The picture on the cover of John P. Kotter's book tells it all: a group of penguins are shuffling their feet nervously on an icy precipice, while one brave bird leaps for the water below. The question is, which penguin are you? In too many organizations, executives shy away from the precipice, while someone lower down in the pecking order jumps in to test the landing conditions. Kotter says managers and leaders are quite different. A manager, he explains, is trained to think in a linear, one-two-three, risk-limiting way. Transformational change, however, can only be attained when true leaders push forward on several fronts at once - eight of them to be exact. Every successful change initiative begins with a coalition of leaders who create a sense of urgency. Kotter's book stems from a 1995 Harvard Business Review article titled, "Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail." It will probably sound hauntingly familiar to managers who have watched change initiatives begin in the front courtyard with a marching band and end a few months later, ushered out the back door like a diner who can't pay the tab. If you want to know why your last change initiative fizzled, we say read this book. Better yet, study it to ensure that your next leap of faith is a flying success.
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