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Rosabeth Moss Kanter

  • Powerlessness corrupts. Absolute powerlessness corrupts absolutely.

  • ... people are capable of more than their organizational positions ever give them the tools or the time or the opportunity to demonstrate.

  • The importance of discretion increases with closeness to the top of a hierarchical organization.

  • The more closed the circle, the more difficult it is for 'outsiders' to break in. Their very difficulty in entering may be taken as a sign of incompetence, a sign that the insiders were right to close their ranks.

  • ... power is the ability to get things done, to mobilize resources, to get and use whatever it is that a person needs for the goals he or she is attempting to meet. In this way, a monopoly on power means that only very few have this capacity, and they prevent the majority of others from being able to act effectively. Thus, the total amount of power — and total system effectiveness — is restricted, even though some people seem to have a great deal of it. However, when more people are empowered — that is, allowed to have control over the conditions that make their actions possible — then more is accomplished, more gets done.

  • Power begets power.

  • Not everyone in an organization is in a position to accumulate power through competent performance because most people are just carrying out the ordinary and the expected — even if they do it very well. The extent to which a job is routinized fails to give an advantage to anyone doing it because 'success' is seen as inherent in the very establishment of the position and the organization surrounding it. Neither persons nor organizations get 'credit' for doing the mandatory or the expected.

  • Corporate men and women, once divided by striking differences in opportunity for career growth, have come to share career chaos.

  • What being among the 'right people' entails is the possession of human capital, rather than organizational capital: an individual reputation, portable skills, and network connections. Career responsibility is squarely in the hands of individuals, a function of their knowledge and networks. Transferable knowledge is more important to a career than firm-specific knowledge.

  • Lack of opportunity breeds dreams of escape. But professionals and managers who have invested in their careers do not leave the work force as frequently as discouraged workers in lower status occupations. Instead, they keep working, but they escape emotionally by defining achievement in professional, not company, terms. ... Thus, the potential for being stuck as career uncertainty grows takes its toll in weakening attachment to any particular employer.

  • Power stems from 'rainmaking,' as law firms put it: the ability to bring resources into the company.

  • Even the new feminist research on sex-role socialization and sex differences has sometimes had the unfortunate consequence of creating a new set of stereotypes about what women feel and how women behave. Despite the large amount of overlap between the sexes in most research, the tendency to label and polarize and thus to exaggerate differences remains in much reporting of data, which may, for example, report the mean scores of male and female populations but not the degree of overlap.

    • Rosabeth Moss Kanter,
    • in Martha Baxall and Barbara Reagan, eds., Women and the Workplace ()
  • ... if networks of women are formed, they should be job related and task related rather than female-concerns related. Personal networks for sociability in the context of a work organization would tend to promote the image of women contained in the temperamental model — that companies must compensate for women's deficiencies and bring them together for support because they could not make it on their own. But job-related task forces serve the social-psychological functions while reinforcing a more positive image of women.

    • Rosabeth Moss Kanter,
    • in Martha Baxall and Barbara Reagan, eds., Women and the Workplace ()
  • Power is America's last dirty word. It is easier to talk about money — and much easier to talk about sex — than it is to talk about power.

    • Rosabeth Moss Kanter,
    • "Power Failure in Management Circuits," in Harvard Business Review ()
  • And so, after years of telling corporate citizens to 'trust the system,' many companies must relearn instead to trust their people — and encourage their people to use neglected creative capacities in order to tap the most potent economic stimulus of all: idea power.

  • The degree to which the opportunity to use power effectively is granted to or withheld from individuals is one operative difference between those companies which stagnate and those which innovate.

  • But not all change is negative, even though it may create uncertainty. Not all sharing of power implies loss; it can also lead to bigger gains. Not all turbulence is a mere distraction from business; it may lead to useful new inventions. ... Change can be exhilarating, refreshing — a chance to meet challenges, a chance to clean house. It means excitement when it is considered normal, when people expect it routinely, like a daily visit from the mail carrier — known — bringing a set of new messages — unknown. Change brings opportunities when people have been planning for it, are ready for it, and have just the thing in mind to do when the new state comes into being.

  • 'Rules for Stifling Innovation': 1. Regard any new idea from below with suspicion — because it's new, and because it's from below. 2. Insist that people who need your approval to act first go through several other levels of management to get their signatures. 3. Ask departments or individuals to challenge and criticize each other's proposals. (That saves you the job of deciding; you just pick the survivor.) ... 10. And above all, never forget that you, the higher-ups, already know everything important about this business.

  • I wonder whether there has been too much emphasis on teaching women to conform, to fit into the system. Certainly that suits conservative organizations in conservative times. But now ... innovation and creativity are necessary.

    • Rosabeth Moss Kanter,
    • "Mastering Change: The Skills We Need," in Lynda L. Moore, ed., Not As Far As You Think: The Realities of Working Women ()
  • Leadership is one of the most enduring, universal human responsibilities.

    • Rosabeth Moss Kanter,
    • "World-Class Leaders," in Frances Hesselbein, Marshall Goldsmith, and Richard Beckhard, eds., The Leader of the Future ()
  • ... in most important ways, leaders of the future will need the traits and capabilities of leaders throughout history: an eye for change and a steadying hand to provide both vision and reassurance that change can be mastered, a voice that articulates the will of the group and shapes it to constructive ends, and an ability to inspire by force of personality while making others feel empowered to increase and use their own abilities.

    • Rosabeth Moss Kanter,
    • "World-Class Leaders," in Frances Hesselbein, Marshall Goldsmith, and Richard Beckhard, eds., The Leader of the Future ()
  • To stay ahead, you must have your next idea waiting in the wings.

    • Rosabeth Moss Kanter
  • The middle of every successful project looks like a disaster.

    • Rosabeth Moss Kanter
  • Creativity is a lot like looking at the world through a kaleidoscope. You look at a set of elements, the same ones everyone else sees, but then reassemble those floating bits and pieces into an enticing new possibility.

    • Rosabeth Moss Kanter,
    • in Harvard Business School Bulletin ()

Rosabeth Moss Kanter, U.S. academic, educator, writer