The present research extends prior work by proposing that followers' social identification with a group can translate into their relational identification with leaders. Study 1 demonstrates experimentally that compared to low-identified followers highly identified followers perceive themselves to share relational identity with a leader when that leader is representative of their ingroup (but not if that leader is representative of an outgroup). Followers' relational identification in turn influences not only their experience of a personal bond with the leader but also perceptions of leader charisma. Study 2 replicates these findings in the context of Presidential candidates in the 2012 US election and extends them by examining leader prototypicality as a further moderating factor. Findings suggest that followers' experience of a ‘special’ and ‘personal’ bond with leaders arises from their social bond within a group that binds them together and provides a framework for their mutual relationship.
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