Believing in "us": exploring leaders' capacity to enhance team confidence and performance by building a sense of shared social identity

J Exp Psychol Appl. 2015 Mar;21(1):89-100. doi: 10.1037/xap0000033. Epub 2014 Nov 17.


The present study examined the impact of athlete leaders' perceived confidence on their teammates' confidence and performance. Male basketball players (N = 102) participated in groups of 4. To manipulate leaders' team confidence, the appointed athlete leader of each newly formed basketball team (a confederate) expressed either high or low team confidence. The results revealed an effect of team confidence contagion such that team members had greater team confidence when the leader expressed high (rather than low) confidence in the team's success. Second, the present study sought to explain the mechanisms through which this contagion occurs. In line with the social identity approach to leadership, structural equation modeling demonstrated that this effect was partially mediated by team members' increased team identification. Third, findings indicated that when leaders expressed high team confidence, team members' performance increased during the test, but when leaders expressed low confidence, team members' performance decreased. Athlete leaders thus have the capacity to shape team members' confidence--and hence their performance--in both positive and negative ways. In particular, by showing that they believe in "our team," leaders are able not only to make "us" a psychological reality, but also to transform "us" into an effective operational unit.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Athletes
  • Athletic Performance / psychology*
  • Basketball / psychology*
  • Child
  • Emotions
  • Humans
  • Leadership*
  • Male
  • Motivation*
  • Psychology, Sports
  • Self Concept*
  • Social Identification*