Identity leadership and psychological safety in the context of esports teams


Although social identity has been linked to positive mental health (Cruwys et al., 2015), we know less about how the identity-enhancing behaviours of group leaders (i.e., identity leadership) relates to these same mental health outcomes. Electronic sports (Esports) is a growing industry and is becoming a hub for virtual group research (Freeman & Wohn, 2019). Due in part to toxic competitive online environments one outcome of interest is the mental health of Esports competitors. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the relationship between perceptions of identity leadership and psychological safety in Esports teams. Participants included 176 team based Esports competitors (Mage = 23.84; SD = 6.22; age range 16 to 52 years; 82.9% male). Data were collected concurrently in an online survey assessing identity leadership (ILI; Steffens et al., 2014) and psychological safety (Edmondson, 1999). A hierarchical multiple regression controlling for age, gender, and playing experience highlighted a positive relationship between identity leadership and psychological safety, accounting for 18% of the variance (p < .001). In terms of the different dimensions of identity leadership, identity entrepreneurship (ß = .31, p < .001) and advancement (ß = .21, p < .01) were significant predictors of psychological safety, whereas identity prototypicality was not significantly related. Overall, these results suggest a link between Esports team leaders promoting a shared sense of social identity within the team and the belief that members are protected from, or unlikely to be at risk of psychological harm.