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Rotating Leaders Orpheus Orchestra Case Study

Bülent Gögdün, Ulf Schäfer ()

Subject(s): Human resources management/organizational behavior

Keyword(s): Leadership, leading experts, leading clever people, leading in flat organizations, followership, non-hierarchical leadership, distributed leadership, shared leadership, team, self-governing teams, leadership in matrix organizations, leadership in network organizations, leadership rotation, leadership as a process, trust-control relationships

The minute video case study presents the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, a world-renown orchestra that works without a conductor and is thus very different from almost every other orchestra of its size in the world. The musicians are responsible for jointly developing the interpretation of a piece of music. Everybody is asked to contribute to this process. The orchestra members are rotated frequently, so that everybody is a soloist or section leader at times, in the "tutti" at other times. Put differently, every musician is a leader at times, a follower at other times. The case study is showing how the orchestra works in the context of workshops with executives from the corporate world. The case focuses on contributions by the musicians of Orpheus, outlining the vision, the process of work, and the underlying values shared by the orchestra members. The case illustrates principles of shared, distributed leadership and thus sheds light on traditional, hierarchical concepts of leadership and aspects of leadership and teamwork.

Teaching noteYes
Also available inGerman
Geographical settingUnited States
Size28 members
Setting period
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Week 7 Case Rotating Leaders: Orpheus Orchestra The Orpheus Orchestra is a conductor less orchestra. The concepts used for substitute leaderships are self governed, all levels of the organization have input. Motivation, decision making, performance and work are tasks each member has for neutralizing their leadership abilities. Fifer took a group of renegade musicians and built a sustainable enterprise whose goals ere idealism and satisfaction. The organization formed core groups that change regularly and formulate on interpretation of a piece. A concertmaster would be voted on by all 27 members for each piece. Each time they return to stage they take different seats in order to keep a different leader. Good communication skill and feedback from their colleagues make leadership qualities in all 27 members. All 27 members vote and lead themselves to form a self governed organization. Exercise

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