Intrapreneurs proactively take steps to learn, grow and change themselves to be better, do better and help others be their best.  They are open to exploring who they are and what they are capable of becoming.  In doing so they are unraveling the mystery of who they are at the core and making adjustments along the way.

Intrapreneurs are not afraid to push the limits of their own knowledge and experience.  They do it through their own thoughts, words and actions.  They will expand their reach beyond what they know to be true to that which is still unknown.  They will face adversity head on with an optimistic outlook.  They will blast through barriers that get in their way.  They will push the boundaries of what are sacred business practices.  They will dispel fears by exposing the beliefs behind them.  They will mitigate risk by managing the upside and downside of that risk. They will lead and motivate others into uncharted territory with a belief that anything is possible. They will stay the course despite the emotional toll it takes on them or their team.

To do this Intrapreneurs must first understand where they are, at a point in time and then use that as a benchmark for improvement.

When it comes to leadership the link between success and failure lies in self-awareness.

According to the definition, “Self-awareness is having a clear perception of your personality, including strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivations and emotions.” It is all about how you see yourself.  It’s your internal view of who you are and how you operate.

In the article How to Become a Better Leader in the MIT Sloan Management Review, “Self-awareness has been cited as the most important capability for leaders to develop.”

In a study of successful business leaders conducted by Green Peak Partners and Cornell University they found that “A high self-awareness score was the strongest predictor of overall success.”

In the book Hearts, Smarts, Guts and Luck, Anthony k. Tjan found that there is “one quality that trumps all, evident in virtually every great entrepreneur, manager and leader.  That quality is self-awareness.”

Although most of us think we know who we are, in reality we may only be seeing a part of the picture. We have a tendency to highlight the positive aspects of ourselves and ignore the negative.  In the HBR article, What Self-Awareness Really Is, the author Tasha Eurich found that in 10 separate investigations with nearly 5,000 participants that “even though people believe that they are self-aware, self-awareness is a truly rare quality. The researchers estimated that only 10-15% of the people that were studied actually fit the criteria.”

In the Forbes article, Great Leadership Starts with Self-Awareness, “One of the key indicators of low self-awareness is being unaware of personal blind spots – traits or aspects that may limit the way you act, react, behave, or believe, and in turn, limit effectiveness.” This can be an issue especially for senior leaders who may have a strong ego or a heightened sense of self-confidence.  According to the article, “The more power a leader holds, the more likely they are to overestimate their skills and abilities.”

So why is self-awareness so important for Intrapreneurs? It just may be the key to leadership success.

As intrapreneurs you have a key differentiation.  You think, act, and make decisions differently.  You have different motivations and aspirations.  You see the world through a different lens.  You are an enigma to many people in your organizations.  They will not always understand you or appreciate you for what you do or how you do it.  You will find yourself alone, isolated from others who align more closely with the core business and what it stands for.  Being different is a curse and a blessing.

To that end it is incumbent upon you to understand that your differentiation is what makes you unique, complex and often misunderstood.  As one intrapreneur said to me, “I feel like I am playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers.” It is not as if one game is better than another it is that there are two different games and as an Intrapreneur you need to be playing both.  You’ve got one foot in the core business and one in the new business you are creating.  It is up to you to understand the difference and understand the gaps that exist between these worlds in order for you to be effective in both.

Self-awareness enables you to be more aware of those differences and to operate more effectively and successfully.

It helps you reconcile oneself as an individual separate from the environment and other individuals.

  • It helps you better understand your behavior patterns. How your behavior affects you as a leader and its impact on other people.
  • It helps you monitor your inner world – your thoughts and feelings. You are able to see where your thoughts and feelings are taking you.
  • It provides insight into your beliefs and values. You gain insight into what you believe and value and how they influence you.
  • It gives you the capacity for self-reflection and mindfulness. You are more conscious of yourself and those around you.
  • It helps you understand what motivates you and influences your decision making. You see more clearly how you arrive at making the decisions you do.
  • It makes you appreciate your openness, honesty, commitment and truth seeking. You understand why seeking the truth is important, both good and bad.

The value of self-awareness is in helping you focus your attention, your emotions, reactions, personality and behavior which determines where you go in life.  According to Anthony K. Tjan, “The best thing leaders can do to improve their effectiveness is to become more aware of what motivates them and their decision making.” You cannot change something if you don’t know it needs to be changed.

Often we wait until a situation arises and deal with it at that moment.  We don’t take the time to reflect before we react.  Self-awareness is developed through practice and self-reflection.  It starts with assessing your own level of self-awareness and understanding those things that are impeding your ability to be effective.  If you don’t you are flying blind.

After years of working with Intrapreneurs and Intrapreneurial Leaders it is clear that the link between success and failure lies in self-awareness. That’s why we have included self-awareness in all of our assessment tools.  The more you understand yourself, the more you understand others and you are able to lead, inspire and engage them in more intrapreneurial pursuits.

Perhaps that is the reason why only one percent of leaders are intrapreneurs or intrapreneurial.  We continue to be amazed at how many leaders are eager to have their people assess themselves but they are not willing to do it themselves.

Leaders that do look deep within themselves are able to understand those things they need to change in order to reach their full leadership potential.

One intrapreneur not only took the initiative on her own to assess her capabilities.  She circled back the next year to reassess what she learned and how she had improved.  She showed a forty two percent improvement in performance in the key leadership competencies she needed to be effective in her role.  Not only did she work on things she needed to change she improved on those things she was already good at performing.  In doing this she became a better leader and led her team to great success.

Intrapreneurs that want to unlock their own leadership potential need to become more self-aware.

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