Lady Gaga - Born This Way?

Alt text Lady Gaga was named the artist of the year in 2010 by Billboard, her Monster Ball Tour was the 4th highest grossing tour of the year and her album 'Fame Monster' was the best selling in the world. By the end of 2010 she had seven consecutive songs that reached the two million mark in paid downloads in the US, with the total estimated sale of her recordings surpassing fifteen million albums and fifty-one million singles worldwide. Jamie Anderson and Jörg Reckhenrich of Antwerp Management School and Martin Kupp of ESMT European School of Management and Technology, talk about their new case about the phenomenon that is Lady Gaga.

Why Lady Gaga?

There were two factors that drove the development of this case. Firstly, we have been actively looking in to the topic of social media as this subject is becoming more and more important for executives in both our open and customised programmes. Secondly, we listened to the student voice. We have a case on Madonna that we use very successfully to teach the topic of competitive strategy. During the last two years participants repeatedly said that while discussing Madonna’s career was instructive and inspiring, we should think about writing a case on Lady Gaga as she seems to be the new Madonna.

Alt text Writing the case

It was very important to work as a team when developing this case. The data was so rich and Lady Gaga’s approach has so many facets that it was very helpful to split the work and make use of the different perspectives on the team. Jamie focused on her strategic approach, Jörg on her artistic concept and Martin on innovation with respect to her strategy, leadership interpretation and use of social media. Jörg’s perspective as an artist was especially valuable in this process and he observed that Lady Gaga’s approach was similar to that of artists such as Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst.

The main challenge when writing this case was coming to the point where we decided this is it, we have enough meat for a good case, as every day Lady Gaga makes new moves and adds to her story. We finally found a good way to restrict ourselves, tying in our publication date with the day Lady Gaga launched her new album ‘Born this way’ on 23 May 2011.

Teaching objectives

We wanted this case to discuss a concept called leadership projection that we present in our book, The Fine Art of Success. This concept is an integrative approach of communication, behaviour and aspiration that provide a leader with wide recognition across an industry or sphere of public life. An important element of leadership projection is the ability of an individual to project him or herself into a future role that is much more influential than the current state. Leadership projection is very much about followership - after all, a true leader only exists if he or she can excite loyalty in others. It involves a communication approach that typically integrates three universal story lines to excite and gain buy-in from followers:

  •  Who am I - how life experience has shaped my individuality and character
  •  Who are we - demonstrates and guides the values and behaviours of a group
  •  Where are we going - explains what is new, and creates a sense of excitement about direction.

The Lady Gaga case study helps deliver a discussion of this concept and the challenges for leaders in established companies.

Engaging with students

Alt text

The discussion that this case generates in the classroom is very rich. Students know Lady Gaga and the fact that she is controversial also stimulates the conversation. Typically, students as well as executives believe that there is nothing to learn from musicians and artists as they are too far away from the business world. This creates a nice tension and, in our experience, at the end of the session students are very receptive to the issues we raise while discussing Lady Gaga and her business approach.

We encourage you to follow Lady Gaga on twitter or become a fan on facebook, at least for a few weeks to experience her leadership projection.

Case details

Jamie Anderson and Jörg Reckhenrich, Antwerp Management School
Martin Kupp, ESMT European School of Management & Technology GmbH
Ref 311-099-1

About the authors

Jamie Anderson is jointly Adjunct Professor in Strategic Management with Antwerp Management School, Belgium and the Lorange Institute, Switzlerland.

Martin Kupp is Faculty Professional, ESMT European School of Management and Technology,
Germany and Head of Practice Group Technology-Based Industries, ESMT Customized Solutions.
 Twitter @martinkupp

Jörg Reckhenrich is jointly Professor in Innovation and Creativity at the Lorange Institute of Business, Switzerland and Antwerp Management School, Belgium.
 Twitter @reckhenrich

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If you have recently registered a case with us and would like the chance to talk about your experience of writing and teaching it please contact Antoinette.
Antoinette Mills Antoinette Mills
Media and Systems Development Manager
+44 (0)1234 756416