How Leader Role Identity Influences the Process of Leader Emergence: A Social Network Analysis
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Contemporary literature on leadership emphasizes the importance of having a leader identity in building leadership skills and functioning effectively as leaders. We build on this approach by examining and unpacking the role of leader identity in leadership emergence. Taking the perspective that leadership is a dynamic social process between group members, we propose a social network-based process model whereby leader role identity predicts network centrality, which leads to leader emergence. We test our model using a sample of 88 cadets participating in a training course on leadership development. In support of our model, cadets who possess a stronger leader identity were more likely to emerge as leaders, as rated by peers and course trainers, and these relationships were mediated by two indicators of network centrality reflecting one’s ability to broker information (i.e., betweenness centrality) and one’s popularity (i.e., indegree centrality) within one’s group. Implications for research and practice are discussed.