Transformational leaders are visionaries: they are change catalysts who see beyond the status quo to a better future. The quality of their leadership is transformational—not just in the revolutionary change they seek to promote, but in the way they prioritize their internal and external stakeholders along the way.
Transformational leaders possess an exceptional ability to engage and empower people to work toward a vision that promotes the best outcome for those inside and outside of the organization.
Transformational leaders come in two flavors—entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs. Few transformational leaders, however, identify themselves with either category. The distinction is an important one, however, for understanding where change originates and how it transpires across the organization.
Did you know that most first-time entrepreneurs have crow’s feet and vast work experience under their belts?
Entrepreneurs seek to promote change from outside of the organization. Contrary to popular media portrayals, they are not all twenty-something, Harvard dropouts who launch the next game changing-business and have a movie made about their lives.
The reality is a lot less flashy, with more guts and less glamour. In fact, most first-time entrepreneurs have crow’s feet and vast work experience under their belts. Look at the numbers:
• The fastest growing segment of entrepreneurs is over the age of 50
• The average successful high-growth entrepreneur is between the ages of 40 and 49
Crazy in a good way
When you read these statistics, are you left wondering: How do these people do it, and can I do it too? The answer is, yes you can. It just might look a little different than you thought.
For starters, think about being an entrepreneur as a state of mind, and not as a profession. My friend Mark Johnson, CEO of Descartes Labs and featured in FastCompany, describes entrepreneurship as a lifestyle. What separates an entrepreneur from the rest of the working world? Mark describes an entrepreneur as someone who likes building new products that change the world. Entrepreneurs tend to be curious, and yeah, a little crazy. Crazy in a good way.
Quiz: entrepreneur vs intrapreneur ?
Think you might be an entrepreneur? Take this 30-second test: do you see a gap that no one is filling, or do you see a business and you know you can do better? If you just can’t stop thinking about how you would fill that gap or make that business better, then you might just be crazy enough to make some money as entrepreneur.
If entrepreneurs promote change from the outside in, intrapreneurs instigate change from the inside out. They leverage company resources and infrastructure for R&D, sales, product management, and marketing to execute their vision. Intrapreneurs are the troublemakers—mavericks who disrupt “business as usual” by creating new markets and business models and by attracting new talent into the organization.
Think you might be an intrapreneur? The League of Intrapreneurs provides a quick test: “Do you work for big business? Are you responsible for launching a new initiative, product or service that is a force for good in the world? Would your colleagues describe you as a bit of a maverick, maven or misfit? If so, you may be a social intrapreneur.” Check out the League’s website for intrapreneurial resources, thought leadership, and even a nifty toolkit for cubicle warriors.
Transformational leader in the making
The challenge for both entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs is that their visions inevitably challenge someone else’s status quo. Where there is heat, there is fire. Transformational leaders know how to quell opposing voices by engaging them. They do this by effectively demonstrating that the new paradigm is in everyone’s self-interest. They unify their peers and involve them in the change process.
The vision of an entrepreneur or intrapreneur ensures that people prosper, not perish. Might you be a transformational leader in the making?