Showing leadership by not showing your face: An anonymous leadership effect

Diana GRACE, Michael Platow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
45 Downloads (Pure)


We examined experimentally whether a person unknown to potential followers could be seen as showing leadership. Based on the social identity analyses of leadership, we predicted that would-be leaders pursuing group-oriented goals would be seen as showing leadership to a greater degree when they were anonymous than when they were identified. We predicted this pattern would reverse when would-be leaders pursued personal, self-oriented goals. Support for this hypothesis was found for all but the most highly identified group members. For extremely highly identified group members, a would-be leader's pursuit of group-oriented goals was all that mattered to produce relatively high levels of leadership perceptions. For all other participants, an anonymous, in comparison with an identifiable, group-motivated target was seen as showing relatively high levels of leadership. These data provide support for the social identity analysis of leadership, and help explain otherwise counter-intuitive and naturalistic observations of followership of anonymous leaders.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalSage Open
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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