Dr. John P. Kotter: Professor emeritus at Harvard Business School & Founder of Kotter International

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Dr. John P. Kotter is professor emeritus at Harvard Business School, and is often called the world’s foremost authority on leadership and change. His many books, including Leading Change and Our Iceberg Is Melting, have been translated into more than 200 foreign-language editions and have been bestsellers around the world. He is a founder and chairman of Kotter International, the go-to consulting firm for how change really happens today.

His latest book, a business fable featuring clans of meerkats, That’s Not How We Do It Here! will be released by Penguin Random House on June 7, 2016.

What do you do best?

Help people in organizations mobilize themselves to improve the outcomes they achieve. I do it through my own particular brand of research, writing, my consulting company, Kotter International, that does most of the work these days, and through speaking and teaching. I’m probably most effective when I’m having fun with it, and head and heart are both engaged.

What makes you the best?

Some natural skills relevant to what I do, combined with a lot of hard work and tons of help from some wonderful people, at first, much older than I am, and, increasingly today, much younger than I am.

What are your aspirations?

For some time now, I have believed that the world needs a lot more people providing some leadership in their arenas to make life on earth function better and, frankly, to give more meaning to people’s lives. My aspiration is that I can, in some small way, help to create or, if not create, then help others to foster a social movement toward what I call, “millions leading, billions benefitting.” I know that that can sound a bit much to people, but I deeply believe it is both needed and possible.

Biggest Success?

I haven’t had it yet. It’s coming sometime in the next 25 years.

Most Challenging Moment?

Starting a business has been more challenging than becoming a full professor at Harvard.

Favorite Motto?

My favorite tagline that has real meaning, and is not just meant to be cute and clever, I already gave you is “millions leading, billions benefiting.”

Favorite People?

My favorite person is my wife. After that, my children. I like the employees at Kotter International very, very much, and I had some wonderful colleagues at Harvard. There have also been some “favorite people” that I’ve never met, for example, Nelson Mandela on the political side. 

Favorite Places?

I love where I live, and where I’ve lived for many decades now: Boston. It’s an amazing, vibrant, innovative and diverse community. One fun place to be in the sun where my family and I have visited many times is a tiny island in the Caribbean called St. Barts. After that, it’s probably a long list, including London, Sydney, Paris…you get the idea.

Favorite Products?

Products = things, and I don’t much care deeply for things. Whether I like it or not, I seem to be highly dependent on my iPhone and, to a lesser degree, my iPad. Not sure how I feel about that, but if favorite has something to do with how you embrace them, like it or not, I suppose it falls somewhere in that definition. In general, I’m not a “product” guy.

Current Passions?

My biggest passions are the same as they have been for decades now: trying to figure out, through any mechanism I have to leverage, how to help more people become more effective at leading in more arenas for the sake of their employers, communities and families. And, after 32 years of marriage, I am still very passionate about my wife.