Innovation Distinguishes Between A Leader And A Follower- Steve Jobs

Education News | Mar-21-2023

Innovation Distinguishes Between A Leader And A Follower- Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Inc., was a visionary entrepreneur and innovator. His quote, "Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower," is one of his most well-known statements. It highlights the importance of innovation in distinguishing successful leaders from those who follow in their footsteps.

The difference between leaders and followers is a big debate in the changing and dynamic worlds of business, society, and human actions. Though a lot of things go into making this difference, but innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.

It is the one that brings the new and extraordinary to the world. It is the factor that motivates people and organisations to be more wholesome than the current situation, to the extent that they surpass the existing standards, thus creating the way for their growth.

Innovation is the process of creating something new or improving on existing products, services, or ideas. Leaders who prioritize innovation are often able to create disruptive and groundbreaking products that transform industries and change the way people live and work.

In contrast, those who follow tend to imitate or replicate existing ideas, products, or services, without bringing significant value or differentiation to the market. This lack of innovation can lead to a lack of competitiveness and ultimately fail to stay relevant and successful in the long run.

Steve Jobs was a firm believer in the power of innovation, and he placed it at the center of his business strategy. Apple's success can be attributed to its innovative approach to product design, marketing, and customer experience. Apple's products are known for their sleek design, intuitive user interfaces, and seamless integration across various devices, making them highly desirable among consumers.


Innovation requires creativity, risk-taking, and the ability to think outside the box. Leaders who prioritize innovation are often willing to take risks and pursue unconventional ideas, even if they are not initially popular or profitable. They are also able to inspire and motivate their teams to think creatively and push the boundaries of what is possible.


Innovation is not a one-time event but rather an ongoing process that requires constant experimentation, iteration, and improvement. Leaders who prioritize innovation must foster a culture of continuous improvement, encourage experimentation, and create an environment that supports risk-taking and learning from failures.


Steve Jobs' quote highlights the importance of innovation in distinguishing between leaders and followers. Leaders who prioritize innovation are often able to create a sustainable competitive advantage, drive growth and profitability, and achieve long-term success. In contrast, followers who lack innovation may struggle to stay relevant and compete in an ever-changing market.

Who Is the Leader?

A leader is a person who has the vision, courage, and determination to be different from the crowd and to initiate new ways. The pioneers are the leaders who are the ones who are bold enough to think differently and accept new ideas.

They have the natural gift of seeing the future, discovering the opportunities and grabbing them with the strongest of the wills.

Qualities of a Leader

  • Visionary: The genuine and solid vision is essential for the leaders' decisions, and it also encourages others to follow. They can foresee the future and create a path that others might find difficult to follow.
  • Risks Taker: The leaders are the ones that are not afraid to be themselves. They are the ones who usually make the high-risk decisions. They realize that to go ahead, you need to make yourself comfortable with the uncertainty and question the current order.
  • Flexibility: The leaders are flexible and can change the situation. They understand that invention is a continuous process and no matter the situation they always keep themselves open to new ideas and innovations.
  • Creativity: Creativity and the development of a new way to solve problems are the characteristics of a leader. They are always on the hunt for new solutions to the hard problems. They do not confine themselves to the information they have already acquired.
  • Persistence: Innovation is not a walk in the park; the difficulties and the problems are looming on the way. Leaders are the ones who are tough and determined to surmount obstacles and keep on with the task even when the difficulties are present.

Who Is the Follower?

Followers are those who attach a higher value to the rules and traditions than the leaders. They are okay with the sense of security and comfort that the status quo gives them; thus, they usually function within the existing systems and structures instead of the uncertainty and disturbance that innovation often brings.

Features of a Follower:

  • Risk-averse: In general, the followers are cautious, and the people that they are following do not change, so they would rather follow the routes that they already know.
  • Conformity: Usually, the followers have no will or confidence to ask why the existing thing is being done this way; hence, they just follow the rules and norms of the organisation, society, and the set procedures.
  • Dependency: Since they do not have the self-esteem and the will to move forward, followers usually take the advice and direction of others.
  • Complacency: When one is preoccupied with maintaining things as they are, followers could become complacent and forget that something must be enhanced or reinvented.
  • Resistance to change: Because of their desire for stability and predictability, followers are always resistant to the changes that innovation might bring, even though they might be required or advantageous.

Difference Between a Leader and A Follower

Attitude: Usually, followers go for a more careful and risk-averse attitude, the one that prefers the known and tested, while leaders emphasise the innovative side of things. They are always looking for new and better ways to get things done.

Method of change: Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower. The followers are more unwilling and reactive to any changes, and hence, they prefer to be in the established routines, whereas the leaders are the ones, especially with their innovative nature, who are the first to go for the changes.

Making decisions: Followers tend to stick to the already set rules and recurring situations, while leaders make their decisions based on their vision and the readiness to take calculated risks.

Impact: The followers mostly support the existing system and have less influence, while the leaders, on the other hand, break the sectors and introduce new things with their creative ideas and deeds.

Inspiration: The followers are more likely to obey the status quo and the rules while the leaders will encourage people to think and act differently with their vision, passion, and innovation.

The Value of Innovation

For people, organisations, and communities to live and progress, they all need innovation; it is not just a slogan or a fleeting trend. Those who don't innovate may end up being left behind and outdated in a world that is changing fast.

Innovation-oriented leaders are the ones who can transform markets, create new industries, and open up whole new areas. They test the boundaries, refute the accepted knowledge, and inspire others to think and do something different.

Thus, they pave the way for the emergence of revolutionary developments that will be beneficial to millions of people and communities.

 On the other hand, followers who do not accept change and retain the status quo may find themselves more and more isolated and unable to adapt to the constantly changing environment.

What Leaders Do Differently than Followers

  • Difficult Premises: Leaders are not limited by expectations or the usual wisdom. They are always striving for new, fresh viewpoints and opportunities, always questioning the status quo and enduring ideas. They can spot new concepts and identify spots that are suitable for innovation using this kind of thinking.
  • Promote Diverse Views: Leaders are aware that the meeting point of many ideas. They are very keen on finding and appreciating the other viewpoints, creating a situation where new ideas can grow and be examined without worrying about criticism or banishment.
  • Accepting Failure and Learning: Since innovation is a process that is constantly changing, failure is a mandatory part of the journey. Thus, the leaders build a culture that values learning from mistakes rather than punishing them. They see the setbacks, from their point of view, as opportunities to learn and get better at their strategy, thus creating a climate that promotes taking chances and experimenting.
  • Giving Others More Power: Great leaders provide others with the opportunity to think and to behave in a creative way. Through the model of a passion for creation, they inspire their employees to embrace new ideas and challenge the conventional way of thinking. This sets off a domino effect whereby the creativity spreads in the group's or organisation's culture.

Leaders who realise that creativity is a never-ending process are always ready to learn and change as situations do. They are excited to change and adapt their strategies as needed, and are always looking for new information, and keep up with new trends and technologies.

How Innovation Distinguishes Between a Leader and A Follower

  • Proactive versus reactive: Leaders are always in search of opportunities to modify and upgrade the current systems and practices for the sake of innovation. On the other hand, the leaders usually do not start the changes; they usually react to those that are forced upon them.
  • Risk Tolerance: Invention mostly means to break the rules and then decide to take a calculated risk. In contrast to leaders who are prepared to face the uncertainty and venture out of their comfort zones, followers usually prefer the stability, comfort and the resistance to change.
  • Innovation: A leader is an innovator and not a follower. The innovation-based leaders' creative ideas and actions have revolutionized the whole industry, created new markets and pushed the progress.
  • Change of Mindset: Innovation requires a complete change of the way of thinking from the one of keeping the status quo to the one of always asking, investigating and challenging the status quo. Fans usually have a challenging time breaking the fixed mindset, but leaders are the living examples of the growth attitude.


How Can Followers Become Leaders through Innovation

  • Foster a Growth Mentality: The followers who want to be the leaders should have a growth-oriented mindset. This means that one should be prepared to learn, accept the challenges, and have the mindset that the failures are chances for improvement, not the failures.
  • Look for Different Points of View: The supporters should ask and discuss different points of view and experiences. A group of people that are diverse can be the one to help you to think outside the box, come up with new ideas, and create a creative environment.
  • Take Reasoned Risks and Experiment: The innovation is connected with the tendency to take the safe risks. Despite the obstacles, the followers should search for the chances to conduct the studies, to test the new ideas, and to learn from the outcomes.
  • Adapt to Changes: The followers should be prepared to adapt their principles and methods if the situation calls for it, actively seek for new information, and keep up with the latest trends and technologies.

Final Word

However, the followers who have a growth mindset, question assumptions, are ready to listen to different opinions, and are willing to try and experiment and take calculated risks can eventually become leaders themselves. They may thus break free from the constraints of the present condition and stimulate innovation in their community or organisation.

Innovation is not only a desired quality but also a necessity for success in the fast-changing world of today. This is how innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.

 Leaders who are fond of innovation will continue to lead society forward, redesigning entire sectors and leaving a lasting impact. The ones who are unwilling to change face the risk of being out of fashion and unimportant.

At the end of the day, each person is the one who makes the choice to be a leader or a follower. The future leaders will be the ones who accept risk, have an innovative way of thinking, and are courageous enough to question the status quo. These individuals will change the world and leave a lasting impression in their fields.

In conclusion, innovation is a critical component of successful leadership, and it requires constant effort and a commitment to continuous improvement. Leaders who prioritize innovation can create a lasting impact on their organizations, industries, and the world, while those who follow risk becoming obsolete and irrelevant.


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