I have given my own sweat, tears, passion and commitment to the journey of intrapreneurship. I have despaired, almost given up, felt I’ve failed, and sometimes experienced the warm glow of success. In this series of articles, I wish to share my understanding of how you can become an exceptional Intrapreneurial Leader.
In this third essay, I wish to explore how a leader can super-charge intrapreneurial transformation in their organisation by building a motivated community of the willing. I wish to describe how a community can be identified and engaged. I want to give you the courage to allow others to shine, give away control and disperse power.
If you are going to lead you had better find some followers
Over the last thirty years I have worked with many self- absorbed Leaders; who sit in their offices and think up great strategies; who write wonderful speeches to be delivered to cynical and dis-believing staff. I have seen those same leaders suppose their role is to discover great truths from their inner psyche, like some latter-day Moses, only to be ignored and derided by their peers ’and work teams. I have seen so many leaders end up isolated and irrelevant as they slowly descend into a bunker mentality feeling betrayed and only seeing enemies instead of supportive colleagues. If a leader has no willing followers, they are doomed to fail.
As described in previous essays, the philosophy of Intrapreneurial leadership is completely different.
- Intrapreneurial leadership is about “doing with not doing to”.
- Intrapreneurial leadership is allowing colleagues to work in ways that allow their talents and strengths to shine.
- Intrapreneurial Leadership is about freeing people to succeed rather than controlling them.
- Intrapreneurial Leaders know that to transform an organisation they must have a legion of determined colleagues who are passionate to go on the journey with them.
The power of the community of the willing
The only way that intrapreneurship can be embedded and thrive in an organisation is if a leader has the skills to build a community of the willing. The leader needs to persuade enough people that firstly she or he is someone worth following through their clarity of thought and their exemplary behaviour.
They need to have the capacity to construct a vision of a future organisation that is worth everyone working to create, that colleagues are proud to build and craft a coherent narrative that inspires and motivates others to make a shared dream come true.
This community, through the power of dispersed leadership, will convince others in the organisation to be part of the transformation. They will be the supporters of the required changes and indeed at the forefront of instigating behavioural change through the strength of their belief in the mission.
Once you have successfully communicated the direction we must go, the values we must extol and the Non-Negotiable Behaviours we must exhibit then you will become like Robespierre “There go my people I must follow them “ The community will lead the change and you will become their cheerleader.
One is the magic number
A community of the willing starts with just one person. However, your first disciple will be the hardest to recruit and the easiest to get wrong. Often you will believe someone really gets it only to subsequently find they were just saying what you want to hear. Or someone who does truly believe will join you but will fall away when the going gets tough. Sometimes you are so desperate to have a follower that you convince yourself that an individual will support you only to find out later that, like the first friend you make at University is never the friend you graduate with, they do not last the distance.
What I am sure of is you need to be patient and you need to be brave. In an organisation, I am changing now it took me 5 months before I gained my first supporter. However, it was worth the wait as she has turned out to be one of the most talented people I have ever met. It is whilst waiting for the first convert that you need to be brave. It is when you are the lonely voice in the wilderness that you must remain steadfast and true to the philosophy of intrapreneurship.
What I will promise you is once you have the first true follower many will then join you. In no time at all those who seemed set against you start talking your language.
So how will you know you have found the right recruit? You will need to watch them and see if they can exhibit your non-negotiable behaviours in good times and bad. You will need to assess if they have the courage to relentlessly continue when it seems all is lost and most importantly you will need to be convinced that they will be able to influence their colleagues to join the community.
And so, the community grows
To get one follower takes forever. However, just like the flu, intrapreneurship is highly infectious. When we transformed the culture in one large organisation it took less than 2 months for a community of the willing to grow from 1 believer to 4500.
So, this is how it works. The first convert will persuade 5 to join, those 5 will persuade 25, who will then influence a further 125. Very soon you will have communities across your organisation being innovative, customer centric and hungry to help make the organisation even more efficient.
There will be a moment you will reach a tipping point when your non-negotiable behaviours are just what we do around here. Dispersed leadership and adult to adult relationships become the norm. You will feel the energy in the organisation and see amazing improvements in Company performance.
The most powerful skill an Intrapreneurial leader can have is to build a Community of the Willing. If you can achieve this you will embed intrapreneurship, with all its benefits, into the fabric of the organisation.