It’s All About John Kotter (And His Process)

If there is one person equipped to discuss entrepreneurial leadership and management, it’s John Kotter. He has an Ivy League educational background and has been teaching at Harvard Business School for over four decades. 

For John, it’s all about the process– from creating change within organizations to project management and strategic planning. As he has done for other companies, his project management skills can also bring transformational change to your business.

You need to know John Kotter if you want to take your residential home service business to the next level. Here, we’ll explore who John Kotter is, his works and how his principles can improve your strategic planning process.

Who is John Kotter?

John Kotter believed that his education laid the foundation for his burning passion to educate, motivate and help people. His thought process and management skills are merely the joyous fruits of his entire history. In order to master and understand them fully, it’s important to focus the spotlight on the man himself for a moment. 

Kotter is described by many as the leading authority when it comes to leadership, management, and change. It was his MIT and Harvard education that he attributes to awakening his calling to help businesses globally. For this reason, he continues to deliver seminars and teach in the Executive Education Program at Harvard Business School. Students describe his lessons as life-altering.

John Kotter is a New York Times best-selling author who has published a total of 21 books since 1974. The principles surrounding his publications have supported the thriving and mobilization of business in the face of rapid change. Among other leadership and management speakers, Kotter remains the premier voice to help organizations achieve successful transformations.

His vast experience has granted him the title: Konosuke Matsushita Professor of Leadership, Emeritus at the Harvard Business School. It is a title that comes from the name of Panasonic’s founder, regarded as the “God of Management” in Japan. In 2008, Kotter established Kotter International which provided companies with practical skills to lead change in a highly complex landscape. 

John Kotter’s influence on organizational leadership remains true time and again. If you want your business to thrive in this rapidly changing economy, John Kotter’s process is worth considering. 

Through the years, Wizard of Sales® has been a student of John Kotter’s strategic planning, management skills, and timeless principles. We believe we are equipped to make that desired transformational change in your business a reality. Book a call.

Kotter on Leadership versus Management (1990)

Despite contemporary business using the terms leadership and management interchangeably, Kotter believed they’re quite dissimilar. In 1990, he argued that the two concepts are distinct in definition and in function. However, he also believed that both are complementary systems to have in an organization. 

“Leadership and management are two sides of the same coin.” -Ryan Chute

Not everyone who holds a managerial position is a leader. And leaders rarely make great managers. Oftentimes, managers use their positions to make people listen, while leaders lead without having the need for a title. In other words, a manager is more commonly a rank and implementation, while leadership is more of a visionary role. Anyone can be a leader. 

Here’s a further breakdown of the two:


As the name suggests, leadership is the act of leading people. If there’s one thing in common between the two, it’s their influence over a group of individuals. With that said, being a leader entails having followers.

Do you have a role model in your life who has inspired you in so many ways? John Kotter would say that these people displayed the leadership traits that made them influential and impactful. 

According to Kotter, leadership fundamentally has to do more with creating a vision and building excitement among the team. This vision will be the north star that guides and encourages people to pursue a goal and change forward.

A huge difference between the two is that leaders focus more on driving change. It’s this quality that helps leaders develop and articulate the goals of an organization. Leaders help members of a company see the big picture. To this end, leadership relies heavily on effective communication and motivational skills to inspire and energize your Realm of Association.


Management has more to do with controlling tasks. A manager then uses various processes to control people within an organization to complete tasks that lead to desirable results. Management shouldn’t be viewed negatively, as it is equally important for any company as Leadership.

According to John Kotter, management focuses on order and rules. If leadership is about building a vision, management deals with the implementation processes to make that vision happen.

You have to organize your team in a way that streamlines all processes and simplifies the journey into bite-sized steps. Managers do this by administering coordinated actions and implementing tactical processes. It’s managers who make sure everyone works in league with the vision at the highest level.

The best managers are also expected to be leaders, especially in small businesses. Otherwise, management is only done from a place of power. We want to avoid controlling people and motivate them instead. Weak managers get compliance. Great leaders inspire. We want employees following because they want to, not because they’re required to.

John Kotter dispels the clash between the two titans and insists both are essential for organizational success. You want to build a desirable and compelling vision for your company through leadership. It is management that creates processes, and implements the vision with employees. 

John Kotter Work

John Kotter’s Work

In a span of almost 50 years, John Kotter has produced 21 books in total. Below, we’ll revisit all of his books and look at how they can impact your business:

Mayors In Action: Five Approaches to Urban Governance

Authors: John Kotter, Paul R. Lawrence

Date of publication: 1974 


The book features five real-life case studies of mayors who successfully tackled big problems in their cities. The case study on John V. Lindsay, the former mayor of New York City, is particularly interesting.

Kotter and Lawrence observe that Lindsay was an excellent communicator with a knack for bringing people together to solve problems. They also note that he was very decisive and able to get things done quickly. They conclude that these two qualities were essential to his success as a leader. It’s also clear that Lindsay had leadership and management qualities rolled into one.

Self Assessment _ Career DevelopmentSelf Assessment & Career Development

Author: James G. Clawson, John Kotter, Victor Faux, Charles C. McArthur

Date of publication: 1991


The authors offer a self-assessment tool to help readers identify their own leadership styles and preferences. They also provide guidance on how to develop a career plan that will maximize the strengths of a leader.

Power in Management: How to Understand, Acquire, and Use it

Author: John Kotter

Date of publication: 1979


The book provides readers with a framework for understanding power in organizations. It also offers advice on how to acquire and use power effectively as a leader. The book teaches that there are different types of power and that effective leaders use a variety of power sources. For example, positional power helps make firm decisions while personal power is used to influence others.

Organization – Texts, Cases, and Readings on the Management of Organizational Design and Change

Author: John Kotter, Leonard A. Schlesinger, Vijay Sathe

Date of publication: 1979


The book offers a comprehensive and practical approach to organization design and change. It provides readers with tools to assess their organizations, diagnose problems, and implement solutions. The book also includes case studies of successful organizational designs and changes.

The General Managers

Author: John Kotter

Date of publication: 1986


This book shatters the widely accepted notion that managers can be generalists. According to John Kotter, the best managers are specialists or those who focus on one particular industry. This can help them better understand the intricacies, establish working relationships and build connections. It is a feat that any generalist manager will struggle to achieve, no matter how talented.

Power and Influence

Author: John Kotter

Date of publication: 1985, 2008


The business landscape has evolved beyond having commanders and followers. There are layers of intricacies that make running a business more complicated in the modern world. This book teaches how people can exercise the power and influence to get things done through others.

The Leadership Factor

Author: John Kotter

Date of publication: 1988


In this book, John Kotter outlines the leadership traits and personal attributes required to thrive in today’s corporate landscape. He underscores his arguments from comprehensive data from many senior execs plus examples of managerial failure. Finally, he provided a program designed to help business leaders help attract, retain and motivate talents.

A Force for Change: How Leadership Differs from Management

Author: John Kotter

Date of publication: 1990


In “A Force for Change”, Dr. Kotter explains, using compelling evidence, what leadership truly means. This is where John Kotter differentiated leadership and management. Although different, he did say both were essential for business success, especially for complex organizations. 

Corporate Culture and Performance

Author: John Kotter, James L. Heskett

Date of publication: 1990


John Kotter and James Heskett trace the direct relationship between company culture and overall performance. He broadly defines culture as the heritable behavioral patterns, normative values and shared attitudes within an organization. Any organizational culture can dictate the success or failure of an enterprise.

We recognize that culture is more than values and practices, but is entirely everything that makes a business unique. It is one of the three touchpoints of a company along with story and experience. Wizard of Sales® can help create the organizational culture for your business like no other.

The New Rules

Author: John Kotter

Date of publication: 1995


Through two-decades-long research on 115 Harvard Business School graduates, John Kotter has formulated the secret sauce to success. This book outlines the significant shift he detected where old strategies no longer apply in today’s marketplace. The eight business breakthroughs he discussed ranged from leadership advice to actionable guidance. 

Leading Change

Author: John Kotter

Date of publication: 1996


“Leading Change” contained the now-legendary eight-step process of leading and not managing change. The process he outlines has become the standard for countless businesses and entrepreneurs worldwide. He shares useful examples of how the principles are implemented. All information he shares is backed by experience on why leaders are the main cause behind the failure to change.

Matsushita Leadership: Lessons from the 20th Century’s Most Remarkable Entrepreneur

Author: John Kotter

Date of publication: 1997


In this book, John Kotter recounts the tragic yet fascinating life of Japan’s God of Management– Konosuke Matsushita. Despite the many hardships, life-altering experiences and poverty throughout his life, Matsushita never failed. He showed that success is achieved through hard work and effort. This book demonstrates the power of a futuristic outlook, goals and humility.

Matsushita Leadership is both a biography and a set of powerful lessons for readers.

John P. Kotter on What Leaders Really Do

Author: John Kotter

Date of publication: 1999


John Kotter is recognized and widely accepted as the authority on leadership. This book supports that notion by showing his astute assessment of a leader’s real work. In turn, he teaches readers how to become better and more effective leaders in their category.

The Heart of Change: Real-Life Stories of How People Change Their Organizations

Author: John Kotter, Dan S. Cohen

Date of publication: 2002


“The Heart of Change” acknowledges that organizational change is hard. The reason for that is change demands more than transforming processes and structures. It’s about altering people’s behaviors. This is Kotter’s essential complement to his bestseller, “Leading Change,” from a few years back. In this book, he teaches leaders how to activate and motivate their teams. Finally, they end the narrative with how-to and how-not-to discussions.

Our Iceberg is Melting

Author: John Kotter, Holger Rathgeber

Date of publication: 2006


“Our Iceberg is Melting” is Kotter’s shot on an allegory to deliver a powerful message on change and leadership. On the surface, it’s a story about a penguin colony facing a dilemma. Underneath the narrative is a lesson on the fear of change that commonly plagues businesses. He also shows how leaders can motivate subordinates to take action.

A Sense of Urgency

Author: John Kotter

Date of publication: 2008


We live in a highly turbulent time and competitive world. “A Sense of Urgency” is a book to help anyone win during this heated economic climate. While management control systems and experts in damage control are there to keep businesses afloat, they can only do much. Leaders need to know how to properly handle crises to thrive and survive. This book is a powerful tool for that purpose.

Managing Your Boss

Author: John Kotter, John J. Gabarro

Date of publication: 2008


It’s not manipulation or a corporate cozying-up scheme. “Managing Your Boss” is about cultivating a relationship between you and your boss based on mutual respect. The authors urge readers to manage their boss, as this will be beneficial for everyone through a productive bond.

Buy In: Saving Your Good Idea from Getting Shut Down

Author: John Kotter, Lorne A. Whitehead

Date of publication: 2010


This book is not about getting buy-ins, but ensuring your proposals get enough support to ensure their “buy-ins.” Don’t let great ideas get thrown down the can. Buy-in is the perfect book to help attract the support for your idea that builds leverage. This also teaches rebuttal strategies against generic questions thrown at you.

Accelerate: Building Strategic Agility for a Faster-Moving World

Author: John Kotter

Date of publication: 2014


Competitive threats in business will always be there. It’s about how business leaders respond and overcome threats that truly matter. In “Accelerate,” Kotter explains that having a singular hierarchical operating system isn’t enough. These forms of management don’t bode well in a highly changing and competitive environment. He introduces a “dual operating system” that can help businesses cope with and power through the competition.

That’s Not How We Do It Here!: A Story about How Organizations Rise and Fall–and Can Rise Again

Author: John Kotter, Holger Rathgeber

Date of publication: 2016


Following the success of “Our Iceberg is Melting,” John Kotter adds another allegorical piece on the fear of change. This time around, he uses a clan of meerkats as the protagonists. The message packs a powerful lesson on why businesses rise, fall and then rise again.

CHANGE: How Organizations Achieve Hard-to-Imagine Results Despite Uncertain and Volatile Times

Author: John Kotter, Vanessa Akhtar, Gaurav Gupta

Date of publication: 2021


Achieving hard-to-imagine results can be difficult during volatile times, but it’s never impossible. “Change” discusses the science behind changes. John applies the same principles to teach business leaders how to be more agile and adaptive to change.

John Kotter’s Best Selling Books

John Kotter’s written work spans almost 5 decades. Since the year 1974, he has managed to publish 21 books in total. Among his publications, 12 have been business bestsellers and two are New York Times bestsellers. Kotter’s 8-step change model is one of the most popular principles he has ever introduced in his books. 

The Leading Change

The Leading Change

The title of his most famous book, “Leading Change,” says it all. In it, he outlines an eight-step process for leading change within organizations. This process has been used by organizations all over the world to successfully navigate change. That’s why this book is often described as the “bible” for change management. 

It has sold over three million copies and has been translated into 30 languages. Today, the eight-step process for leading change remains relevant and useful for business owners worldwide. 

If you want to lead change in your industry, you need people who have religiously applied John Kotter’s teachings. Wizard of Sales® happens to be one of those. Book a call if you want transformational change in your industry.