Moss Kanter on Leadership

Leadership icon Rosabeth Moss Kanter has released a new book, “Supercorps,” with findings from interviews with 350 organizations around the world. From the examples of those that are thriving, she has reaffirmed five well-known elements of leadership common to the most successful performers:

1. There is no leadership without a noble purpose.The best companies are guided by purpose, values and principles, and recognize their responsibility to the community.

2. Leaders see new needs, problems and find solutions.

3. They partner and collaborate. Don’t just think outside the box – think outside the building. That is, go beyond your own organization.

4. Empower people. This includes engagement of employees, “alumni,” and community members. Convene people in conversations and permit the flow of self-organizing activities.

5. Persist and persevere. Citing what she humorously calls “Kanter’s Law,” she reminds people that “everything can look like a failure in the middle.” “Middles” are difficult because:

  • We can’t accurately forecast the future
  • Unforeseen roadblocks arise that need to be dealt with
  • People lose momentum; and
  • Critics surface once things are under way who try to block change.

These characteristics collectively require that leaders be courageous and flexible. They must be able to think big AND small to keep the vision in sight but deal with the details of execution. They must energize their team and shield them from the critics.