THE BLOG
11/21/2014 01:39 pm ET Updated Jan 21, 2015

Not All Entrepreneurs Own a Business

If most people were asked to define the word entrepreneur, many would envision a person alone perhaps in their garage or spare bedroom working on something they think will revolutionize the world. Maybe they see an energized new business owner toiling away with most of their waking hours devoted to turning a dream into reality. While any of these scenarios can be true, I feel that entrepreneurial thinking can't be confined by these definitions!

Entrepreneurs are really defined by their way of thinking and you don't have to be a business owner to enrich your life and others by big and effective thinking. A person hunched over the desk in cubicle #109 in a mega corporation can be just as entrepreneurial as the bold face, big dollar names that the press writes about. The CEOs of companies such as Ford Motor, Staples or Microsoft can demonstrate how smart they are by working to unleash great thinking in their enterprises up and down the organization chart. Creating an entrepreneurial culture can make them heroes to shareholders and has to be driven from the top. They may even get to enjoy their jobs longer!

Some of these "internal" entrepreneurs are simply building their experience portfolio toward the day they can take the risk of starting their own businesses. But those men and women can bring a lot to the bottom lines of Fortune 1000 companies along the path to deciding when to build their own enterprise. I remember making the scary transition from television network executive to flailing away at starting my own TV production company from a corner of my bedroom! I often advise the corporate soldiers that they'll make the leap when their frustration level rises to be a little higher than the level of their fear! The best CEOs in America can gain great benefits from working to keep their frustration level low...very low.

To those corporate captains I ask how about showing a high level of leadership by being very clear in your directives to the troops? People on the line and in the cubicles can be surprisingly engaged when the messages are clear and connected to a comprehensible outcome. Those "entrepreneurs-in-training" have to be given room and support to experiment. Success is always the goal, but failure has to be seen as simply a step toward success. One of most valuable lessons I learned about getting the most from the small team in my own business was to leave the "blame game" out of the office. I built a culture of acknowledging mistakes, having a meeting to get clear about the lesson that was buried in the error and to quickly get on with the next attempt as success. When people know they have the power to make a positive difference despite the occasional mistakes, they will usually do just that.

That is the core of what I mean by entrepreneurial thinking. When the CEO of a large corporation can inject some of that into every floor of the building, everybody wins. If you are in the corporate jungle employee phase of your life, don't limit your potential by thinking you have to own a business to be an entrepreneur. You may be dreaming about driving change from the top in your own business someday, but do your part now to push it up from wherever you are in the lower ranks.