Social Identity Approach to Leadership Development

McNickles & Associates apply the social identity approach to leadership, enabling leaders to accomplish their diversity, inclusion, and equity objectives more effectively. The social identity approach to leadership rests on the following assumptions:

  • Organizations consist of individuals, all of whom belong to and identify with various social groups.
  • To understand diversity, inclusion, and equity issues on the organizational level, leaders must understand diversity, inclusion, and equity issues on the individual level.
  • An individual’s identity is influenced by his or her group identifications. Race, age, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, economic class, religion, or ability\disability are common social categories for which individuals may have group identifications.
  • Within each category, there is a dominant social group with more social power and a subordinated group with less social power.
  • Members of the same social group will have varying views of how much their group memberships affect their self-concepts, values, and daily experiences.
  • Belonging to a social identity group, even if one does not consciously identify with that group, shapes the interpretation of experiences, interpersonal communications, and social interactions between groups.
  • The extent to which a person is aware that he or she is a member of the dominant or subordinate group within each social category, directly influences how organizational experiences are interpreted.

By applying the social identity lens to common leadership and management tasks, leaders will increase their capacity to build and maintain a diverse, inclusive, and equitable organization. The following leadership and management activities have more positive outcomes when leaders integrate the social identity lens.

  • Conducting performance appraisals
  • Providing employee feedback
  • Mediating conflict
  • Retaining and recruiting staff
  • Creating marketing plans