The Heart of Change: How to Lead Successful Change

Apr 26, 2021 2 min read
The Heart of Change: How to Lead Successful Change

The Heart of Change by John Kotter and Dan Cohen delves into the subject of transformational change and gets at the heart of how highly successful change actually happens.

In The Heart of Change: Real-Life Stories of How People Change Their Organizations, John Kotter builds on his best-selling book Leading Change and his 8-step change model to introduce compelling real-life stories from leaders in all kinds of businesses.

We learn that successful transformational change happens when we change the behaviour of people. Kotter and Cohen, who co-wrote the Heart of Change, recommend a people-driven approach to leading change that helps people to see the reason for change.

They argue that people change when they are shown the truth because this influences their feelings. That is, emotion is at the heart of change. We see, feel, change.

In the most successful change case, individuals had a sense of passion. On the other hand, where change was less successful, individuals tended to intellectualise change. – Kotter and Cohen

The Heart of Change


There are many models for managing change that can help us to understand the change process and people’s behaviour.

In traditional approaches to leading change, the focus is often on analysis as a means of changing people’s thinking.

  1. Analysis: we gather and analyse information, and prepare reports and presentations made about various aspects of the change project. This could include anything from problem-solving through to teamwork and project communication.
  2. Think: information and analysis changes people’s thinking. The business changes or drops contradictory elements. The cognitive process of changing behaviour is slow.
  3. Change: new thoughts change behaviour or reinforce changed behaviour.

In contrast, Kotter and Cohen recommend a people-driven approach that helps us to see the reason for change.

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