionary leadership propose that groups bestow leadership on exceptional group members. In contrast, social identity perspectives claim that leadership arises, in part, from a person’s ability to be seen as representative of the group. Integrating these perspectives, the authors propose that effective leaders often share group members’ perspectives concerning the present, yet offer a unique and compelling vision for the group’s future. In addition, although intergroup contexts may increase the value of representativeness, the authors predict that vision dominates representativeness in single-group situations characterized by high levels of collective stress (e.g., a natural disaster). Five studies demonstrated that visionary leaders (those who offer novel solutions to their group’s predicament) attract more followers, promote group identification and intrinsic motivation, mobilize collective action, and effectively regulate group members’ emotions and reactions to crises compared to representative leaders. The authors discuss when, why, and how vision triumphs over representativeness in leader emergence and effectiveness.