CNLP 400: Harvard’s John Kotter on How to Effectively Deal with Rapid Change, Handle Your Critics and Opponents and Lead Effective Change

Dr. John Kotter is widely regarded as the world’s leading expert on change. A faculty member at Harvard Business School and graduate of MIT, his books on change have sold millions of copies and his theory on change has been embraced by some of the most successful companies in the world.

In this interview, John explains his framework on how to lead change effectively, how to get your team to buy in, dealing with opponents and why rapid change is more important than ever.

Welcome to Episode 400 of the podcastListen and access the show notes below or search for the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts and listen for free.

Plus, in this episode’s What I’m Thinking About segment, Carey talks about what not to say when leading change.

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Episode Links

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Conversation Links

Leading Change by John P. Kotter

Our Iceberg Is Melting by John P. Kotter

Southwest Airlines

Transformation Church

Mike Todd

7 Things Not to Say When You’re Leading Change in Your Church by Carey Nieuwhof

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Insights From Dr. Kotter

1. In the future, you’ll need to change more often not less

This last year has brought on more change than any other year in recent memory. Dr. Kotter predicts that even after the pandemic is over, the future’s going to continue to move faster with more things that are harder to predict in advance. The future will require more agility, adaptability and thinking ahead of the curve.

2. The difference about change-ready organizations

“Change-ready” organizations have done significantly better than “change-resistant” organizations during the pandemic. So, what sets them apart? Three things:

  1. They see opportunities where others see threats
  2. They realize they are going to need a lot of people to make change
  3. They use positive encouragement rather than negative threats to lead their people

3. If you are trying to get people to change, use emotion just as much as logic

Most leaders are tempted to lead with logic when they are trying to get people to change. But usually, the logical approach doesn’t succeed at changing anyone’s actions. So, whenever you are communicating change with your people, find a way to connect the emotional good with the logical good of that change.

4. It’s not charisma that leads to great change, it’s great change that leads to a perception of charisma

Most people think that charismatic leaders produce change via their charisma. What research shows is that those leaders are actually perceived as charismatic because they worked through a systematic framework for change. They are then perceived as charismatic when it works.

So, you don’t need to be charismatic to influence change, you just need a good plan.

Quotes from Episode 400

The world is changing and those who adapt better and faster and smarter are performing better. @JohnPKotter Click To Tweet Change always produces threats, but it always produces opportunities too. @JohnPKotter Click To Tweet The future's going to continue to move at us faster with more things that are hard to predict in advance, requiring more agility, adaptability and thinking ahead of the curve. @JohnPKotter Click To Tweet Organizations as we know them, were not built to be rapid change machines. They were built to be efficient, reliable, machines that could ensure their survival. @JohnPKotter Click To Tweet A lot of what leadership is getting others to lead so you can make more happen faster and smarter and better. @JohnPKotter Click To Tweet We've proven people can be taught to think more about opportunity and to act more on opportunity. @JohnPKotter Click To Tweet Being passionate and truly excited about something is a spike emotion in terms of energy level that can maintain itself for long periods of time, in which an institution can totally transform itself. @JohnPKotter Click To Tweet People under-communicate constantly because in running an organization in a time of steady state you don't need to communicate that much. @JohnPKotter Click To Tweet Just appealing to the head is not how you mobilize large groups of people to make changes and transform institutions. @JohnPKotter Click To Tweet The only thing that's consistent is change. Click To Tweet If you use God's name for your personal plans, you lose credibility. Click To Tweet People who say 'trust me,' often aren't trustable. Click To Tweet Don't try to be the know-it-all person. It just reduces confidence that you've got this figured out. Click To Tweet

Read or Download the Transcript for Episode 400

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Next Episode: Dee Ann Turner

Dee Ann Turner served for decades as Chick-fil-A’s Vice President of Talent, and as such hired thousands and was responsible for the hiring of tens of thousands. She returns to the podcast with pro tips on how to crush your career, with advice on everything from preparing for a job interview, what to wear, questions to ask and not ask, and how to deal with an abusive boss, rejection and firing.

Subscribe for free now so you won’t miss Episode 401.

CNLP 400: Harvard’s John Kotter on How to Effectively Deal with Rapid Change, Handle Your Critics and Opponents and Lead Effective Change


  1. Adriana R on March 2, 2021 at 4:44 pm

    Episode #400 whoo hoo! It’s a big milestone Carey & team, congrats.

    Dr. Kotter is a living legend! Anyone involved in managing change (everybody?) should check this out.

    You keep raising the bar with your podcast guests. Thank you so much.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 3, 2021 at 5:17 pm

      Thanks so much!

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