44 Superb John Kotter Quotes

John Kotter is a New York Times best-selling author and founder of Kotter International. Known as being one of the top thought leaders in the fields of business and leadership, Kotter has dedicated his life to educating others on leading change and making a difference. With more than a dozen business bestsellers under his belt, here is a look at some of the most notable John Kotter quotes ever documented.

“A culture truly changes only when a new way of operating has been shown to succeed over some minimum period of time.”

“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.”

“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 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 motivate large groups of individuals to improve the human condition.”

“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.”

“Great vision communication usually means heartfelt messages are coming from real human beings.”

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

“In its most basic sense, leadership is about mobilizing a group of people to jump into a better future.”

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

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

“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 coping with change.”

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

“Leadership produces change. That is its primary function.”

“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 people don’t lead their own lives – they accept their lives.”

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

“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.”

“Motivation is not a thinking word; it’s a feeling word.”

“Never underestimate the magnitude of the power of the forces that reinforce the status quo.”

“Never underestimate the power of a good story.”

“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. The education process can involve one-on-one discussions, presentations to groups, or memos and reports.”

“Outsiders have the intuitive ability to continually view problems in fresh ways and to identify ineffective practices and traditions.”

“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.”

“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 heart of change is in the emotions.”

“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.”

“This is true even in organizations that are very focused on analysis and quantitative measurement, even among people who think of themselves as smart in an MBA sense.”

“We keep a change in place by helping to create a new, supportive, and sufficiently strong organizational culture.”

“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.”

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

“Without conviction that you can make change happen, you will not act, even if you see the vision. Your feelings will hold you back.”

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

In this video, John Kotter takes some time to explain his resistance to change and the best ways to handle and manged this type of environment.

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