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Maria Leister

Leadership Development Program Manager

Maria comes to Kotter International with fifteen years of experience in designing and leading initiatives that help organizations integrate interdisciplinary and collaborative approaches to solving complex issues. Maria is the Leadership Development Program Manager at KI, translating Kotter research into powerful learning experiences and sustaining transformation with each client by leveraging leadership development content. Prior to joining Kotter, Maria led strategic planning initiatives at organizations, developing strategies to create cross-sector engagement. She was instrumental in the design and implementation of leadership and coaching programs, mentoring initiatives, and fellowships at Harvard University and Harvard Law School. As a faculty member at Harvard Medical School’s Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma, Global Mental Health, Maria teaches Human Rights at the intersection of the right to health, mental health equity, policy, and justice. She holds a BA in Philosophy from Elizabethtown College, a JD from IU Bloomington, and was a Fellow at Harvard University’s Office of the President Administrative Fellows Program.

Maria is based out of Kotter International’s office in Cambridge, MA.

Why did you decide to work at Kotter?

Deciding to work at Kotter was a natural transition for me. Over the course of my career, I have been on a trajectory to support the leadership growth of organizations and inspire individuals to act from a place of strength by facilitating systems in which people feel supported to grow and enhance their own leadership.

If you weren’t working at Kotter, what would you be doing instead?

I would be doing something similar; working at a place that allows me to constantly ask questions, learn, and provides me with the opportunity to be creative every day.

What in your background helps you in this job?

My legal education and experience provided me a strong foundation in critical analysis and strategic thinking to find the best solutions for the organizations and clients I work with. Often, my legal training has helped me to take meaningful and thoughtful action on issues that may seem purely theoretical in nature.

What’s got you thinking right now?

I think a lot about how adverse life experiences have the capacity to create opportunities for transformative change in the lives of individuals and within organizations. Specifically, I have been reading about the internal and external forces that move us to act in ways that serve our growth or seek to destroy us. The resilience and post-traumatic growth in individuals who have experienced traumatic events inspires me because it shows that potential exists for incredible transformation.

Share something about you that would most surprise people.

My native language is Korean, which is something that surprises most people I know. Although I have lost most of my Korean language skills, I am currently relearning it with the goal of being able to speak Korean fluently again within the next couple of years.