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Why people tolerate transgressive leaders: Social identity advancement, group prototypicality, and charisma

Davies, Ben (2022) Why people tolerate transgressive leaders: Social identity advancement, group prototypicality, and charisma. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.93524) (KAR id:93524)


Transgressive leaders have the potential to cause widespread disruption and damage to organisations. Not only can leaders' misconduct have economic, legal, and social ramifications for organisational functioning, but national leaders who violate established rules may also threaten the social fabric of entire societies. Despite these implications, transgressive leadership is a rampant problem within groups and organisations, and such leaders are often treated sympathetically by in-group members. This thesis aimed to identify some of the social psychological constructs and mechanisms that encourage followers to tolerate the transgressive behaviours of their leaders.

Across eight studies using a variety of methods, populations, and contexts, I demonstrate the role of group prototypicality, identity advancement, and charisma in upholding the lenient treatment of transgressive leaders. Overall, findings from this thesis suggest that leaders who are perceived as having the group's best interests at heart are treated more sympathetically following their transgression. In part, this is because advancing group interests contributes towards perceptions of group prototypicality and charisma, which subsequently also encourage followers to treat their leader lightly. Additionally, perceptions of identity advancement encourage followers to rationalise the transgressive behaviour of their leader by downplaying how unethical their misconduct is, which paves the way for continued support of transgressive leaders.

The research in this thesis has theoretical implications for the social identity theory of leadership, subjective group dynamics theory, and the deviance credit model. This research also provides practical insights into the difficulties faced in managing or mitigating transgressive leadership, and point to potential mechanisms that may be targeted by future interventions in resolving such a key societal problem.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Leicht, Carola
Thesis advisor: Abrams, Dominic
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.93524
Uncontrolled keywords: leadership; social identity; group processes; prototypicality ; charisma; transgression
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HA Statistics > HA33 Management Science
Divisions: Divisions > Kent Business School - Division > Department of Leadership and Management
Funders: Organisations -1 not found.
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 09 Mar 2022 10:10 UTC
Last Modified: 10 Mar 2022 11:36 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Davies, Ben.

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