The Academy Awards

Leadership Insights from the Oscars

Sunday 10th March saw the 96th Academy Awards celebrate the glitz and glamour on Hollywood’s most prestigious night and beyond the dazzling lights, celebrity sightings, and teary acceptance speeches, there lies a treasure trove of insights for leaders seeking to cultivate innovation within their organisations. Drawing parallels between the cinematic world and the corporate realm, let’s explore what leaders can learn from the Academy Awards about fostering innovative cultures.

Setting the Scene

Jimmy Kimmel didn’t quite hit the mark with his opening monologue, which included a piece on the irrepressible Robert Downey Jnr. It wasn’t funny; it was crass. Kimmel referenced Downey Jnr’s addiction battles even though he has been clean and sober for 21 years. This was not feel-good humour. This was spiky and, dare I say it, awkward. Not the ideal opening gambit when trying to win approval from the audience. This bold approach can lose your colleagues, peers, and stakeholders if you don’t hit the right tone in addressing audiences from the off.


The Director’s Vision

In filmmaking, the director is the visionary who shapes the artistic and dramatic aspects of a project, turning vision into reality. They handle every aspect of leadership, providing the focus and inspiration needed to drive innovation forward. Just as a movie Director sets the tone for a film, organisational leaders must set the tone for innovation, leading by example, and showing a commitment to pushing boundaries and managing a team committed to the same goals.

Acknowledging Star Performances

No great film is complete without its stars—individuals who bring the vision to life with their exceptional performances – whether behind the scenes, or in front of the camera. In business, fostering a culture of innovation requires identifying and empowering these “star” employees who can take on leading roles in driving change. They represent the optimum balance of both performance and professionalism. By focusing on and nurturing talent, leaders can ensure that their people have the firepower to innovate and thrive.

The Power of the Soundtrack

Just as a soundtrack enhances the emotional and dramatic elements of a film, a supportive environment is crucial for fostering innovation. This support system provides the infrastructure and resources needed for creative ideas to flourish. Leaders must ensure they have the support networks in place, including resources, infrastructure, time, money, and technology, to fuel innovation.


In filmmaking, the setting provides the backdrop against which the story unfolds, shaping the narrative in subtle yet significant ways. Similarly, the cultural and physical environment of an organisation plays a critical role in fostering innovation. Leaders must create spaces that encourage creativity at every level, allowing employees to contribute their unique perspectives and ideas. By nurturing a psychologically safe culture that celebrates creativity, organisations can unlock the full potential of their teams.

Critical Acclaim

Constructive criticism is essential for refining and improving any creative endeavour, whether it’s a film or a business innovation. Leaders must create channels for feedback, encouraging a culture where criticism is an opportunity for growth rather than a threat. By engaging with internal “critics,” organisations can gain valuable insights that help them course-correct, pivot and innovate more effectively.

And the Oscar goes to…

Powerful leaders are humble, they understand the gravitas of diversity, equality, inclusivity, teamwork, and psychological safety and who, instead of selfishly taking the credit, share the credit and acknowledge those who contributed along the way.

The After-Party

Celebrating successes is essential, and sustaining innovation momentum requires more than just a onetime celebration. Leaders must implement strategies to keep the creative flame alive, ensuring innovation remains a priority in the long term. By rewarding innovative behaviour, sharing successes, and fostering a culture of continuous improvement, organisations can maintain their competitive edge and drive sustainable growth.

The Oscars remind us of the transformative power of storytelling, vision, and creativity and by applying these principles to their own organisations, leaders can unlock the full potential of their teams and turn their everyday challenges into compelling stories of success.

Gavin Bryce is a best-selling author working directly with growth-mindset leaders through his company, Constant Progression, and in his role as a Group Chair with Vistage – the world’s largest CEO peer advisory organisation. Gavin hosts in person and online Unmasking Leadership workshops in April.