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Abstract

This experiment examined members' evaluations of a group leader and the group in contexts where a superordinate group comprised two subgroups and the group leader was aligned with one or other subgroup. The design varied group leader (ingroup, outgroup) and leader behavior (ingroup favoring, outgroup favoring) as well as the broader comparative context (intragroup, intergroup). Across a number of measures, results indicated a consistent Group Leader × Leader Behavior interaction that was independent of comparative context. Although group members were most satisfied with an ingroup leader who favored the ingroup, ingroup leaders were perceived positively irrespective of their behavior. Outgroup leaders who unexpectedly favored the other subgroup were also perceived positively. However, outgroup leaders who favored their own subgroup were perceived as less fair and as more biased than other leaders. They also engendered less identification with the superordinate group and a less unified perception of the group. Results demonstrate the importance of social identity concerns to leadership in nested group contexts and emphasize the fact that perceptions of leader fairness and concern for the common group mediate responses to the superordinate category. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.