Leadership as an ideograph: A rhetorical analysis of military leadership training material

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The current rhetorical study used McGee's theory of ideographs to identify how cultural politics influence efforts to portray "leadership" in a military setting. Such an approach seeks to better address some of the enigmas that have complicated the understanding of military leadership-and leadership in general-for decades. McGee's theory emphasizes that language reflects political as well as referential qualities and, in some instances, these attributes come into conflict. Acknowledging this reality in an applied setting can help address ambiguous issues that escape the net of prevailing social-science approaches to leadership inquiry. The rhetorical analysis, which examines U.S. Air Force leadership training material, documents the manner in which ideographic portrayals of leadership were pervasive in each training program, and it considers practical implications of such a situation. Most notably, the analysis provides an explanation of how ideographic portrayals of leadership implicitly emphasize cultural indoctrination over promoting social influence skills. Such an orientation fortifies the military hierarchy and perpetuates romantic views of the military profession, but it also blurs key distinctions between social control and social influence. It is suggested that because ideographs reflect vital cultural motives, associated problems are inherently difficult to remedy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-37
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Leadership Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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