Benjamin Millepied at the Paris Opera Ballet

Published 26 Jul 2019
Reference 6499
Region Europe
Length 20 page(s)
Language English

In December 2015, barely one year into his tenure as the head of the Paris Opera Ballet (POB), celebrity dancer, choreographer, and entrepreneur Benjamin Millepied was caught in a storm of controversy. Hired to bring energy and modernity to one of France’s oldest artistic institutions, Millepied laid out an inspiring vision of renewal and a strategy focused on developing new talent and enhancing the POB’s social relevance and global visibility. In the process, however, he created turmoil. Promoting younger dancers in defiance of the established hierarchy, advocating diversity and social engagement, presenting the work of American choreographers instead of French classics, and openly criticizing the POB’s restrained style pit Millepied against the established order . The case chronicles Millepied’s efforts to transform the POB, focusing on the interplay between responsible leadership and organizational culture. Most organizations seek to balance business goals with social impact, urging employees to be inspiring and innovative, and bringing in outsiders with a “global” outlook to shake up “local” mind-sets. The case explores a fundamental issue for such endeavors to succeed: Responsible leadership entails more than a compelling vision. It also means sustaining a strong institutional culture while fostering diversity and innovation.

Teaching objectives

1. The role of a ‘strong culture’ in defining and sustaining an organization. Students are challenged to consider the impact of a strong culture, which most will consider a positive feature of an organization, on employees’ experiences and on the organization’s development. 2. Responsible leadership in the context of dual aims. Students must consider what ‘responsible’ leadership entails in organizations that strive to pursue both commercial success and social impact, and that value tradition while clamouring for change. 3. The purpose and impact of organizational transformation. Organizational change is difficult, especially if it involves the defining aspects of an organization’s culture—its systems, norms, and signature style. The benefits of disruption are often taken for granted, but this case requires students to consider whether disruption is always desirable, valuable, or even necessary. 4. Talent management as a lever for cultural change. Students will likely be instrumental in identifying, managing, and promoting talent in their future firms. The case helps them realize the centrality of deciding who is called “talent” and how, to the replication or change of a firm’s culture. The case illustrates the contrast between opposite approaches, one based on formalized rules and processes and the other on a case-by-case assessment.

  • Leadership
  • Organizational change
  • Organizational culture
  • Talent Management
  • Digital Transformation
  • Responsible leadership
  • Leadership succession
  • National culture
  • Diversity
  • Hybrid organizations
  • Outsider CEO
  • Globalization
  • Benjamin Millepied
  • Paris Opera Ballet
  • Q41819