36 Splendid John P. Kotter Quotes

John Kotter is a Professor of Leadership and New York Times best selling author. As the founder of Kotter International, Kotter is best known as a thought leader in the fields of business and change. With a dozen books reaching the best selling list, here is a listing to some of the most memorable quotes ever documented.

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

“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.”

“Changing behavior is less a matter of giving people analysis to influence their thoughts than helping them to see a truth to influence their feelings.”

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

“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.”


“Good communication is not just data transfer. You need to show people something that addresses their anxieties, that accepts their anger, that is credible in a very gut-level sense, and that evokes faith in the vision.”

“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.”

“If the culture you have is radically different from an ‘experiment and take-risk’ culture, then you have a big change you going to have to make – and no little gimmicks are going to do it for you.”

“I’m impatient. Typically people think they know all about change and don’t need help. Their approach tends to be more management-oriented than leadership-oriented. It’s very frustrating.”

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

“In an ever changing world, you never learn it all, even if you keep growing into your 90s.”

“In the final analysis, change sticks when it becomes the way we do things around here.”

“Kotter International is about leading large-scale change, not just managing it.”

“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 about setting a direction. It’s about creating a vision, empowering and inspiring people to want to achieve the vision, and enabling them to do so with energy and speed through an effective strategy.”

“Leadership produces change. That is its primary function”

“Low lights signal to our senses that the workday may be over and it’s time for sleep, making it hard for an audience to pay careful attention.”

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

“Many years ago, I think I got my first insight on how an incredibly diverse team can work together and do astonishing things, and not just misunderstand each other and fight.”

“Most US corporations today are over-managed and under-led. They need to develop their capacity to exercise leadership.”

“Neurologists say that our brains are programmed much more for stories than for abstract ideas. Tales with a little drama are remembered far longer than any slide crammed with analytics.”

“One of the most common ways to overcome resistance to change is to educate people about it beforehand. Communication of ideas helps people see the need for and the logic of a change.”

“People change what they do less because they are given an analysis that shifts their thinking than because they are shown a truth that influences their feelings.”

“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.”

“The central issue is never strategy, structure, culture, or systems. The core of the matter is always about changing the behavior of people.”

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

“The vast majority of large scale change efforts fail. Which means that the probability that you have actually experienced a failure, and your people know that and are pessimistic, therefore, about trying something again, is very high.”

“The world has 6 billion people and counting. We need to help 500 million people become better leaders so that billions can benefit.”

“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 learn best – and change – from hearing stories that strike a chord within us.”

“We started Kotter International to improve leaders’ ability to deal with big, important transformations in organizations – and in their lives.”

“We worry about appearing awkward in a presentation. But up to a point, most people seem to feel more comfortable with less-than-perfect speaking abilities.”

“Without credible communication, and a lot of it, the hearts and minds of others are never captured.”

John Kotter from the Harvard Business School, does a phenomenal job at presenting the importance and value of urgency in an organization.