Ensuring the safety of ourselves and our clients — Read More


Vanessa Akhtar


As a Director at Kotter, Dr. Vanessa Akhtar has two main areas of focus. She works on our most complex engagements, walking alongside clients in their transformation efforts. Additionally, she collaborates with Dr. John Kotter and a core team to drive our Research + Development efforts. Her ultimate goal is to help individuals and groups develop leadership skills across all levels of organizations, using carefully identified principles based on decades of Dr. Kotter’s research and business experience. With a doctorate in sport psychology and her prior working familiarity in Kotter’s work, she brings a unique perspective to her work at Kotter.

Vanessa is based out of the Cambridge, MA office.


What challenges do you most enjoy helping your clients solve?

It’s less about the specific challenge for me. Anything that requires people to change their behaviors to drive better outcomes and create a better place to work gets me energized. What’s most enjoyable for me is when I get to work with senior leaders who are deeply invested in the work, and open to really push themselves to show up and lead in new ways. 

Flashback to when you were 10 years old. What do you want to be when you grow up?

A stuntwoman. I was a serious gymnast at the time and was pretty much fearless. My mom wasn’t so supportive of that as a future career path, to say the least.

What are your superpowers?

My penmanship (I get comments on it anytime someone sees my notebook) and organization (oh-so-exciting, right?).

What’s got you thinking right now?

What’s most top of mind for me right now is how human nature impacts how people react to, experience, and lead through change. This thinking has expanded beyond just our work with clients, and colors so much of how I view the world and my own experiences in it. 

Share something about you that would most surprise people.

Completely useless trivia fact about me that most people don’t believe is that I can’t get a brain freeze. Believe me, I tried a lot as a kid (before I realized how absurd that was).