Coding Military Command as a Promiscuous Practice: Unsettling the Gender Binaries of Leadership Metaphors

Karen Lee Ashcraft, Sara Louise Muhr

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Despite abundant scholarship addressed to gender equity in leadership, much leadership literature remains invested in gender binaries. Metaphors of leadership are especially dependent on gender oppositions, and this article treats the scholarly practice of coding leadership through gendered metaphor as a consequential practice of leadership unto itself. Drawing on queer theory, the article develops a mode of analysis, called ‘promiscuous coding’, conducive to disrupting the gender divisions that currently anchor most leadership metaphors. Promiscuous coding can assist leadership scholars by translating the vague promise of queering leadership into a tangible method distinguished by specific habits. The article formulates this analytical practice out of empirical provocations encountered by the authors: namely, a striking mismatch between their experiences in military fields and the dominant metaphor of leading as military command. Ultimately, the article seeks to move scholarly practices of leadership toward queer performativity, in the hopes of loosening other leadership practices from a binary grip and pointing toward new relational possibilities
Original languageEnglish
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)206-228
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Gender
  • Leadership
  • Metaphor
  • Military command
  • Queer
  • Sexuality

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