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Leadership for sustainability: fostering organizational learning to achieve radical innovations

Emilio Domínguez-Escrig (Universitat Jaume I, Castelló de la Plana, Spain)
Francisco Fermín Mallén-Broch (Universitat Jaume I, Castelló de la Plana, Spain)

European Journal of Innovation Management

ISSN: 1460-1060

Article publication date: 24 August 2021

Issue publication date: 8 March 2023




While concerns about the social and environmental impact that result from business activity continue to grow, a stream of research consolidates to understand the mechanisms that can favor more sustainable companies. The present study tries to expand the knowledge of the antecedents of radical innovation by analyzing the effects of alternative and understudied constructs. Grounded on stewardship and organizational learning theories, this paper analyzes how leaders that are concerned with sustainability and the social impact of their companies may boost this type of innovation by facilitating an organizational context that promotes experimentation, dialog, participative decision-making, risk-taking and interaction with the external environment.


Through structural equation modeling, the study provides empirical evidence of the positive effect of stewardship leader behavior on radical innovation, using organizational learning capability as an explanatory variable.


Results suggest that organizational learning capability fully mediates the relationship between stewardship leader behavior and radical innovation.

Research limitations/implications

This research focuses on a sample frame of Spanish companies with recognized excellence in human resources management.

Practical implications

In the context of a growing interest in sustainable development, and concern for the consequences of economic and business activities, this study highlights the role played by stewardship leader behavior to foster radical innovation and organizational learning capability which, in turn, represent essential tools to compete in a globalized and turbulent context.


To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first empirical study that analyzes the mediating effect of organizational learning capability in the relationship between stewardship leader behavior and radical innovation. This paper contributes to the understanding of how stewardship leader behavior affects radical innovation and the key role played by organizational learning capability.



This work was supported by the Universitat Jaume I under Grants UJI-B2019-04 and UJI-A2019-22; and the Generalitat Valenciana under Grant GV/2020/169.


Domínguez-Escrig, E. and Mallén-Broch, F.F. (2023), "Leadership for sustainability: fostering organizational learning to achieve radical innovations", European Journal of Innovation Management, Vol. 26 No. 2, pp. 309-330.



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