This is old Psychology lesson. ‘External locus of control’ translation: the problem is somewhere else, not me. It’s the environment, somebody else’s job, circumstances. ‘Internal locus of control ‘translation: it may be me (actually it is probably me), my responsibility, etc.
These may be extremes, but it is a good and simple classification of how each of us tends to externalise or internalise problems.
The topic is old, from the fifties, and pointed to something obvious: some individuals feel that their lives are controlled by the environment and they have little influence (external locus (place of) control) and others feel they are/can be in control of their life.
As an almost rudimentary psychological classification, is extremely powerful and often forgotten by leaders. Imagine an organization, or, more concretely, a leadership team, very biased towards external locus. They will tend to blame others, the troupes, their lack of skills, the external circumstances, the strong competitors. Imagine the opposite, they will be more introspective, more willing to take accountability, to lead.
In simplistic terms, good leadership is ‘internal locus of control’.
Detecting individuals in the spectrum internal/external is not rocket science. Give me a five minute conversation.
Mister A. ‘Sorry, I am late; the traffic was awful, the car did not start, then that silly guy almost bumped into me; I could not find a place to park; then I was so stressed that I left the laptop in the car; but, here I am; how are you, by the way? I hate this weather, really, don’t you?
Mister B .‘Sorry I am late, I miscalculated it all today, and left home too late’.
The issue is not that Mister A is making things up. It is absolutely true, 150%, that the traffic was awful, his car did not start, that silly guy bumped into him; there was no car space; he left the laptop in the car and the weather is terrible. Factual. The difference is that Mister A is in the hands of the Gods and Mister B is in charge.
Well, there are choices when it comes to working with somebody.