Rosabeth Moss Kanter: Management guru

To mark 50 years of MT, here's the fourth in a series looking back at the best business brains since 1966.

by Andrew Saunders
Last Updated: 12 Jul 2016

Perhaps the first woman to achieve genuine management guru status, Rosabeth Moss Kanter hit the headlines back in 1977 for her seminal book Men and Women of the Corporation, an exposition of how organisational flaws and the inability of the powerless to take on the powerful were responsible for the underachievement of women at work, rather than any lack of talent or ambition on their part.

And although a good deal has changed since the late 70s when women at work were labelled, as Moss Kanter put it, either mother, seductress or mascot, her concept of empowerment as the way forward still resonates. In the 21st century, it applies equally well to those who suffer from being sidelined for their ethnic, sexual or gender identities and was the foundation stone of the diversity and inclusion industry.

Her interests range widely, from change management to self-confidence, corporate strategy and the demographic shift. Her penchant for thorough research has led to the admiring sobriquet 'The thinking woman's Michael Porter'.

Born in Ohio to middle-class parents, she graduated from the elite girls' college Bryn Mawr and holds a PhD in sociology from the University of Michigan. She joined Harvard Business School in 1986 where she is Ernest L Arbuckle professor of business administration, and chairs the university's advanced leadership initiative for time-served bosses looking for a new challenge in their sunset years.

Moss Kanter has no fewer than 23 honorary doctorates and a reputation as a lucid and personable communicator - a talent not shared by many other academics of comparable intellectual horsepower.

Photo credit: Getty Images


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