In this paper we examine the role of out‐group signals and in‐group leader tactics in the choice and evaluation of rival in‐group leader candidates. Study 1 found preference for a negotiating in‐group leader over an oppositional leader, mediated by perceived leader effectiveness and prototypicality. In Study 2 participants chose a leader who had received out‐group endorsement and in Studies 3 and 4, participants chose a negotiating in‐group leader where the out‐group was prepared to negotiate and an oppositional leader where the out‐group was not prepared to negotiate. In the latter three studies, there was evidence for participants being strategic in their choices: effects were mediated by effectiveness but not prototypicality. These findings suggest our understanding of collective action will be enriched through attention to the situational cues provided by out‐groups, and to the context of competing voices of collective action leadership.