December 11, 2018

Power and executive instrumentality

What power do you hold as a leader?

My clients and I talk about power a lot in my coaching practice.  Power dynamics between people.  Power over your own self-management.  Power over others, particularly in management roles.  There is another type of power that is less frequently discussed but highly relevant in leadership roles.  That’s the power of executive instrumentality.

Executive instrumentality, as I define it, is “the ability to set a vision, convince people to follow it, and to deploy resources in order to achieve that vision.”  This particular form of power has several elements.

First, the leader must be a visionary: able to see, articulate and implement a big-picture idea.  Next, the person doing this must have the ability to persuade others to do something.  John Prescott describes several types of personal power that contribute to these abilities.

These types of personal power are necessary, but alone they are not enough to yield executive instrumentality.  For executive instrumentality, you need the power to deploy resources.  This includes the ability to direct others’ work and the ability to actually deploy resources.

There are typically five kinds of resources that leaders can control which will allow them to achieve their goals.  Those five resources are:

  • Money or budget
  • People and their time
  • Equipment
  • Space
  • Good will

The trick about these resources is that a leader can lose any one of them at a moment’s notice, and the only one that she or he can generate de novo is good will.  Understanding that every leadership decision is a decision about using one or more of those resources will help you put this into context.  (More on the 5 resources idea and how you can use them here.)

Your perspective

So, how are you using executive instrumentality?  Can you articulate your vision for your organization? Do you have your own personal power in place and managed well?  Are you good at self-management?  And do you have command of resources to implement a vision?

Let us know in the comments how this applies to you and what you think of the concept.