What distinguishes a traditional leader from an intrapreneurial leader?  That is a question that many large organizations are exploring.

The pressure to understand this difference is put into perspective in the article Taking Charge: Entrepreneurs in Pursuit of Innovation, “One of the biggest contrasts between corporate leaders and those who excel as entrepreneurs is an attitude of exploration and risk-taking that isn’t always the first course of action for traditional corporate leaders.”  A disconnect that can result in the exodus of some of the most entrepreneurial (intrapreneurial) leaders to pursue their own ventures.

Part of the issue is that only a small percent of executives in large organizations are intrapreneurs or intrapreneurial.  As a result there has been limited research in understanding the real differences between these two types of leaders.

Our research has shown that there are key differences in the way traditional and intrapreneurial leaders approach situations, think, take action, make decisions, motivate, inspire and lead people.  We found that traditional leaders are good at what they do but intrapreneurial leaders are good at being both – a traditional leader and an intrapreneurial leader.  This is a key distinction.

Intrapreneurial leaders live in a world of contrast.  They must operate in the core business at the same time they are building a new one.  They must know where the organization is flexible, how far they can push and the extent to which they can bend the rules.  They understand that it is a balancing act.

  • Being loyal on one hand and independent on the other
  • Collaborative and competitive
  • Poised and passionate
  • Tough minded and empathic
  • Factual and intuitive
  • More…..

It is this ability to co-exist in both these worlds that sets the intrapreneurial leader apart from others.

Beyond this you can dive deeper and look at the competencies and behaviors that distinguish traditional leaders from intrapreneurial leaders.  Take for instance the top competencies that make intrapreneurial leaders successful:  independent thinking, navigating uncertainty, engaged and thriving, driving change, leadership effectiveness and execution.

Traditional leaders possess these competencies but not at the depth that intrapreneurial leaders exhibit them.  It is the depth of the competency that separates these two types of leaders.

The reality is that organizations need both types of leaders to build and sustain their business.  The question is what kind of leader are you?

Are you more of a traditional leader or more of an intrapreneurial leader?

In order to help you answer that question we created the Intrapreneur Scorecard , a self-assessment that lets you compare yourself to the attributes of traditional versus intrapreneurial leaders.

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