Six Keys to Leading Positive Change: Rosabeth Moss Kanter at TEDxBeaconStreet (Transcript)

Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Here is the full text of Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s talk titled “Six Keys to Leading Positive Change” at TEDxBeaconStreet conference. 

 

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Rosabeth Moss Kanter – Professor, Harvard Business School

A few years ago, I ran into a colleague I had not seen for a long time who said: “What are you working on now?”, and I said, I was in that kind of mood. I said, “Oh. Making the world a better place.”

And he said,”Could you pin that down just a little bit.”

Well, I realized what I actually do is I tried to provide other people tools for making the world a better place, by giving them leadership skills. So what is your goal? You simply want to get things done. And maybe improve them a little. Do you want to start something, maybe a social venture; you can be any age to do that.

I was amazed when Katie [Stagliano] of Katie’s Krops got an award from President Bill Clinton for a venture she started to feed the homeless when she was 9 years old. So anybody can start something. Do you want to start something? Do you want to grow something? Do you want to start a business? Do you want to lead a big business? Or do you want to just make the world a better place?

The leadership lessons for being effective of doing that are things that I have learned from working with tens of thousands of leaders in dozens and dozens of countries all over the world. And I would like to boil them down to six positive things that help us keep things moving up or in a positive direction of progress.

The first is the universal lesson of life which is show up. If you do not show up nothing really happens. I remember a Peter Sellers movie of a number of years ago called “Being There.” And it was a very instructive story because Peter Sellers played a fairly ignorant man Chance, the gardener. And he was just hanging around the place where he did gardening, when a very important meeting was about to take place. And as people arrived for the meeting, they did not know that he was only helping at the house. So they said who are you and he said Chance, the gardener. And immediately people misunderstood him, called him Chauncey Gardiner, invited him into the meeting and he ended up solving their problems.

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Well, it was a comedy but I thought how real that is. The very fact of showing up, of making oneself available, of deciding that your presence makes a difference, is the first key to leadership. And I think about President Barak Obama of the United States. He really – he’s been re-elected but he started out basically by showing up. He was a fairly obscure state senator from the state of Illinois, when asked to give the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention, he showed up. He gave the speech and the rest is history. Being there makes the difference but that is only the starting point that you are in the situation.

The second lesson that I have learned is that it is important to speak up, to use the power of voice. No one knows what we’re thinking if we do not express it. I say this to my students at Harvard Business School all the time because people get graded on class participation. And you know there are some people who think they are entitled to have all the air time and so they often just talk and continue to talk until finally they hit upon something they really have to say.

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