We all know the term entrepreneur, but not many of us have heard the term “intrapreneur” (or internal entrepreneur). In his foundational book Entrepreneurship: Text, Cases, and Notes, Robert Ronstadt entertains the concept of internal entrepreneurialism, writing:
..entrepreneurship can mean routine as well as innovative activities. It can include the creation of an entity as well as its ongoing management and development as an enterprise…It may involve individuals working under the umbrella of an existing organization or those working independently or autonomously to create a new entity from scratch.” (p.27)
One could argue that intrapteneurs are responsible for much of the innovation we see taking place in organizations today, particularly when leaders create an environmental culture within the enterprise that fosters and encourages “out of the box” thinking (a substantially over-used term, but relevant nonetheless). Subsequently, one could also cast intrapreneurism as an effective tenet in leadership development…especially leadership development for women.
In her article “Women in Leadership: Leveraging ALL of You”, Dr. Marie Alcazar writes that women in (or seeking) leadership positions must understand the importance of differentiating themselves among their colleagues. This task becomes tantamount to impossible when women aren’t given the opportunity to practice intrapreneurialism within their organizations. In a recent article titled “Build the Next Generation of Female Leaders” in Diversity Executive magazine, Jeffrey Cattel notes that a recent study found that a majority of female respondents crave entrepreneurial experiences at work. Cattel also interviews a female principal in a well-known financial services firm about the state of women in leadership, and the need for intrapreneurship. Cattel ultimate discovers that the best way to foster intrapreneurship among prospective women leaders is to connect them with women intrapreneurs who can guide and mentor.
So, we have yet more evidence that mentoring, coaching, and exposure to a nurturing environment helps foster leadership development – especially for those actively seeking models of effective leadership.