Citation Stevens M, Rees T, Steffens NK, Haslam SA, Coffee P & Polman R (2019) Leaders' creation of shared identity impacts group members' effort and performance: Evidence from an exercise task. PLoS ONE.
Abstract There is growing evidence that leaders’ effectiveness derives in part from their creation of a sense of identity that is shared by members of a group they are attempting to lead (i.e., their identity entrepreneurship). Little is known, however, about the impact of identity entrepreneurship in sport and exercise settings, particularly in relation to its effect on group members’ effort and performance. Using a pre-post between subjects experimental design, we examined the effect of leaders’ identity entrepreneurship on group members’ effort and performance during 5km cycling time trials. Following a baseline session (in which time trials were completed individually), participants (N=72) were randomly allocated to either a high or low identity entrepreneurship condition, and further randomly divided into groups of five (including a leader who was a confederate). In the subsequent test sessions (which participants attended with their fellow group members), leaders displayed either high or low identity entrepreneurship behaviors. Results indicated that, compared to participants in the low identity entrepreneurship condition, those in the high identity entrepreneurship condition maintained greater effort (maximum heart rate), and demonstrated improved (rather than poorer) performance (average power output in the first 60 seconds of time trials). Examination of pacing showed that the largest increases in participants’ average power output occurred in the early stages of their second time trials for those in the high identity entrepreneurship condition only. Results provide causal evidence that leaders who create a shared sense of identity among team members are able to inspire greater participant effort and performance.