There are six essential traits all true entrepreneurs possess. You can learn more about them in Entrepreneurial Leap. The common traits you hear about entrepreneurs are “visionary,” “driven,” and “risk taking,” but the trait that’s rarely mentioned about entrepreneurs is “responsible.“
Let’s make sure you have trait #6: Responsible.
When something bad happens to you, what is your default? Whether it’s a bad relationship, a bad investment, a bad career choice, a bad decision, or you get pulled over for speeding, do you blame yourself or others?
The Definition of Responsible
Entrepreneurs take total responsibility for the outcome of their choices. They don’t make excuses. They don’t complain. If you possess this trait, you accept the burden of becoming completely financially accountable. You don’t believe in entitlement. You never look for a handout. You’re self-sufficient and self-reliant. Above all, you blame no one else for things that go wrong.
Being responsible is having the ability to act independently and make decisions without authorization. Synonyms for “responsible” are “accountable” and “answerable.”
It’s one thing to be very independent. It’s quite another to be willing to assume total responsibility for the outcome of a decision. When true entrepreneurs make a bad decision, drop the ball, or don’t live up to an expectation, they’re the first to say, “My bad,” “That one is on me,” or “I’m sorry.” Their default is looking in the mirror for blame, not looking at others.
Dan Sullivan, the creator of The Strategic Coach® Program, has trained thousands of entrepreneurs. He happens to be one of my mentors. His definition of an entrepreneur is “Someone who, first, decides they will depend on their own initiative, performance, and results to guarantee their financial security; and second, decides they won’t expect anyone to give them an opportunity until they’ve first created something that’s useful and valuable.”
Responsible people know everyone is looking at them and are comfortable carrying that load.
They grab the reins when the horses pulling the stagecoach are out of control. Just like Atlas in Greek mythology, they’re able to carry the weight of the heavens on their shoulders.
A responsible person believes that their current state (whatever it is) is a culmination of their own decisions and choices, no one else’s. They default to “How do I solve my problem?” not “Look at what they did to me.”
Are you responsible?
Not Having the Responsible Trait
Picture someone who blames others when things go wrong or feels entitled to future rewards because of their past accomplishments.
A lot of people are like that. They complain that their idea would have worked if not for (fill in the blank), or if they had only had (fill in the blank). These people tend to fail quickly, because the blame game quickly escalates. It creates resentment in the people around the person casting blame. Morale is always low, and people tend to leave them.
Do You Possess This Trait?
Think about whether or not you have this critical trait. The reality is that there are really only two types of people in the world: those who take total responsibility and those who blame others.
Think about the people in your life right now. You can put each of them in one of these two categories. Either they take total responsibility, or they don’t. Most important, decide which group you’re in. The reason I believe the responsible trait is genetic (as are all traits) is that when you separate people into the two categories, you’ll find siblings often split into each group. How can so many brothers and sisters who grew up in the same household, raised the same way, by the same parents, be so different when it comes to taking responsibility? In my opinion, the reason can only be nature over nurture.
Regardless of whether it is nature or nurture, it shows up in people at a young age and continues through their lives. In his best-selling book, The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck, MD, describes two extremes on the responsibility spectrum. He writes, “Most people who come to see a psychiatrist are suffering from what’s called either a neurosis or a character disorder. Put most simply, these two conditions are disorders of responsibility, and as such, they are opposite styles of relating to the world and its problems. The neurotic assumes too much responsibility: the person with a character disorder, not enough.”
Now, I’m not a psychiatrist, and I’m not saying all people have a disorder. All I know is that the thousands of true entrepreneurs that I’ve interacted with take total responsibility. Whether or not the amount of responsibility they take for things is entirely healthy, well, that’s for a different conversation.
If you don’t have this vital trait, you might find that being a one-person show, solo entrepreneur, independent contractor, or freelancer is a better path for you. You’ll have no employees to blame. While you might still blame your customers, clients, and vendors when things go wrong, at least you won’t have any employees walking out on you.
Please take a few minutes and think about your track record and how you react when things have gone wrong in your life.
If you think you might be an entrepreneur-in-the-making, please make sure you have what it takes before you take your leap. Take the free assessment here.