Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

John Kotter, fully John Paul Kotter

American Professor at the Harvard Business School and Author

"Corporations that do a better-than-average job of developing leaders put an emphasis on creating challenging opportunities for relatively young employees. In many businesses, decentralization is the key. By definition, it pushes responsibility lower in an organization and in the process creates more challenging jobs at lower levels."

"We know that leadership is very much related to change. As the pace of change accelerates, there is naturally a greater need for effective leadership."

"Leaders establish the vision for the future and set the strategy for getting there. "

"People are more inclined to be drawn in if their leader has a compelling vision. Great leaders help people get in touch with their own aspirations and then will help them forge those aspirations into a personal vision."

"Management is about coping with complexity."

"Overcoming complacency is crucial at the start of any change process, and it often requires a little bit of surprise, something that grabs attention at more than an intellectual level. You need to surprise people with something that disturbs their view that everything is perfect."

"People change their behavior when they are motivated to do so, and that happens when you speak to their feelings."

"Motivation and inspiration energize people, not by pushing them in the right direction as control mechanisms do but by satisfying basic human needs for achievement, a sense of belonging, recognition, self-esteem, a feeling of control over one's life, and the ability to live up to one's ideals. Such feelings touch us deeply and elicit a powerful response. "

"Leading change without credible communication, and a lot of it, employee hearts and minds are never captured."

"I have found that people who provide great leadership are also deeply interested in a cause or discipline related to their professional arena. "

"If you look at history, great leaders are all very self-confident people. They have extraordinary capacity to make decisions when other people crumble… Yet it never tips over into arrogance. As a matter of fact, the great, great leaders are often described with some astonishment by observers as having a certain humility and willingness to make themselves vulnerable."

"The most notable trait of great leaders, certainly of great change leaders, is their quest for learning. They show an exceptional willingness to push themselves out of their own comfort zones, even after they have achieved a great deal. They continue to take risks, even when there is no obvious reason for them to do so. And they are open to people and ideas, even at a time in life when they might reasonably think -- because of their successes -- that they know everything. Often they are driven by goals or ideals that are bigger than what any individual can accomplish, and that gap is an engine pushing them toward continuous learning."