Regarded by many as the authority on leadership and change, John P. Kotter is a best-selling author, award winning business and management thought leader, business entrepreneur and Harvard Professor. His ideas, books, and company, Kotter, help mobilize people around the world to better lead organizations in an era of increasingly rapid change. Professor Kotter’s MIT and Harvard education laid the foundation for his lifelong passion for educating, motivating and helping people. His award-winning articles in The Harvard Business Review have sold more reprints than any other author’s, and his 2012 article, “Accelerate!” won the McKinsey award for the world’s most practical and groundbreaking thinking in the business/management arena. His books have reached millions, and have been printed in over 150 foreign language editions. His 1996 book, Leading Change, was selected by Time magazine in 2011 as one of the 25 most influential business management books ever written. To supplement his books and expand on his ideas, Kotter has released several videos on his teachings, many of which are accessible to anyone interested in his work via YouTube. Kotter’s research and pursuits in education, business, and writing have earned the respect of his peers, helped transform organizations around the world, touched countless lives, and still inspires others to adopt his methods and spread the word. He continues to work tirelessly to achieve his vision of “millions leading, billions benefiting.” Professor Kotter is a proud father of two and resides in Boston, MA with his wife.
Why did you decide to work at Kotter?
I didn’t decide to work here. I decided to help found it. It’s not unlike having children: once you do there’s no giving them back, and you wouldn’t want to, anyway.
What is the biggest impact you’ve seen take place at a client?
That’s hard to say now because we’re getting an increasing stream of significant impacts. In our first year or two, it would have been easier to say; today, it’s hard to pick out one. For each client the impact is huge for the people in the organization and for their customers. That’s like asking me which child is my favorite.
Who is your favorite leader?
My favorite leader in the last 50 years is Nelson Mandela because he had every right to be very angry at being imprisoned for 27 years and to take that out on the white South African population but instead he rose above all that and used a variety of leadership actions that achieved something close to a miracle of pulling the populations together in a way that was needed to build the country.
What’s got you thinking right now?
I’m interested in brain science and what it can tell us about how to meet the most difficult challenges that organizations and senior executives are facing right now. My thinking was accelerated by conversations I had with our President, Russell Raath, followed by discussions with my old friend, Professor Richard Boyatzis, of Case Western University, who is a collaborator and author on emotional intelligence books and articles.
Share something about you that would most surprise people.
I came to Boston to go to MIT to become a physicist.