Examining the role of Donald Trump and his supporters in the 2021 assault on the U.S. Capitol: A dual-agency model of identity leadership and engaged followership

Haslam, S. Alexander; Reicher, Stephen D.; Selvanathan, Hema Preya; Gaffney, Amber M.; Steffens, Niklas K.; Packer, Dominic; Van Bavel, Jay J.; Ntontis, Evangelos; Neville, Fergus; Vestergren, Sara; Jurstakova, Klara and Platow, Michael J. (2022). Examining the role of Donald Trump and his supporters in the 2021 assault on the U.S. Capitol: A dual-agency model of identity leadership and engaged followership. The Leadership Quarterly, article no. 101622.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2022.101622

Abstract

This article develops a dual-agency model of leadership which treats collective phenomena as a co-production involving both leaders and followers who identify with the same social group. The model integrates work on identity leadership and engaged followership derived from the social identity approach in social psychology. In contrast to binary models which view either leaders or followers as having agency, this work argues that leaders gain influence by defining the parameters of action in ways that frame the agency of their followers but leave space for creativity in how collective goals are accomplished. Followers in turn, exhibit their loyalty and attachment to the leader by striving to be effective in advancing these goals, thereby empowering and giving agency to the leader. We illustrate the model primarily through the events of 6th January 2021 when Donald Trump’s exhortations to his supporters that they should ‘fight’ to ‘stop the steal’ of the 2020 election was followed by an attack on the United States’ Capitol. We argue that it is Trump’s willing participation in this mutual process of identity enactment, rather than any instructions contained in his speech, that should be the basis for assessing his influence on, and responsibility for, the assault.

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