top of page
  • Writer's pictureGermán Villalobos

LEADERSHIP ACCEPTANCE AND THE INNOVATION: Why are so important and how to achieve them

Updated: Oct 27, 2022

By: Germán Villalobos

One of the most frequent causes of productivity and innovation problems, that I have found in some organizations, is the lack of acceptance of leadership within them. The acceptance of the leader by the members of an area or department, or that the best elements wanted to accept the responsibility of being leaders. I share with you my notes on this topic where I include my findings on the main reasons and the possible solutions.


Let's start by remembering what leadership is, to have a common base from which to start. In a recent report, more than forty leadership experts from more than thirty countries reached a consensus on the meaning of leadership[1], defining it as the ability to influence, motivate and train others in a way that contributes towards the efficiency and fulfillment of the mission and objectives of the organizations that occupy them. A leader shares ideas, vision, values, influence, and makes tough decisions. If a person possesses these key attributes, then he or she can act with leadership. Other experts complement this definition in the following way: leadership[2] occurs when a particular individual exerts influence on others, to achieve the objectives established in an organization, to improve productivity, innovation, and satisfaction of the workforce.

Other references supplement the definitions of leadership with similar concepts, but mostly acknowledge that it is a mysterious skill that is difficult to define. Personally, I simplify it as the ability of a person to have followers so that the group or team is efficient and effective in achieving objectives.

It is also convenient to start by remembering the concept of acceptance, what is it really? Well, acceptance is not passivity, it does not mean that we must be passive to a situation, on the contrary, it is the freedom to have what is necessary or required. Acceptance is the opposite of indifference, it is allowing us to obtain something, so it is not inaction. By accepting that something, we are exercising a decision and an action of our own free will, empowered and in control of that decision. When we accept rather than resist, we open ourselves to new options and possibilities.

A good leader truly believes that taking care of people means taking care of the business.

Finally, let us remember what innovation is, that unlike creativity, which is to "create" something new, such as new ideas, concepts, products or services; In the words of Robert Sternberg, creativity is the production of "something original and valuable." Innovation, on the other hand, is to introduce changes in relatively stable systems, it is measurable and it is the practical implementation of new ideas, technologies and business models that allow the introduction of new and better processes, products and services. Creativity is highly recommended for organizations, but innovation is mandatory for the application of new trends so as not to be left behind.

With the three concepts in mind, we can then analyze the two aspects of the acceptance of leadership and innovation, from the point of view of accepting a new or existing leader as a member of a group, and from the point of view of accepting the responsibility to be a leader that allows constant progress to improve and innovate.

Accepting a Leader

This concept refers to the state in which the members of a group or team accept and comply with the leader's directives, with the conviction that it is the right thing to do and the best way to achieve the objectives set, always with a willingness to follow the decisions made by the leader because they trust her or him.

Participation in decision-making always improves the acceptance of the leader who considers the opinions of the group members, the key is a genuine interest on the part of the leader to get the best of her team members to achieve the results in the best possible way for the benefit of all. A leader who only focuses on the objectives without also thinking about what is best for people, will stop having followers almost immediately, which should not surprise us, who would like to follow someone for the benefit only of him and "his objectives”. When the leader thinks and acts to achieve benefits for the group and achieve the objectives as well, it is not difficult to even get some degree of sacrifice on the part of the team members, as support for the leader who takes them into account and for his colleagues.

When the members of a group perceive that the leader has the capacity and abilities that allow him to guide the group, acceptance is more natural even by those more difficult members. The ability displayed in the form of knowledge, experience and intelligence allows the leader to show authority, which is different from power. Authority in the sense of being the reference in their field that everyone seeks, such as that of the doctor who expresses opinions and makes decisions because he is the authority in his specialty, in the same way, the leader is consulted, and his instructions and decisions are followed out of conviction. The communication, empathy and adaptation skills shown by the leader also contribute to the acceptance by the members of the group, so that they accept the leader in a better way. If the mission and objectives are communicated clearly and appropriately, empathizing with each of the team members and adapting their leadership style to each situation, that is, when to direct, guide or delegate, it will be easier for the group to collaborate and accept the leader and his directives.

The opposite of the above discourages and creates strong resistance to accept the leader of the group. There is very little chance that an incapable, abusive and/or unintelligent “leader” will be accepted, even when is given the hierarchy and power of the position.

The members of a team will neither feel motivated to accept a leader - even recognizing his capacity and abilities - if he or she does not have the support of the organization. They are discouraged by making a personal and collaborative team effort following the instructions of the leader if the latter does not have the support to achieve the objectives. In the same lack of support, demotivation is also greater when the organization does not value or appreciate the new leaders in development, as well as individual and group achievements, that is, there are no recognitions. All these situations are due to the organization’s failures that limit or in some cases prevent the acceptance of leadership due to lack of recognition and development. It takes time, effort, and training for an organization to "heal" resentment due to bad past habits of the organization on leadership issues and their correct application, so it is always better to start as soon as possible.

In many cases, the team or group works with a boss or manager who is not recognized or accepted as the leader of his department or area, producing poor results. Team members usually do their work with low motivation and efficiency. The lack of a good leader who communicates and motivates results in low productivity with the high associated costs.

Acceptance of Being the Leader

Effective leadership begins with accepting yourself. When a leader comes from a place where everyone is accepted with respect, it makes it much more natural and easier to accept others as valuable, individual and unique human beings, allowing others and himself to be genuine and fully productive. The opposite produces mistrust that limits the budding leader to manifest his potential and, if necessary, accept the responsibility of being a leader for fear of being judged, exploited, and badly valued.

In today's world organizations, leaders are using terms like compassion, kindness, empathy, and purpose, in addition to collaboration, with perhaps the most fashionable term being "purpose" when the most important might be "trust." The confidence to be and genuinely express oneself, empathizing with everyone in the group, allowing their true capabilities to be enhanced. As Stephen M.R. Covey, in his book “The Trust Factor”, trust empowers and creates productive inertia or as he also called it “the speed of trust” that enables organizations to be agile, lean and innovative.

Effective leadership begins with self-acceptance

Having a purpose is good and necessary for the leader, to recognize the responsibility they have to help their team, their clients and colleagues. When a leader leads with a purpose, she or he is able to make decisions in the best interest of the company, so the purpose is important, but empathy and trust define the best leaders who will be able to better adopt the purpose or purposes of the organization.

There are many case studies in which it has been proven that the role of managerial leaders shapes the culture of the organization, but the inverse also counts, a good organizational culture aimed at leadership can encourage the best individuals with the necessary qualities to accept be leaders. Organizations that have a culture of leadership seek, motivate and establish systems that increase the confidence of individuals and allow leaders to emerge with the best version of themselves, with the confidence of being well valued and accepted for being themselves and for the great contribution they can make to their group, area and organization. The leader or candidate for leader will be able to be more productive and boost productivity in others of those who have influence, authority and above all leadership.

Therefore, there are two important factors for a person to accept being a leader, first the personal acceptance and second the organizational culture that accepts and motivates the leaders to manifest themselves as they genuinely are and with all their potential. In both cases, organizational experts suggest that managers initially focus on creating a leadership-oriented culture that attracts and nurtures the best candidates who can be the leaders the organization needs.

The following seven steps can be a useful guide to establishing a leadership-oriented organizational culture:

  1. Define and teach the core values of the leadership-oriented organization

  2. Promote a culture of recognition

  3. Foster a shared vision

  4. Establish job satisfaction as a KPI

  5. Ensure accountability

  6. Embrace change and innovation

  7. Foster the desire to lead and be led

The last point in the previous list may be the one that makes the most difference. As human beings, we function better in a group and for a group to function better, it requires a leader who provides order and organization, in addition to helping everyone to contribute their best, to achieve objectives in the most productive way possible for the benefit of all. That is, leadership, at all levels, is essential for the success of the organization.

The Acceptance of the Innovative Leader

Only about 16% of people are innovative and quickly adopt new technologies, new processes and accept changes before most, they are even the drivers. It is these individuals who have the most modern versions of Smart Phones, with the newest applications to facilitate their work and daily life and are these individuals who share all these technologies with their fellow group members, colleagues and bosses. They also usually volunteer for training in new processes, equipment, software, or anything that is new or represents a change. However, they are usually, in turn, the most uncomfortable and least accepted people in the organization that struggles every day to establish efficient and functional systems, which have proven their effectiveness for the manufacture of products or provide the best services in a standardized way. - without variations - and reliably that consumers demand.

So organizations are very commonly in a conflict situation, where the processes must be systematized, without variations that affect quality, but at the same time they must promote continuous improvement, making modifications to the processes that save steps in manufacturing, modify a device that allows faster assembly or a new version of a software that provides more information and control for the benefit of customers, that is, modify and change to improve, it means, do not change anything but improve what you can. The innovative leaders are who resolve this apparent contradiction, but they must be accepted and respected to boost their innovative capacity.

Most world-class organizations solve this problem, generally in a good way, through specialized departments specifically oriented to creativity and innovation, such as R&D and IT departments among some others, which of course must be innovative and which frequently suffer with the majority (68% of the people in the previous chart) to introduce new and better technologies and processes. However, the most innovative companies of all sizes and industries do not miss the opportunity, every time they find a person, associate or candidate, with the personality and leadership capabilities, who also has an innovative profile, to promote them to a level of group or department leadership, whatever it may be, to help them organize to improve productivity, but above all to adopt changes and new technologies. These leading companies promote leadership and innovation as part of their organizational culture as a strategic advantage for their competitiveness.

Download this note in Spanish and English:

Download PDF • 468KB
Download PDF • 462KB

Read it and comment in LinkedIn:

Source of more information:

[1] R. J. House, P. Hanges, M. Javidan, and P. Dorfman, Culture and Leadership, across the World: the GLOBE Book of In-depth Studies of 25 Societies, London: Routledge, 2002. [2] G. Johns and A.M. Saks, Organizational Behavior: Understanding and Managing Life at Work, 7th ed. New York: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2007.

406 views1 comment

Recent Posts

See All

1 Comment

Unknown member
Sep 24, 2021

¡Muy buena nota!

bottom of page