Leadership series: John Kotter

“Critique of John Kotter”

This critique is on John Kotter who spoke on March 12, 2010 at the Southeastern University Leadership Forum.

The speaker’s main purpose in this presentation was to discuss the issues surrounding “Leadership and Change.” With the economy failing and leaders all offering new ideas of hope and change, it seemed quite appropriate for John Kotter to discuss these ideas through life examples and also business principles.

  • John Kotter presented two ideas that really captivated me. The first was idea came in the form of the story of how Mark Kay was created. He discussed how when this organization had started, he rushed down to one of the local business meetings that was being held by the owner and founder of Mary Kay. He described her as a very sweet southern girl and how the people were just captivated by her. He pointed out that she had what seemed to be a “board” of people that handled different aspects of the company. He ended up meeting one of the women that works on the business end of the company and asked her to answer some questions as to how the company runs. She answered his questions brilliantly and broke the company down into four or five main people showing where they would all be on a business chart. This story was extremely intriguing and I never knew that the company was so well organized and strategically planned out. The idea was that through delegation, Mary Kay has become a huge success and a model of a true American dream of starting something from scratch.
  • The second idea he shared was the story about a Japanese leader who grew up poor and founded many companies that we ourselves use probably daily. He told the struggle that this leader went through and how he had to overcome hardships and struggles. Through all of it, he was always the first to throw himself on the chopping block, he always took the brunt of the “blows” that his company and workers faced. His companies still stand to this day and are huge monuments and models of how an origination has to change with the times, and how it can be made up of honesty and loyalty and still succeed.

The presentation was very inspiring to me, I was given the opportunity to sit under a Harvard professor and learn from him for just over an hour. He is truly a brilliant man and creatively showed us what leadership looks like, and how those leaders must change to constantly advance. It was an inspiring presentation.

“People come to work everyday determined to exploit real opportunities and avoid real hazards.” This was taken from the notes given in his lecture; he was discussing what false and true urgency look like. He was discussing the issue of complacency; many people become complacent and don’t chase after the extraordinary because they are afraid. When true leaders step up to the plate, they must be willing to do things differently, and explore the unknown regions. Over all John Kotter was extremely interesting and his style quite different from the other speakers, it was an privilege to sit and hear him speak.


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