Intrapreneurs and social intrapreneurs are the new face of leadership. They are willing to step up, speak out and make a difference. They are demonstrating confidence, commitment, and courage in the face of adversity. They are open, transparent, and committed to moving their organizations forward.

They are showing us what is possible.  Not in their words but in their actions.

Intrapreneurs and social intrapreneurs are helping us re-think what works means to us as individuals and redefining the role of business. They are demonstrating through their actions what it takes to more innovative, productive, and engaged. They are transforming organizations to be more entrepreneurial and more relevant in a rapidly changing world.

In doing so they are ensuring a future for their organizations and the customers that they serve. They are also paving a path for the next generation of workers. Workers that are ambitious, restless, and searching for meaning. Workers that see work not as a place but as a community of like-minded individuals that want to make a difference. Workers that are not motivated by money but motivated by purpose and value.

It is these workers that in a recent study said they felt current business approaches were too traditional, that there was a need to create a new work environment and redefine leadership. That is exactly what intrapreneurs and social intrapreneurs are doing.

Intrapreneurs and social intrapreneurs are creating that environment. Not by what they say but what they do. They are leading the way. But what does the new face of leadership look like. How do we know when we see it?

Here are 11 things that these leaders do:

  1. Question decisions made at the top.
  2. Challenge traditional business practices.
  3. Break down silos and organizational barriers.
  4. Deal effectively with complexity and uncertainty.
  5. Leverage limited resources more effectively.
  6. Tear down old systems and building new ones.
  7. Co-create innovations with customers and partners.
  8. Motivate and engage others in work that is challenging.
  9. Build a flexible, adaptable, and entrepreneurial culture
  10. Generate business value for customers and the bottom line.
  11. Learn from both their successes and their failures.

Intrapreneurs and social intrapreneurs have always been pioneers, builders and change agents driving innovations. Now they are doing the same thing for organizations. They are forging a new path to success, building a new operating model, and transforming cultures to align with the new business reality.

So why is that most intrapreneurial leaders don’t feel like the fit. If they fit, they wouldn’t be intrapreneurs. They are challenging the very foundation of the organization, rocking the boat, taking it in a new and different direction. They are turning the organization upside down and inside out. It is unsettling, disruptive, and frightening. Not knowing where they are taking the organization or how they will get there makes people uncomfortable.

This is the great divide between traditional leaders and intrapreneurs – the known and unknown. It is the difference between playing it safe or taking a risk, relying on past experience or experimentation, needing detailed information to decide or leveraging what you know, minimizing risks or maximizing value, asking for what you need or leveraging what you’ve got. They see what is possible.  It is a mindset, a way of operating that is foreign to many of us.

Intrapreneurial leaders are wired differently. They look at everything as a two-way street. It is not my way or your way. It’s what makes sense for the situation, at that moment in time. Instead of choosing one way over the other, they will find a new and different way that combines the best of both. They are integrative thinkers.

For intrapreneurial leaders it’s not just about how they think but how they act that distinguishes them from traditional leaders. They learn by testing their ideas, experimenting, and trying new approaches. They manage risk through action; place small bets quickly, embrace complexity, and leverage contingencies. They work with what they have got not what they need. They are action oriented.

Intrapreneurial leaders make decisions differently. They resist diving into the data too early in the process. They seek to understand complexity, not simplify things too quickly. They will make decisions without sufficient data; take calculated risks, shift gears, or change direction when new information becomes available. They do all this while managing the tension between short term demands and long-term strategy. They are decisive.

Intrapreneurial leaders are authentic, resilient, emotionally intelligent, and self-aware. They take responsibility for their own growth and development. They don’t wait for opportunities to be given to them; they actively seek them out. They are stepping up, speaking out and moving forward. They are not only modeling change, they are driving change and creating an entrepreneurial culture along the way. They make change happen.

These are only a few of the reasons how intrapreneurs and social intrapreneurs are changing the face of leadership. They are pushing the boundaries of what an organization is and what it can become.

Originally published in 2015

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