Literature suggests that diverse teams may struggle more than homogeneous teams to socially integrate, communicate and ultimately achieve high levels of performance. Many researchers also suggest that some teams are successful due to complementary leadership, with complementarities and communalities facilitating cooperation, supporting efficient decision making processes and keeping everyone focused on common objectives.
I would argue that, while this is certainly true, a second important factor should also be considered. The efforts by the leader to promote a strong superordinate identity, or a shared in-group identity, may also contribute to explain the success of some teams. The superordinate identity is the result of members of the team being different while at the same time part of an “elite” group which operates separately from the rest of the organization, with a common objective of the highest importance, with clearly defined deliverables and short deadlines requiring intense interaction among team members.
A superordinate identity helps diverse team members feel simultaneously similar and different, which would facilitate feelings of self-enhancement, belonging and at the same time distinctiveness. Diversity within the group along a salient dimension allows group members to be noticeably differentiated from one another, this satisfying their need for distinctiveness. At the same time, the superordinate identity allows group members to categorize one another as in-group members, thus satisfying individuals’ need for self enhancement. As it is the case for communalities, the shared identity should also facilitate connections to one another, therefore, satisfying people’s need to belong.
Summarizing, in a globalized world organizations need to rapidly develop and deploy diverse teams in order to successfully establish new growth businesses. I would argue that leaders should promote a strong superordinate identity to make these diverse teams successful in achieving high levels of performance. At the same time, only leaders with vision, passion and drive will likely be able to effectively promote a strong superordinate identity.