Effective Leadership and Organisational Change, interview with John P. Kotter

Join Bruce in this fascinating interview with John P. Kotter for episode 25 of the Re-Thinking the Human Factor Podcast.

We know that while some of our listeners will see his name and ask themselves, “Who?”,  those who are familiar with John P. Kotter’s work will be asking, “How?”. As in, ‘How did they get him on the podcast?’. Wherever you find yourself on the spectrum, we are very excited to bring you this interview with John P. Kotter, someone whom we consider to be a living legend.

Interview with John P. Kotter, a living legend

John P. Kotter is regarded by many as the authority on leadership and change. He is a New York Times best-selling author, award winning business and management thought leader, business entrepreneur, inspirational speaker and Harvard Professor. Kotter’s ideas, books, speeches, and company, Kotter International, have helped mobilise people around the world to better lead organisations, and their own lives, in an era of increasingly rapid change.

Change management is an area in cyber security that requires consistent learning, creativity, re-tooling, and re-thinking. We know that. So we are excited to share this pertinent interview with you today.

Effective Leadership and Organisational Change, with John P. Kotter

by Bruce Hallas | Re-thinking the Human Factor Podcast


  • The importance of having time for reflection in order to bring about clarity of thought. Clarity is the door to creativity, curiosity, innovation, and ultimately, change.


  • We have two systems operating at a subconscious level –
    • Survival Mode, a system developed over time to help us identify and respond to threats quickly in order to to ensure survival.
    • Thrive mode, which is the brain’s system for recognising opportunity and is most likely responsible for our species emerging from the Savannah and from caves.


  • Understanding these two modes is important. An organisation whose leaders and workers operating most often in Survival Mode will have a far more difficult time accessing the clarity and creativity that Thrive Mode affords us. This ultimately means that change and innovation will be more difficult to accomplish in those organisations.


  • What factors are present in organisations that have successfully implemented organisational changes vs. those that fail to meet their objectives
  • Understanding various barriers to change, such as –
    • How our dominant survival trait when married with desire for consistent output creates an environment where change is difficult
    • Complacency, a huge barrier to change
    • False urgency, which is driven by the Survival system
  • The power of a Guiding Coalition to help achieve organisational change and the difference between that style of leadership vs. traditional management styles


  • Best practice around communication –
    • Emotional communication is more sticky than dry, non-emotional messaging. Interestingly enough, a person with buy-in for an idea is more likely to naturally convey emotion when speaking about the idea than the one who is going along because he/she has to do so.
    • Frequency is also key to making messages stick
    • Communicating ideas in various ways helps ensure the message is picked up by lots of different people
  • Enabling situations where quick wins are possible for an organisation is a necessary practice for a few reasons –
    • Establishing credibility for a change initiative is a huge issue at the beginning of the change process, and quick wins establish the necessary trust in an idea so that buy-in is possible.
    • Quick wins then enact the Thrive System in the brain when the brain receives feedback that progress is being made.
    • A series of wins keeps the Thrive System running and helps people to hang in for the long haul of proposed change.

Effective Leadership and Organisational Change, with John P. Kotter

by Bruce Hallas | Re-thinking the Human Factor Podcast


  • Guiding Coalitions
  • The availability heuristic bias
  • Survival Mode vs. Thrive Mode



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Thanks for listening and sharing.

Bruce & The Re-thinking the Human Factor Podcast Team