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Leadership legitimacy and the mobilisation of capital(s): disrupting politics and reproducing heteronormativity

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/12/2021
Issue number6
Number of pages22
Pages (from-to)693-714
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date11/05/21
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The rise of populist leaders in the political sphere mounts a challenge to normative understandings of leadership. To better understand this challenge, we examine how political leaders mobilise different forms of social capital in pursuit of leadership legitimacy, providing insight into the dynamics of how leadership norms are maintained. While research has tended to focus on specific forms of capital, this article considers capital as multi-dimensional and strategically mobilised. The article applies a multimodal analysis to examine interactions between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton during peak ‘Twitter Moments’ of the three 2016 presidential election debates. We theorise the paradoxical dynamics of the mobilisation of multiple capitals and their intersection as a simultaneously disruptive and reproductive resource. While the mobilisation of multiple capitals operates to disrupt traditional notions of who can claim legitimacy as a leader in the political field, their disruptive mobilisation serves to reproduce implicit heteronormative leadership values. Hence, our theorisation illuminates the resilience of implicit leadership values, and their intimate connection with heteronormativity, calling for the need to interrogate leadership legitimacy claims that promise ‘new’ approaches.