John Kotter

John Paul Kotter is the Konosuke Matsushita Professor of Leadership, Emeritus, at the Harvard Business School,[1] a New York Times best-selling author,[2] and the founder of Kotter International (a management consulting firm based in Seattle and Boston).[3] He is a well-known thought leader in the fields of business, leadership, and change.[4]

Early life[edit]

Kotter graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering in 1968 and a Master of Science in Management in 1970. Kotter then completed his Doctor of Business Administration in 1972 at Harvard Business School. Kotter is an alumnus of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity.


In 1972, the same year he completed his doctorate, Kotter joined the Harvard Business School faculty. He received tenure and a full professorship in 1981. He was later named the Konosuke Matsushita Professor of Leadership. Kotter retired as a full-time faculty member from Harvard in 2001.

In 2008, he co-founded Kotter International with two others, where he currently serves as Chairman.[5] The business consultancy firm applies Kotter’s research on leadership, strategy execution, transformation, and any form of large-scale change.

Since early in his career, Kotter has received numerous awards for his thought leadership in his field from Harvard Business ReviewBloomberg BusinessWeek,[6] Thinkers50,[4]Global Gurus[7] and others.

Written Work[edit]

Kotter is the author of 20 books, 12 of which have been business bestsellers and two of which are overall New York Times bestsellers.[2]

Leading Change[edit]

His international bestseller Leading Change (1996), “is considered by many to be the seminal work in the field of change management.”[8] William C. Finnie, Editor-in-Chief of Strategy & Leadership described it as “simply the best single work I have seen on strategy implementation”.[9] The book outlines a practical 8-step process for change management :

  • Establishing a Sense of Urgency
  • Creating the Guiding Coalition
  • Developing a Vision and Strategy
  • Communicating the Change Vision
  • Empowering Employees for Broad-Based Action
  • Generating Short-Term Wins
  • Consolidating Gains and Producing More Change
  • Anchoring New Approaches in the Culture

In 2011, TIME magazine listed Leading Change as one of the “Top 25 Most Influential Business Management Books” of all time.[10][11]

Our Iceberg is Melting[edit]

In 2006, Kotter co-wrote Our Iceberg is Melting[12] with Holger Rathgeber where those same 8 steps were expanded into an allegory about penguins. In the book, a group of penguins whose iceberg is melting must change in order to survive while their iceberg home melts.


More recently, Kotter released Buy In [13] (2010), A Sense of Urgency[14] (2008) and Accelerate (2014).[15]

His educational articles in the Harvard Business Review magazine continue to be among the magazine’s top sellers.[16] His Harvard Business Review article “Accelerate!”,[17] where he outlines a new type of business structure, won the 2012 McKinsey Award, recognizing it as the most significant article published in the magazine that year.[18]