As a leader you want your people to be intrapreneurial. You want team members who take risks, think creatively, fix broken routines, and solve problems on their feet.
You understand that the future of your business depends on intrapreneurs who push your agenda ahead. But, the problem is that sometimes you will come across a destructive intrapreneur--that is, someone who has ideas and energy, but tends to pursue those ideas without complete sensitivity to the context. Destructive intrapreneurs are more enamored with their ideas and need to get to things done than they are sensitive to the organizational frame in which they operate.
It's not that they are not team players. It is simply that the game that they're playing is not in sync with the game that others are playing. While they aspire to support the organization, they sometimes are a bit too driven by their own sensibilities. Therefore, it is sometimes difficult to discern the destructive intrapreneur from the constructive intrapreneur. Here are the warning signs that you may have a destructive intrapreneur on your hands:
1. They create too many alliances
I've always argued that politically competent leaders need to create coalitions. They are crucial to your leadership success and they ensure that you can move an idea forward.
That said, destructive intrapreneurs have a tendency to move beyond building coalitions that would be most helpful, and look to create alliances that are tangential, and possibly detrimental, to the mission. In their eagerness to seed new ideas they will reach out to as many people as they can to inspire dialogue, create synergy, and establish credibility--without seriously weighing the pros and cons of far-flung support. The destructive intrapreneur spends a lot of time and resources creating these spurious alliances, which may provide short-term excitement, but more often than not, sputter and die.
2. They spread business too thin
In pursuit of their own validation and ambition, they will chase marginal clients, explore untested markets, and create fragile business partnerships; that is, they will spread the business too thin.
Their eagerness to try new things distracts from the larger mission. By targeting a whole new set of clients or offering a new set of solutions they sidetrack the focus from more reliable targets. Destructive intrapreneurs will always go after short-term gains at the expense of long-term strategy.
3. They have limited expertise
Destructive intrapreneurs often know a little of everything. They are confident backseat drivers who know where to go, but don't yet have the expertise to drive on their own.
While destructive intrapreneurs have a smattering of knowledge in many subject areas, they rarely have in depth knowledge in one sector. When expertise matters, destructive intrapreneurs can unwittingly cause untold damage to the organization.
4. They retain control
Destructive intrapreneurs want to be involved in every part of the business. They want to have a voice in every arena so they can protect their ideas and celebrate their successes. They want to ensure that their idea or venture does not get left behind. Moreover, the destructive intrapreneur never wants to cede control of their idea. They never want to hand their project to someone else and move on.
5. They are opaque, not transparent
Destructive intrapreneurs, come to all the meetings, discuss issues, and on the surface, appear to be sharing all information. Because their vision is so specific, they view information selectively. They interpret information from their myopic intent, and are therefore unlikely to bring all the necessary data to the surface. It is not that they are being intentionally deceptive, but their view is such that their reality is a bit opaque.
It is your job as a leader to keep destructive intrapreneurs--and potential destructive intrapreneurs--in check. Harness their creativity and energy--and give them room to experiment and innovate--but make sure there are limits to their sphere of influence to contain the eventual damage that they may effect.