As the dynamics of work are changing so are the aspirations of millions of professionals around the world. It is no longer just about making tons of money or climbing the corporate ladder. It’s about something far more important and far more valuable.
It’s about reaching your potential. Expressing your true self. Taking advantage of your talents.
Intrapreneurs are leading the way. They are on a quest. A personal and professional journey that transcends work. It’s not just about what they accomplish but who they are at the core.
Like the Knights in the Middle Ages that were in search of the Holy Grail, today’s Intrapreneurs are searching for the answers to some of the biggest problems and challenges facing the world. And in doing so they are not only finding solutions to these issues, they are finding themselves. Their true nature and capabilities.
Research shows that when people live lives that are aligned with their true nature and capabilities, they are happy, productive and self-fulfilled. It is the desire to become everything that you are capable of becoming. It is not an end goal but a journey of self-discovery.
According to Kendra Cherry, “People are motivated to achieve their full potential. This need for fulfillment and personal growth is a key motivator of all behavior. People are continually looking for new ways to grow, to become better, to learn new things, and to experience growth and self-actualization.” Nowhere is this more evident than with intrapreneurs.
It was Abraham Maslow, who first coined the term ‘self-actualization’. Self-actualization is at the top of the pyramid – Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The premise was that once lower needs (physiology, safety, love and belonging, esteem) were satisfied than individuals could become self-actualized. The text book definition for self-actualization is “the full realization of potential and of one’s true self.”
Although I was familiar with the term ‘self-actualization’ it wasn’t until looking it up again that it made me wonder if we were missing the obvious. Were intrapreneurs unknowingly becoming self-actualized just by the very nature of the role? Were they challenging the notion that you need to proceed in an orderly fashion to reach the top of the pyramid?
Digging deeper into the traits and characteristics of a person that is self-actualized a pattern emerged that illustrated how closely the competencies and characteristics of intrapreneurs are aligned with someone that has reached their potential. Here is a list:
- Inherently unconventional – being out of the ordinary
- Independent – rely on their own experiences and judgement to guide them
- Autonomous – do not rely on external authorities
- Embrace the unknown – deal effectively with ambiguity and uncertainty
- Motivated by growth not satisfaction of needs
- Socially compassionate
- Problem oriented rather than self-centered
- Creative – original and inventive
- Realistically oriented – efficient perceptions of reality
- Spontaneous in thought and behavior
- Enjoy the journey, not the destination
- Humble and willing to learn from others
- Deep relationships with a few
- Resist conformity to culture
- Have purpose, mission in life to fulfill
- Grateful and appreciate things, sense of wonder
- Acceptance of self, flaws and all
- Sense of humor is philosophical
- Values and attitudes are democratic
- Peak performance – transcendent experience
- Risk being vulnerable
- Real wish to be themselves
Many professionals possess a mix of these competencies and characteristics, but it is the breadth and depth of these that distinguish the true intrapreneur from others. They engage in experiences that expand and enhance these competencies. They step outside what they’ve always known to be true to test the waters, experiment, learn and grow. They push the boundaries of what is acceptable behavior. They explore the unknown.
Intrapreneurs are unconventional, independent and deal effectively with ambiguity and uncertainty. They are on a mission, with a vision and don’t get bogged down with details. They are motivated by a challenge and the desire to grow. They are realistic problem solvers. They use their knowledge, intuition and creativity to find solutions. They are focused on the process not the destination. They approach each challenge with a sense of wonder. They are self-aware and leverage their strengths and accept their weaknesses. They resist conforming to the existing culture. They are fair in their dealings with others. They will risk being vulnerable to learn and grow. All of these align with the traits of someone that has tapped into their true potential.
It was Maslow that said that true state of self-actualization in society was rare. We find the same thing with intrapreneurs. The research has shown that only a small percentage of individuals are entrepreneurs or entrepreneurial.
Maslow also said that there are no quick roots to becoming self-actualized. The same is true with intrapreneurs. Intrapreneurship is not an intellectual exercise it comes from experience. It takes time and patience to be an intrapreneur.
Maslow used the term actualization to describe “a desire that could lead to realizing one’s capabilities. He felt that these people had somehow managed to find their core nature that is unique to them and is one of the true goals of life. The desire for self-fulfillment.”
The pandemic has been a time of reflection for most people. It put the spotlight on themselves, what they had been doing, why they were doing it and questioning if it was what they still wanted to do. This has led to what it now called the Great Resignation. Reports state however, that prior to the pandemic may employees were ready to quit their job. According to a Microsoft report, “41% of employees where likely to consider leaving their current employer.” Then the pandemic hit, and many stayed put.
In the article, The Great Resignation, Kelly Luc says, “The pandemic has redefined – or revealed – what really matters to many people. People have had months to rethink what work means to them, what it means to be valued, and how they want to create value in the world.”
Publications are quick to point out a variety of reasons why we are seeing high resignations. Among them, job dissatisfaction, looking for a new career, lack of empathy and humanity, wanting more flexibility, more freedom and disappointment in the organization’s response to social issues. Many of these reasons are true, but beneath this is the desire to live a life that is meaningful, fulfilling and rewarding. Things that many organizations cannot offer. It’s not about creating a new culture but enabling employees to reach their full potential.
The ability to reach your potential as in intrapreneur is realized through a strong desire to find answers, solve problems, and develop new solutions that create value. You are stepping outside your comfort zone and creating something new, something that has never been done before.
Intrapreneurs are looking to solve the most difficult and challenging problems. In doing so they are not only finding creative solutions to pressing problems they are unknowingly exploring the breadth and depth of their own capabilities.
Are intrapreneurs helping us see a path to self-fulfillment?
It is something worth thinking about?
Originally published in 2017, updated in 2021.