As instances of sexual assault, racially-motivated hate crimes, and LGBTQA+ discrimination are increasingly coming to light in the U.S., many well-intentioned individuals from dominant groups (e.g., cisgender men, Caucasian, heterosexual) are standing up as allies to marginalized group members. Yet, the extant research on diversity, equity, and inclusion often focuses on reducing discrimination, not understanding and intentionally cultivating allyship. This research adopts a positive psychological lens to explore how well-intentioned individuals from dominant groups can play active roles as allies. Further, strong authentic allies are also likely to be motivated by their virtues/values to support their marginalized counterparts.
In this study, I introduce a new construct, exemplary allyship, and explore how it develops. I conducted life/career story interviews with leaders who are exemplary allies (i.e., who show extraordinary commitment to allyship at work; n = 25) to identify the virtues that motivate exemplary allyship. I mapped their developmental trajectory and stages of allyship development. Findings revealed that different types of virtues (e.g., fairness/justice) activate specific processes (e.g., acknowledging differences) at specific developmental stages (e.g., preliminary). Thus, this study offers a nuanced understanding of how exemplary allyship can be actively developed and the functions that virtues play in enabling it.