Rosabeth Moss Kanter holds the Ernest L. Arbuckle Professorship at Harvard Business School, where she specializes in strategy, innovation, and leadership for change. Her strategic and practical insights have guided leaders of large and small organizations worldwide for over 25 years, through teaching, writing, and direct consultation to major corporations and governments. The former Editor of Harvard Business Review (1989-1992), Professor Kanter has been named to lists of the "50 most powerful women in the world" (Times of London), and the "50 most influential business thinkers in the world" (Accenture and Thinkers 50 research). In 2001, she received the Academy of Management's Distinguished Career Award for her scholarly contributions to management knowledge, and in 2002 was named "Intelligent Community Visionary of the Year" by the World Teleport Association.
Kanter is well known for her classic 1977 study of "tokenism" on how being a minority can affect one's performance due to enhanced visibility and performance pressure. She is the author or co-author of 17 books, focused largely on business management techniques, especially change management. Her most recent book, America the Principled: 6 Opportunities for Becoming a Can-Do Nation Once Again sets forward a positive agenda for the nation. Her previous book, Confidence: How Winning Streaks & Losing Streaks Begin & End was a New York Times business bestseller and a BusinessWeek #1 bestseller. The book draws on more than 300 interviews with leaders in business, sport and politics to explore the role confidence plays in the performance of institutions and individuals.
Question: Beyond a simple title, how would you describe what you do for a living?
Rosabeth Moss Kanter: What I do for a living is I try to make a difference in the world. And I realize that's not very specific and I should pin it down a bit. But I am very interested in how we make the systems around us work to produce benefits for the people in them and the people that they serve. That's always been very important. I work with large companies, some of the most important global giants in the world. But I … I work with them about change, about transformation, about a positive impact. I've always stood for empowerment of people. And I do this through a combination of ways. It's the words I say and the words that I put in other people's mouths, because I get quoted frequently. I's through direct advice, doing research and projects for particular organizations. It's through my students at Harvard Business School and occasionally at Harvard College … the undergraduates that I influence. It's through my faculty colleagues. Now I'm working with faculty from public health and education, law, government and business on a new project where we think we can deploy leaders at later stages in their lives to solve key problems of the world in poverty, education, public health, environment. So … so I get a chance to work in all those domains, but I work through helping leaders become better leaders of major institutions.
Recorded on: 6/13/07