Rotating Leaders: Orpheus Orchestra

Categories: Leadership

How are the concepts of substitutes for leadership and leadership neutralizers relevant to this case?

Our OB book states that it has been proposed that there are substitutes for leadership that can diminish or replace the influence of leaders. Leadership neutralizer is defined as something that makes it impossible for leadership to make a difference. There are two instances which leaders will be less influential. The first is when subordinates have high levels of training and experience and are independent and professional.

The second is when the subordinates tasks are routine, clearly defined, and intrinsically motivating. The third is when the organization is formal and rigid, subordinates are on cohesive teams, and there is a special distance between superior and subordinate. This case was about a conductor less orchestra, which was unheard of at the time of their formation.

In the case, it states that this orchestra (Orpheus) has been a metaphor for structural change. All of the musicians in the orchestra are very smart (intelligent), and have had many years of experience playing (some at a very young age).

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This is the first instance where leadership will be less influential. Instead of having a traditional conductor, the orchestra rotates different people into the concertmaster position. The case states that this position is similar to a player-coach on a soccer team. The second instance is how the orchestra formed core groups when going over certain pieces. These core groups perform the same preparation as a conductor would do. The core group exerts it's influence mostly in the early stages of rehearsing a piece but the concert master has more influence as the performance date comes closer.

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Fifer states that having different people be concertmaster seemed like the only logical way to run group fueled by 60's idealism. Rotating alleviates the pressure of trying to get your way all of the time. The advantage of having different roles gives the members opportunity to develop leadership skills as well as the chance to be supportive. Roles change not only concert to concert, but to piece to piece too. This also gives the chance for each member to exert their influence which would not have happened in a traditional conductor lead orchestra.

Updated: Nov 01, 2022
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Rotating Leaders: Orpheus Orchestra. (2016, May 07). Retrieved from

Rotating Leaders: Orpheus Orchestra essay
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