Aims: The process of becoming a professional is a lifelong, constantly mediated journey. Professionals work hard to maintain their professional and social identities which are enmeshed in strongly held beliefs relating to ‘selfhood’. The idea of implicit leadership theories (ILT) can be applied to professional identity formation (PIF) and development, including self-efficacy. Recent literature on followership suggests that leaders and followers co-create a dynamic relationship and we suggest this occurs commonly in the clinical setting. The aim of this paper is to describe a new model which utilises ILT and followership theory to inform our understanding of doctors’ PIF.

Methods: Following a literature review, we applied the core concepts of ILT and followership theories to theories underlying PIF by developing a mapping framework. We identified core themes, similarities and differences between the three perspectives and constructed a new model of PIF incorporating elements from ILT and followership. The model can be used to explain and inform understanding of medical practice and leadership situations.

Conclusion: The model offers insight into how concepts such as self-efficacy, prototypicality, implicit theories of self, power, authority and control and cultural competence result in PIF. Bringing together the theoretical frameworks of ILT and followership theory with PIF theories helps us understand and explain the unique dynamic of the clinical environment in a new light; prompting new ways of thinking about teams, interprofessional working, leadership and social identity in medicine. It also offers the potential for new ways of teaching, curriculum design, learning and assessment.

Keywords: Followership; Leadership; Professional Identity; Self Efficacy

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