Kotter, John P(aul) 1947-
KOTTER, John P(aul) 1947-
PERSONAL: Born February 25, 1947, in San Diego, CA; son of Paul Henry and Louise (Churchill) Kotter; married Nancy Dearman; children: Jonathon, Caroline. Education: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, B.S., 1968, M.S., 1970; Harvard University, D.B.A., 1972.
CAREER: Educator and management consultant. Harvard University Business School, Cambridge, MA, research fellow, 1972-73, assistant professor, 1973-77, associate professor, 1977-81, professor, 1981-90, Konusuke Matsushita Professor of Leadership, 1990-2002.
AWARDS, HONORS: Exxon Award for Innovation in Graduate Business School Curriculum Design; Johnson, Smith & Knisely Award for New Perspectives in Business Leadership.
(Coauthor with Paul R. Lawrence) Mayors in Action: Five Approaches to Urban Governance, Wiley (New York, NY), 1974.
(Coauthor with Victor A. Faux and Charles McArthur) Self-Assessment and Career Development, Prentice-Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1978.
Organizational Dynamics: Diagnosis and Intervention, Addison-Wesley (New York, NY), 1978.
(Coauthor with Leonard Schlesinger and Vijay Sathe) Organization: Text, Cases, and Readings on the Management of Organizational Design and Change, Irwin (Homewood, IL), 1979.
Power in Management: How to Understand, Acquire, and Use It, American Management Association (New York, NY), 1979.
The General Managers, Free Press (New York, NY), 1982.
Power and Influence: Beyond Formal Authority, Free Press (New York, NY), 1985.
The Leadership Factor, Free Press (New York, NY), 1988.
A Force for Change: How Leadership Differs from Management, Free Press (New York, NY), 1990.
(Coauthor with James L. Heskett) Corporate Culture and Performance, Free Press (New York, NY), 1992.
The New Rules: How to Succeed in Today's Post-Corporate World, Free Press (New York, NY), 1995.
Leading Change, Harvard Business School Press (Boston, MA), 1996.
Matsushita Leadership: Lessons from the Twentieth Century's Most Remarkable Entrepreneur, Free Press (New York, NY), 1997.
John P. Kotter on What Leaders Really Do, Harvard Business School Press (Boston, MA), 1999.
(Coauthor with Dan S. Cohen) The Heart of Change: Real-Life Stories of How People Change Their Organizations, Harvard Business School Press (Boston, MA), 2002.
SIDELIGHTS: One of the youngest individuals to be named a full professor in the history of the Harvard Business School, John P. Kotter has long been an acclaimed expert in the field of organizational behavior. Through his lectures and a number of best-selling books, he has promulgated his theories on leadership and management, and the many ways in which actual power and influence differ from formal hierarchical structures. While his work has focused primarily on private corporations, his first book concerns urban government, which he and coauthor Paul R. Lawrence examine in Mayors in Action: Five Approaches to Urban Governance. In this "uniquely comparative analysis of large city mayors," as a Choice reviewer called it, the coauthors interviewed officials in twenty big cities to identify how the personalities, agenda, and formal powers of different mayors affect their methods and success rates. The authors differentiate five different models for mayoral governance, ranging from "ceremonialist" through "program entrepreneur." "The major contribution of Mayors in Action is the joining of insights from two previously disparate fields, the highly descriptive work on mayoral behavior and the somewhat more advanced theoretical formulations and empirical research concerning complex organizations," wrote Theodore Reed in the American Journal of Sociology. Reed found that the "framework is quite helpful for understanding why the five model patterns arise, as long as one remembers that it is primarily a heuristic guide, not as fully defined or carefully specified as much work on complex organizations. It is less successful for evaluating the adequacy of mayoral performance—a fact which the authors recognize and discuss briefly." While noting the complexities and difficulties of this work, Patrick Healy III, writing in the American Political Science Review, concluded, "If mayors would take the time to assimilate this book, they would discover a number of findings from the research that have practical relevance to their efforts to be effective."
From big cities, Kotter turns to big corporations in Organizational Dynamics: Diagnosis and Intervention, part of the "Addison-Wesley Organizational Development" series. He sets forth a complex model for understanding how organizations interact with various external and internal factors, and how they can evaluate their own effectiveness. According to Contemporary Psychology reviewer John Slocum, "The questions posed in the appendix to guide the diagnosis of the dynamics discussed in the body of the book may well be worth the price of the book alone." Overall, however, Slocum concluded that "the author didn't do enough to prepare the executive to understand the dynamics of managing the constructs in the model."
Kotter's next few books focus on the critical role of managers during the late 1970s and early 1980s, a period when recession and threats from Japanese competition put enormous pressures on American business. In Power in Management: How to Understand, Acquire, and Use It, Kotter attempts to explain the special characteristics and limitations of managerial control. "The core of Kotter's thesis is that dependence on the activities of a variety of others is a distinguishing characteristic of managerial work," wrote W. J. Heisler in Personnel Psychology. This leads inevitably to power dynamics outside the formal hierarchy of the corporation, not because managers are necessarily power hungry but because their dependence on the performance of others forces them to go beyond their formal responsibilities to influence other players. The thesis is not entirely new, but Kotter "has taken this concept and made it alive and practical for the nonacademician," according to Heisler. "Kotter takes a single issue, power, and in crisp language offers a simple theory for understanding it," concluded Library Journal reviewer Judith Plotz. Kotter followed up with The General Managers, "a beautifully executed, indepth study … [that] goes far beyond the ordinary research study," according to a Choice reviewer. Kotter examines the actual performance of fifteen successful managers to determine what works best, in practice as opposed to theory. "Kotter's findings are enlightening and should be of great interest to all managers," concluded Library Journal contributor Michael Kathman.
Kotter delves further into questions of leadership in Power and Influence: Beyond Formal Authority. For Kotter, it is vital for leaders to mobilize people outside their jurisdiction and establish networks across departments. While this creates the potential for power struggles, Kotter sets forth ways in which to smooth over these difficulties. "Most of this material is self-evident, and individuals with good interpersonal skills do not need to study what common sense dictates. However, the approaches prescribed in this book are systematic, and several good support-building techniques are detailed," wrote Jean Fisher in Special Libraries. In The Leadership Factor Kotter further develops his theories on the difference between leadership and management, and its differences from entrepreneurship. In examining a number of top firms, such as Citicorp and General Electric, Kotter found that true leadership is sorely lacking in American corporations. "All in all, not an optimistic book but one that exhorts U.S. business to intensify work on a critical facet of competitiveness." Other case studies, such as A Force for Change: How Leadership Differs from Management and Corporate Culture and Performance, pinpoints ways in which executives at major corporations neglect opportunities for true leadership and how some corporate cultures undermine their chance for success in the marketplace.
In The New Rules: How to Succeed in Today's Post-Corporate World Kotter shows how a number of leaders have abandoned corporate culture altogether. A "fascinating account of the careers of 115 Harvard MBA graduates from the class of 1974," in the words of Personnel Psychology contributor Mark Lengnick-Hall, The New Rules reveals that more than one-third of these grads had rejected corporate careers in favor of small business and entrepreneurship, where they could be more creative and independent. Business Week reviewer Keith H. Hammonds was intrigued by Kotter's discovery but believed he should have "stopped here. … By inflating his twenty pages of substance into The New Rules' 239, he leaps from the startling to the mundane." Kotter uses both statistical and anecdotal data throughout the study, and for Lengnick-Hall, "The stories provide humanity for the statistics and the statistics provide generalizations beyond the stories."
Matsushita Leadership: Lessons from the Twentieth Century's Most Remarkable Entrepreneur was described as "a clear and compelling account of the factors that led to the businessman's remarkable success" by a Publishers Weekly reviewer. It tells the story of Konusuke Matsushita, who rose from poverty to found Japan's leading electronics firm, despite lacking family and political connections. For Industry Week contributor Vivian Pospisil, the book is "less an exhaustive biography than it is an exploration of what can be learned from the executive's life and legacy."
In 1996 Kotter came out with Leading Change, commended by a Publishers Weekly reviewer as "a truly accessible, clear and visionary guide to the business world's buzzword for the late '90s—change." In 2002 he and coauthor Dan Cohen followed this up with another biographical study, The Heart of Change: Real-Life Stories of How People Change Their Organizations. The authors interviewed key figures in over 100 organizations to find out how they implement change. "Throughout they pepper their discussion with arresting (and quotable) aphorisms, such as 'Dying will not help' and 'Honesty always trumps propaganda' to ensure that readers remain on task, engaged and awake," wrote a Publishers Weekly reviewer. "The inclusion of many first-hand, personal stories from people involved in change efforts make this a useful book for any organization," concluded Library Journal contributor Dale Farris.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Journal of Sociology, May, 1976, Theodore L. Reed, review of Mayors in Action, pp. 1521-1523.
American Political Science Review, December, 1977, Patrick Healy III, review of Mayors in Action, pp. 1668-1669.
Business Week, March 20, 1995, Keith H. Hammonds, review of The New Rules: How to Succeed in Today's Post-Corporate World, p. 14.
Choice, January, 1975, review of Mayors in Action, p. 1695; November, 1982, review of The General Managers, p. 472; May, 1988, J. C. Thompson, review of The Leadership Factor, p. 1443.
Contemporary Psychology, August, 1979, John Slocum, review of Organizational Dynamics: Diagnosis and Intervention, p. 655.
Industry Week, April 27, 1997, Vivian Pospisil, review of Matsushita Leadership: Lessons from the Twentieth Century's Most Remarkable Entrepreneur, p. 26.
Library Journal, June 15, 1979, Judith C. A. Plotz, review of Power in Management: How to Understand, Acquire, and Use It, p. 1333; May 15, 1982, Michael Kathman, review of The General Managers, p. 989; June 15, 2002, Dale Farris, review of The Heart of Change: Real-Life Stories of How People Change Their Organizations, p. 77.
Personnel Psychology, spring, 1980, W. J. Heisler, review of Power in Management, p. 655; autumn, 1996, Mark Lengnick-Hall, review of The New Rules, p. 746.
Publishers Weekly, August 12, 1996, review of Leading Change, p. 75; March 17, 1997, review of Matsushita Leadership, p. 63; June 3, 2002, review of The Heart of Change, p. 77.
Special Libraries, summer, 1987, Jean Fisher, review of Power and Influence: Beyond Formal Authority, pp. 243-244.*