31 Transcending John Kotter Quotes

John Kotter, a New York Times best selling author and founder of Kotter International, is best known for his business and management leadership skills. As a Harvard Profession, Kotter lectures on the topics of leadership and change. Having authored the eight step process for leading change, Kotter focuses on the positive results lead by transformational change. Check out the following selection of transcending John Kotter quotes to inspire your own organization.

“A good rule of thumb in a major change effort is: Never underestimate the magnitude of the forces that reinforce complacency and that help maintain the status quo.”

“A great change leader creates other change leaders.”

“A higher rate of urgency does not imply ever-present panic, anxiety, or fear. It means a state in which complacency is virtually absent.”


“A leader needs enough understanding to fashion an intelligent strategy.”

“Anyone in a large organization who thinks major change is impossible should probably get out.”

“Because management deals mostly with the status quo and leadership deals mostly with change, in the next century we are going to have to try to become much more skilled at creating leaders.”

“Bureaucratic cultures can smother those who want to respond to shifting conditions. ”

“Effective leaders help others to understand the necessity of change and to accept a common vision of the desired outcome.”

“Establishing a sense of urgency is crucial to gaining needed cooperation.”

“Good communication does not mean that you have to speak in perfectly formed sentences and paragraphs. It isn’t about slickness. Simple and clear go a long way.”

“Great communicators have an appreciation for positioning. They understand the people they’re trying to reach and what they can and can’t hear. They send their message in through an open door rather than trying to push it through a wall.”

“Great leaders understand that historical success tends to produce stable and inwardly focused organizations, and these outfits, in turn, reinforce a feeling of contentment with the status quo.”

“Great leadership does not mean running away from reality. Sometimes the hard truths might just demoralize the company, but at other times sharing difficulties can inspire people to take action that will make the situation better.”

“In a change effort, culture comes last, not first.”

“Leaders establish the vision for the future and set the strategy for getting there; they cause change. They motivate and inspire others to go in the right direction and they, along with everyone else, sacrifice to get there.”

“Leadership defines what the future should look like, aligns people with that vision, and inspires them to make it happen despite the obstacles.”

“Leadership is all about the softer stuff. ”

“Leadership is different from management, but not for the reasons most people think.”

“Management is about coping with complexity.”

“Managers are trained to make incremental, programmatic improvements. They aren’t trained to lead large-scale change.”

“Never underestimate the power of the mind to disempower. ”

“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.”

“Producing major change in an organization is not just about signing up one charismatic leader. You need a group – a team – to be able to drive the change. One person, even a terrific charismatic leader, is never strong enough to make all this happen.”

“Successful transformation is 70 to 90 percent leadership and only 10 to 30 percent management.”

“The rate of change is not going to slow down any time soon. If anything, competition in most industries will probably speed up even more in the next few decades.”

“There is a rare person that I’ve met who is playing a leadership role and helping his or her company make big strategic adjustments to deal with an increasingly turbulent world in which the organizations are always ready; they’re just not.”

“There is no business that I’ve found yet that from the right direction that you can’t see something that people can get excited about.”

“Tradition is a very powerful force.”

“We are always creating new tools and techniques to help people, but the fundamental framework is remarkably resilient, which means it must have something to do with the nature of organizations or human nature.”

“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.”

“With the furious pace of change in business today, difficulty to manage relationships sabotages more business than anything else – it is not a question of strategy that gets us into trouble, it’s a question of emotions.”

The below video from John Kotter covers the change facing organizations in the 21st century. This change has been progressing at a quicker rate than organizations can respond to. Kotter shares some of his most vital observations from this monumental era.

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