Helping you mobilise your inner resources to achieve your dreams

How to develop effectual leadership qualities…

A change of approach doesn’t establish itself overnight, whatever it applies to. As with any new habit or practice, it takes time to develop and practise.


As I detailed last week, emulating the mind-set of an entrepreneur can help problem-solving when faced with high uncertainty and new limitations regarding any resources. Though not traditionally taught at business school, an effectual problem-solving approach can be more appropriate in certain circumstances.

To refresh, entrepreneurialism and effectual leadership are best employed in:

  • Longer-term projects
  • Projects that aren’t predictable
  • Projects that have greater influence on the company, and its direction or position in the marketplace

Whether you’re the leader of a team, or you’re responsible only for your own motivation, understanding the key elements of being effectual can help you look at problems, projects, and even your career, from another perspective.

Let’s look at three steps you could take to develop essential effectual traits:

Look at both sides of the coin

Take a current project or problem and form strategies from both causal and effectual perspectives. Can the outcome be predicted? Are you able to set goals extrapolated from these predictions?

Alternatively, look at things from the point of view of an entrepreneur. Initially, he’d evaluate his resources at hand. From assessing the project or problem, he’d then look to see if he’d got everything he needed to take the next step. He’d also invite feedback and look to form alliances with people who could help him achieve his aim.

Essentially, the more straightforward a project, the less it requires creative thinking, but that doesn’t mean to say run-of-the-mill problems wouldn’t benefit from an effectual attitude. Practise flexibility; don’t bemoan problems – look at them as an opportunity to develop and improve your skills.

Both causation and entrepreneurship have goals, but the latter involves more of a vision of what could be achieved, rather than an expected outcome.

Know your competitors

To work effectually, don’t assume all competition is a threat. Entrepreneurs will join forces with a potential competitor if it’s in the interest of both parties, and builds a network on this basis. They don’t shut competitors from their thoughts; instead, they learn from them, gain access to resources, reduce uncertainty and use them to help shape a project.

Consider your competition, e.g. colleagues, people holding similar roles at other organisations, etc. What do they do to develop themselves? How do they approach their work? What would you need to learn or do to emulate their successes?

Evaluate how you choose projects

Are you systematic or habitual? Do you choose projects because they’re predictable? Do you take risks? Contrary to general consensus, entrepreneurs don’t chase risk carelessly. They do employ risk much more than most, but invest only as much as they can afford to lose. The effectual decision maker focuses on ‘affordable loss’ and calculates the downside.

For example, which of these options appeal the most?

  • Means vs. goals
  • Affordable loss vs. expected return
  • Risk vs. leverage surprises
  • Partnership vs. competition

If you only choose the same type of project, you may not be challenging yourself. Neuro-science research has shown that the more courageous we choose to be, the more it instils itself in our psyche. New skills can only be learned with repeated practice.


Control is important, and an essential element of leadership, but we can’t control everything in life. If we shy away from what we can’t control, we never develop or we miss what could prove important opportunities. If we embrace and actively seek out the things we can’t control, we won’t fear them, and will hone our skills of adaption as a result.

If you’d like help to develop your entrepreneurial streak for the benefit of your career, or if you have a team that would benefit from leadership coaching and the implementation of effectual decision-making, contact me on 01302 220021, or email me at angela.sabin@executive-life-coaching.co.uk.

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