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Through the Storm Leadership Series, Part 4: Leading Through the Storms of Intrapreneurship

We have all heard of entrepreneurs. These are highly motivated people who have the desires to start companies from the ground up. These individuals, or group of individuals, create ideas and turn them into businesses. I know the mind of an entrepreneur well - I am one. But what does this crazy new-ish term "Intrapreneur" mean?

An intrapreneur is a mindset. Intrapreneurs are the leaders within organizations that make the company successful. They may not have the ultimate risk of losing their business if they fail, but don't tell them that. They run their teams, departments, and organizations as if they owned the final product. They create niche procedures and practices for their team based on the team composition they either create or are given. They run their "business" as if they were putting it all on the line. I also know the mind of an intrapreneur because, I am one...

Seems like a leader that you would want in your corner, but how do we become that leader? This is where the storm rolls in. There are two separate storms that can come from intrapreneurship. The first is how to become an intrapreneur. The second is how to lead an intrapreneur. Let's head into the storm...

Becoming an Intrapreneur:

Companies want leaders who will take charge and push their product, whatever that product may be, to new and ever-growing successes. A few examples of the impacts of true intrapreneurship are Gmail and the "Like" button on Facebook. Both of these ideas were created by a team doing something outside of the box and taking ownership of a piece of a much larger organization and making it better. Gmail was birthed out of the "20% time" Google gave their employees to innovate, and the "Like" button was built during a Facebook hackathon they were running. What do they have in common? They were both ideas or projects that were created by an employee who took ownership of a piece of the business. These are now critical portions of both tech companies growth.

But how do we become intrapreneurs who can impact an organization like this? It starts with your own personal why. Why do you do what you do? Simon Sinek explains our why as the core reason behind doing what we do. "People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it." - Simon Sinek. As a future intrapreneur, you have to be able to become motivated by your why and find a way to run your part of the business based on your why.

  • Here's an example. Let's say you are a business development leader running a team of business developers for a tech company. You are in charge of developing new business for the company. You have no control over the tech that comes out, the economic growth or decline of your industry, or the overall policies by which your company works. What you DO have control over is how you do it. Let's say you really love communicating, consulting, and making connections with people - networking is your why. You can coach your team up to be the best networkers and consultants and be highly successful in this field.

The bottom line for becoming a successful intrapreneur is using your natural skillset to make your business successful. This will help drive your team, and it will get you noticed (in a good way) by those above you.

Leading an Intrapreneur

Here's a potential F5 tornado of a storm if you aren't careful. Leading driven, entrepreneurial minded people can be really difficult. There are really three types of productive workers in the workplace. 1) You have those who just want to do their jobs, get paid, and go home. 2) You have those who want to do a good job and take on more than their share of taskings, but don't want anything to do with leadership. 3)You have your motivated people who motivate others and are looking for opportunities - your intrapreneurs.

The type 3 people can be a bit hard to manage. They may look for different ways to lead within the organization and blindside their current leadership chain. They can forget to include you on important communication. They can go off on their own and drive the business in a different direction than the one the company or team is going.

The GREAT thing about type 3's is that when given an opportunity to succeed, they will get the job done. When you are leading type 3's it's highly important to ensure that they are on the right track, but give them the praise they need to keep them motivated. Give them leadership opportunities within the team and set them up for success within the company. Create opportunities for them to be visible to executive leadership and give them more opportunities to show what they can really do. They need to be challenged.

So, the storms of intrapreneurship may seem like small flurries, but when we take a look at it, they can turn into giant storms in a hurry. If you want to become an intrapreneur and take your organization to new heights, I encourage you to be transparent with your leadership. Tell them what you want and take feedback with humility. You can always learn something. If you are leading an intrapreneur, make sure that you really know what they are doing, but at the same time, give them the runway to do things differently. Encourage them and highlight them when necessary.

And always, start strong and lead well through the storms of leadership!

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