Academy of Management Review
2010, Vol. 35, No. 4, 627–647.
WHO WILL LEAD AND WHO WILL FOLLOW? A
SOCIAL PROCESS OF LEADERSHIP IDENTITY
CONSTRUCTION IN ORGANIZATIONS
D. SCOTT DERUE
SUSAN J. ASHFORD
University of Michigan
We propose that a leadership identity is coconstructed in organizations when individuals claim and grant leader and follower identities in their social interactions.
Through this claiming-granting process, individuals internalize an identity as leader
or follower, and those identities become relationally recognized through reciprocal
role adoption and collectively endorsed within the organizational context. We specify
the dynamic nature of this process, antecedents to claiming and granting, and an
agenda for research on leadership identity and development.
people can enter into irrespective of their formal
role or position within an organization. Similarly, recent research on team leadership conceptualizes it as a shared property of the group
such that all members of the group, regardless
of their formal role or position, participate in the
leadership process (Carson, Tesluk, & Marrone,
2007; Morgeson, DeRue, & Karam, 2010; Pearce &
If leadership is not simply prescribed because
of one’s position in an institutionalized hierarchy, then a fundamental question that remains
to be answered is how leadership and leaderfollower relationships develop in organizations.
What are the relational and social processes
involved in coming to see oneself, and being
seen by others, as a leader or a follower? This
article presents a theory explaining the development of a leadership relationship that is composed of reciprocal and mutually reinforcing
identities as leaders and followers, is endorsed
and reinforced within a broader organizational
context, and is dynamic over time.
By illuminating the interplay of leader and
follower identities in the development of a leadership relationship, our theory makes several...