Rosabeth Moss Kanter

The Change Master

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Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

3 “ME’s” of Leadership (Excerpt from Confidence)

Posted by rosabethkanter on February 26, 2010

Leaders deliver confidence by espousing high standards in their messages, exemplifying these standards in the conduct they model, and establishing formal mechanisms to provide a structure for acting on those standards.

Espouse: the power of message. Leaders articulate standards, values, and visions.  They give pep talks. Their messages can incite to action when that is appropriate, or they can calm and soothe people to prevent them from panicking. We saw in Chapter 2 that pep talks are empty without evidence, so let’s call this “grounded optimism” – positive expectations based on specific facts that justify the optimism.  In the strong cultures that develop in winning streaks, leaders’ messages are internalized and echo throughout the system.  Players on the North Carolina women’s soccer team seemed to have Anson Dorrance’s voice in their heads.  At Continental Airlines, numerous people in a variety of jobs quoted Gordon Bethune’s favorite sayings.  From the Go Forward Plan to Bethune’s weekly voicemails, people learned from what Continental leaders espoused.  The messages provided practical information, inspiration, and a feeling of inclusion, as everyone knew everyone else heard the same message.

Exemplify: the power of models.  Leaders serve as role models, leading through the power of personal example. “I don’t believe as a leader you can ever expect anybody to do things you are not willing to do yourself,” said Mike Babcock of the Mighty Ducks.  The leaders I saw in winning streaks and turnarounds sought to exemplify the kinds of accountable, collaborative behavior they sought in others.  Certainly the personal example of truth and reconciliation, inclusion, and empowerment set by Nelson Mandela reflected one of the most remarkable and admirable personal journeys of the twentieth century.  In a different country and different way, Akin Ongor of Garanti Bank was an inspiring business role model with courage, and compassion – offering to resign when he discovered that the bank had lost $14 million due to a junior manager’s mistake that control systems had not caught because he said he “shared the mistake,” or mobilizing the bank’s employees to help in the aftermath of an earthquake in Turkey.

Establish: the power of formal mechanisms.  Leaders develop processes, routines, and structures.  They embed winners’ behavior in the culture not just through person-to-person and generation-to-generation transfers of norms, but also through the formal mechanisms that embed positive behavior in team and organizational routines.  North Carolina women’s soccer coach Anson Dorrance or Connecticut women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma had many systematic ways to forge their players into a victory machine that just kept winning – a yearly calendar of activities including off-season events, routines for practices, assessment tools, leadership seminars, a schedule of meetings.  The teams changed composition, as players turned over, but the structures and processes remained. The winning teams that resulted were not a force of nature, they were a product of professional disciplines and structures.  Nelson Mandela’s leadership in South Africa was manifested not just through his inspiring message and model but through the structure of a new government, legislation, formal events such as town meetings on a new constitution and hearings by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Leaders must deliver confidence at every level: self-confidence, confidence in each other, confidence in the system, and the confidence of external investors and the public that their support is warranted.


Posted in Change Management, Communication, Leadership, Management | 1 Comment »

Promises You Should Never Believe (or Make)

Posted by rosabethkanter on November 2, 2009

PromisesPromises, promises. Are you still waiting for flu shots after making an appointment, then learning that the vaccine is not available?


The Obama administration announced that more vaccine was coming when it wasn’t. US HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius explained why to an Associated Press reporter, “We were relying on the manufacturers to give us their numbers and as soon as we got numbers we put them out to the public. It does appear now that those numbers were overly rosy.”

Where have we heard that before?

Overly rosy promises are regularly offered by politicians, manufacturers, car salespeople, real estate agents, and nearly anyone trying to influence anyone else. Promises are the stuff of courtship or reassurance, particularly when people would rather deny the downside. Entrepreneurs urged to sell to a large corporation are often told that the big company wants to learn from them, a promise that dissolves after the deal is done. Bernard Madoff victims apparently preferred illusion to digging for facts.

This human tendency is exacerbated by systemic complexity. Economists know that forecasting is a dangerous occupation, especially about the future — which is funny but not a joke. In complex systems, inherent uncertainty joins with volatility to increase the likelihood that forecasts fall short. Boeing learned this at the cost of lost customer orders for its much-delayed Dreamliner aircraft. It is a common experience that new products often take longer and cost more.

Related to the difficulties of delivering on time and on budget are other promises that should never be taken at face value … Rest of the Article Available at

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