A thematic analysis of New Zealand’s historical Speeches from the Throne (10 speeches, from 1860-1899) investigated rhetorical strategies used by Governors during colonisation, to mobilise both settler and indigenous people’s participation in the British Empire. Identity leadership (Reicher & Hopkins, 2001, https://doi.org/10.1111/0162-895X.00246), augmented by critical theories of emotion (Williams, 1977, Marxism and literature. Oxford University Press) under the cultural framework of hierarchical relationalism (Liu, 2015, https://doi.org/10.1111/jtsb.12058) was applied to show how unequal but reciprocal relationships were invoked by Governors, as representatives of the Crown and advocates for the general public in New Zealand. Governors attempted to mediate a positive shared identity within the British Empire; but at the same time to isolate those who excluded from subjecthood by their hostility to the Crown. Governors alternated between efforts to mobilise people against indigenous Māori who challenged them, and offers to include Māori who conformed to the conventions required of a hierarchical relationship between Crown and subject. We reflect on how these dynamics of rhetorical performance may still be relevant today, especially in contexts of hierarchy and in the domain of leader-follower relations more broadly.