Differences in the strength of endorsement for distributively fair and unfair leaders in interpersonal and intergroup situations were measured. Fair leaders were expected to receive stronger endorsements than unfair leaders in interpersonal situations. This difference, however, was expected to attenuate, if not reverse in intergroup situations when the unfairness favoured the ingroup. An attenuation effect obtained in Experiment 1 (N=49) using ad hoc groups in a laboratory setting. Attenuation and reversal effects obtained, respectively, in Experiments 2 (N=314) and 3 (N=213) using preexisting groups (students and New Zealanders, respectively) in a scenario setting. Fairness ratings followed patterns similar to leadership endorsements in Experiments 2 and 3. Finally, Experiment 3 showed a reversal in participants' private attitudes toward an issue about which the leader expressed an opinion. These data extend previous research on leadership endorsement and are consistent with predictions derived from Social Identity Theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1986). © 1997 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.