There are many traits that make up a great founder. This is the one shared by all.

Were you that kid in high school who did not fit in any of the groups? Played sports but was not a jock. Got good grades but was not a brainiac. Maybe partied a little but was not a stoner or a drunk.

Well I got great news for you–you are different and unclassifiable (at least by high school standards). As we all know by now, when you get older, those boundaries crumble away. However, new generalizations emerge that have the same effect. Being labeled is not a fundamental outcome of being a startup founder.

Entrepreneurs by definition or not easily defined. (Yes, I wrote that on purpose.)

Do a little research and there is much written about the DNA of an entrepreneur. There are some of the common traits:

  • Passionate
  • Curious
  • Risk-taker
  • Confident
  • Leader
  • Sales-y
  • Healthy
  • Honest
  • Self-aware.

I can see some of these in almost all successful founders but not all of them. I know a few great leaders who are not sales-y. Many would never consider themselves risk-takers. A few are definitely not self-aware.

These all make sense on the surface but underlying all of these is one trait that I believe transcends gender, age, and political or economic status–being different.

Every great entrepreneur, at some point in his or her maturity, embraced the idea that they were different and did not fit into societies over-simplistic definitions.

If fitting in drives your personality, I am not sure entrepreneurship is for you. If you accrue respect by being a member of a club, I am not sure entrepreneurship is for you. If playing it safe in order to drive consensus is the way your brain operates, I am not sure entrepreneurship is for you.

Great entrepreneurs stand alone with an idea that runs counter to what everyone else is thinking. In order to succeed they must convince others to go against their natural instincts. True entrepreneurial leadership is based on a foundation of alternative thinking.

Be great by being different.