My “Perspective” Led to My Progress
By Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Professor, Harvard Business School March 23, 2015 09:00 AM
To celebrate International Women’s Day, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Professor at Harvard Business School, shares the defining characteristic that led to her progress.
Anything can look like a failure in the middle. Pushing through this challenging mid-point is the only path to success.
I hold this truth so dear – and have shared it publically with so many students and executives – that it has come to be called Kanter's Law.
Kanter’s Law is the foundation of what I teach to corporate clients, students, and community groups, based on my own career successes and failures. Give up because you face a bump in the road, an expected obstacle, critics all around, or just plain fatigue -- by definition the effort is a failure. Keep going, with openness to learn, modify, adapt, and adjust the goal – only then is it possible to find a path to success. The answer to the inevitable problems of the messy, miserable middles of anything new or innovative is to persist and persevere.
There is rarely a smooth path to anything. It might look like some people have it easy, but that's because we don't know them too well. Kanter's Law is true of home renovations, business startups, politics, technology development, marathons, marriages, and careers. I've applied Kanter’s Law when launching the Advanced Leadership Initiative at Harvard, when getting permits to add a second floor to my house, and in getting heard on major public issues. One especially common obstacle is naysayers who repeat discouraging messages.
The prevalence of this challenge underscores the importance of finding supporters who cheer us on through the challenging middle.
By now I have a community of people who can lift me out of any self doubts when facing a challenging middle. Recently I was beginning to feel I couldn't possibly finish my forthcoming book MOVE and that I was insane to take on a topic outside of my usual leadership franchise. When I was nearly crippled with frustration and doubt, in rolled emails from former employees, colleagues, and my son repeating back to me Kanter's Law.