A social identity theory of leadership is described that views leadership as a group process generated by social categorization and prototype-based depersonalization processes associated with social identity. Group identification, as self-categorization, constructs an intragroup prototypicality gradient that invests the most prototypical member with the appearance of having influence; the appearance arises because members cognitively and behaviorally conform to the prototype. The appearance of influence becomes a reality through depersonalized social attraction processes that make followers agree and comply with the leader's ideas and suggestions. Consensual social attraction also imbues the leader with apparent status and creates a status-based structural differentiation within the group into leader(s) and followers, which has characteristics of unequal status intergroup relations. In addition, a fundamental attribution process constructs a charismatic leadership personality for the leader, which further empowers the leader and sharpens the leader-follower status differential. Empirical support for the theory is reviewed and a range of implications discussed, including intergroup dimensions, uncertainty reduction and extremism, power, and pitfalls of prototype-based leadership.