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John P. Kotter on What Leaders Really Do (Harvard Business Review Book) 1st Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0875848976
ISBN-10: 0875848974
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"After conducting fourteen formal studies and more than a thousand interviews, directly observing dozens of executives in action, and compiling innumerable surveys, I am completely convinced that most organizations today lack the leadership they need," contends John P. Kotter, the Konosuke Matsushita Professor of Leadership at Harvard Business School. "And the shortfall is often large. I'm not talking about a deficit of 10%, but of 200%, 400%, or more in positions up and down the hierarchy," he writes in the opening essay to John P. Kotter on What Leaders Really Do, a collection of his most notable articles on the topic for the Harvard Business Review. Kotter isn't known to pull punches, and these pieces--falling into two categories, those concerned with "Leadership and Change" and those focusing on "Dependency and Networks"--are no exception. The articles in the book sensibly point out the difference between management and leadership; they advocate setting a direction rather than planning and budgeting, and motivating people rather than controlling them. They are tied together effectively by the aforementioned new essay, in which Kotter presents his "Ten Observations About Management Behavior" to summarize the concepts he has developed over a 30-year career. --Howard Rothman

Review

"Offers a convenient one-volume resource to this noted expert's views on leadership." -- Choice, October 1999

"This book is thankfully short on theory and is instead filled with practical, often common-sensical, advice. For anyone who wants to be a leader when they grow up, Kotter's book is required reading." -- CIO, June 15, 1999
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Product Details

  • Series: Harvard Business Review Book
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press; 1 edition (March 18, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0875848974
  • ISBN-13: 978-0875848976
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.9 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #244,539 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Bill Godfrey on December 6, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Six of Kotter's articles published between 1979 and 1997 are prefaced by a substantial introduction under the title of Leadership at the Turn of the Century. The six articles are arranged in two groups of three, the first three grouped under Leadership and Change and the second under the heading Dependency and Networks. The first part contains the famous articles "What Leaders Really Do" and "Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail", which was the article behind the author's subsequent book "Leading Change".
I seem to be in a minority in thinking that Kotter's views of leadership are over-rated. Although his commentary recognises complexity, his prescriptions seem to me to be instrumental, linear and unduly inwardly focused. He takes a very analytical view of an intensely human art. One of the central features of successful leadership is passion, and another is a strong and well articulated sense of values. The author recognises both, but does not appear to be engaged by them. They appear to be treated as merely two more ingredients in the mix. Above all, it does not ask the questions that are becoming so dominant - questions about societal values, about balancing the need for profit with issues of sustainability and even about the role of the corporation in a globalised world.
Having said that, there is a lot of good material available. His '8 steps' are sufficiently well known not to need repetition, and the article "What Leaders Really Do" is a good summary of the distinction between leadership and management concerns.
The introduction is written largely around ten 'observations', which add up to saying that leadership and management are different, that high complexity and high rates of change make leadership increasingly important, with a large part of the leadership role being concerned with building vision, providing inspiration and building networks of relationship.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I look at the other reviewers comments and realize that there's another perspective. One that I think I may share with others who are not the other reviewers.
There's a niche of people out there who are "intuitive / analytical" people. The works of other leadership / management "gurus" seem, well, mystical or overwhelmingly positive.
I personally understand and practice the passion of leadership but personally had a hard time understanding the framework of human relationships and motivations that lead to most management hierarchies. In traditional management hierarchies, passionate people are also labelled as "over the edge". immature, unrealistic.
From an analytical engineering / scientist approach, what occurs in executive management just doesn't seem to make sense. Frankly, I'm blown away by the rampant "peter principle" in executive management. I've not understood why I who have significant leadership skills haven't made it into "the higher echelons".
John Kotter is the first author I've encountered who has been able to layout for me the framework of human interactions. He's the first author who feels to me like he is looking over my shoulder giving me useful guidance, not just pumping me up.
The article on "Leading Change, Why Transformation Efforts Fail" included in the book landed in my lap at a time when I'm attempting to lead cultural changes.
The chapter on "Managing and Power" helped me understand how my independent / contra-dependent leanings might actually be hindering me in a management hierarchy of over dependent managers.
I've gotten more condensed information from Kotter than from any other source to date.
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Format: Hardcover
In a long working career I have observed numerous instances of the high management manage companies with very few examples of them leading the company somewhere. I worked for Univac for instance, saw them merge with Burroughs, and watched as they turned two five billion dollar companies into one six billion dollar (with a loss in 2006 of almost $300 million). I watched Digital Equipment completely misunderstand the impact of the PC and go from a major player to be part of Compaq, then part of HP.

While this was happening, Microsoft and Intel were truly exercising the leadership that took the computer world through what Andy Grove (of Intel) called an inflection point.

This book is a collection of six essays. The first three discuss leadership. The second three discuss the management aspect. It's a quick easy read, and while there is little practical 'do it this way' advice, the overall impact is just what a true leader needs.
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Format: Hardcover
After conducting 14 formal studies and more than 1,000 interviews, Kotter became convinced that most organizations lack the leadership they need. When leadership points in the wrong direction, no direction despite rapid change, or along a reasonable trajectory at inadequate speed, the consequences for organizations can be tragic. Enterprises can fail, jobs are lost, customers and communities are hurt, and careers are derailed.

Instead of nurturing talent, encouraging people to lead and to learn from mistakes and successes, organizations all too often ignore leadership potential, offer no relevant training or role models, and punish those who make small errors while trying to lead. Individuals also fail to assess their developmental needs realistically and to proactively seek means of meeting those needs.

1)When managers produce successful change of any significance in organizations, the effort is usually a time-consuming and highly complex eight-step process.

2)Insensitivity to local contingencies, a one-approach-fits-all attitude can produce disaster.

3)Many people influenced by 20th-century history and the corporate cultures it created often make a predictable set of mistakes when attempting to institute significant non-incremental change.

4)Leadership is different from management, and the primary force behind successful change of any significance is the former, not the latter.

5)Because the rate of change is increasing, leadership is a growing part of managerial work.
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