Case #2134.0

Christine Lagarde

Publication Date: Sept 20, 2017
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The case covers the youth and career trajectory of Christine Lagarde, across her time at Baker & McKenzie, as a minister in the Government of France, and as the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The case highlights the challenges and opportunities that she faced during each phase of her career and how she managed them. Lagarde started her career in 1981 as a lawyer at the global law firm Baker & McKenzie, which employed approximately 2,500 lawyers across 35 countries by 1999, when she became the firm's first non-American and female chairman. In 2005, she became France's Minister for Foreign Trade in President Jacques Chirac's administration, and was the EU's de facto finance minister when the financial crisis was most acute. In 2011, she was then selected to head the IMF in 2011. Since 2011, Lagarde built the foundations for the IMF's adaptation to the realities of the twenty-first century. By 2017, shortly after Lagarde began her second term as the Managing Director of the IMF, the world faced pressing issues as a result of the rapidly-evolving, hyper-connected global economy-ongoing recovery from the global financial crisis, the rise of emerging economies, deeper cross-border integration, technological change, and growing wealth and income inequality within countries. These interrelated dynamics were playing out alongside heightened anxiety within the populations of some major advanced economies about what these changes meant for them. The concerns manifested themselves in an inward focus, rumblings of protectionism, and questions about the worth of international cooperation and the multilateral system itself. Lagarde believed that the challenges facing the world economy warranted not less but more global cooperation. In this context, she had to determine how the IMF--as the leading advocate of global economic cooperation since its creation--could better demonstrate its effectiveness. She knew that it was a critical moment.

This case includes a 13-min. video with excerpts from an interview with Christine Lagarde where she talks about her early years in the private sector, her experience with gender discrimination, her particular leadership style, and her relationship to power, among other topics. The video is chapterized and can be used as an assignment or played in class.

Other Details

Case Author:
Carin-Isabel Knoop, Vanessa Ampelas, Noemie Assenat
Faculty Lead:
Julie Battilana
Video Producer:
Patricia Garcia-Rios
Pages (incl. exhibits):
Funding Source: