After reading this article you will learn about the Authority of Managers:- 1. Meaning of Authority 2. Characteristics of Authority 3. Types.

Meaning of Authority:

Authority is the formal right to do the work. Henry Fayol defined the authority as “the right to give orders and the power to exact obedience. Authority gives the management the power to enforce obedience. It is the power to give orders and make sure that these orders are obeyed.”

According to Simon, authority may be defined as “the power to make decisions which guide the actions of another. It is a relationship between two individuals—one supervisor, the subordinate. The superior frames and transmits decisions with the expectation that they will be accepted by the subordinate. The subordinate expects such decisions, and his conduct is determined by them.”

Writers on management argue that the concepts of power and authority are synonymous, while others contend that they are distinctly different. Both are viewed by people in many different ways.


Authority is one type of power. It is based on the recognition of the legitimacy or lawfulness of the attempt to exert influence. But the power is defined as “the ability to exert influence that is the ability to change the attitudes or behaviour of individuals or groups.”

Koontz and Weihrich distinguish authority and power. Power is a much broader concept than authority. It is the ability of individuals or groups to induce or influence the beliefs or actions of other persons or groups. Authority is the right to exercise discretion in making decisions affecting others.

It is, of course, one type of power.

French and Raven’s Classic study in 1959 identified five bases or sources of power, an individual has over others.


These bases are given below:

1. Legitimate Power,

2. Coercive Power,

3. Reward Power,


4. Expert Power, and

5. Referent Power.

1. Legitimate Power:

It normally arises from position and derives from our cultural system of rights obligations, and duties whereby a “position” is accepted by people as being “legitimate”. In a private business authority of position arises primarily from the social institution of private property. In government, this authority arises basically from the institution of representative government.


2. Coercive Power:

This is derived from a person’s ability to create fear in another individual and is based on the subordinate’s expectation that punishment will be received for not agreeing or complying with the superior’s commands or beliefs.

3. Reward Power:


Reward power is the opposite of coercive power. It arises from the ability of some people to grant rewards. Purchasing agents, with little position power, might be able to exercise considerable influence by their ability to expedite or delay a much-needed spare part. Likewise, university professors have considerable reward power, they can grant or withhold high grades. Pick of vacation time.

4. Expert Power:

This is the power of knowledge, skill and expertise in certain areas. Since the superiors possess these knowledge the subordinates desires to fulfill the wishes and their directions. Physicians, lawyers and university professors may have considerable influence on others because they are respected for their special knowledge.

5. Referent Power:


Referent power is based on the identification of an individual faith a leader who is held in high esteem, admired and often imitated by the subordinate.

Characteristics of Authority:

1. Basis of Getting Things Done:

Authority provides the basis of getting things done in the organisation. It refers to the right to affect the behaviour of others in the organisation with a view to performing certain activities to accomplish the defined objectives.

2. Legitimacy:

Authority is accepted as it has certain legitimacy about it, that is to say it implies a right to secure performance from others. Such right may be legal or formal, or it may be supported by tradition. Custom or accepted standards of authenticity. The right of a manager to affect the behaviour of his subordinates is given to him by virtue of his position or office in the organisation.

3. Decision-Making:


It is a prerequisite of authority. The manager can command his subordinates to act or abstain from acting in a particular manner only when he has made decisions as regards the course of activities to be performed by them.

4. Subjectivity in Implementation:

Though authority has an element of objectivity about it, its exercise is significantly influenced by subjective factors, such as the personality of the manager who is empowered to use it, as also of the subordinate or group of subordinates with reference to whom it is to be exercised.

Types of Authority:

Basically the following types of authority are given below:

1. Legal Authority.


2. Traditional or Formal or top-down Authority.

3. Acceptance or Bottom-up Authority.

4. Charismatic Authority.

5. Competence or personal Authority.

1. Legal Authority:

The authority is based upon the rank of the person in the organisation and such authority may be given by law or by social norms, rules and regulations protected by law. For example, law has granted a place officer, the authority to arrest anyone who has committed a crime. Similarly, the president of a company has the right to fire an employee because that is how the rules and policies of the company have been established.

This type of authority is similar to power, which is the capacity to secure dominance of one’s goals and beliefs. This authority has been called formal authority, which has been legalised through social institutes, which attain and enforce group goals, objectives and welfare through a maze of laws, codes, cultures and ethics.


This type of authority is embedded in the bureaucracy where the authority is bestowed upon contractually hired and appointed officials.

For example, shareholders of an organisation give the authority to Board of Directors, who in turn pass it on to the Chief Executive and so on The shareholders have this authority, to start with, because, they bought the shares in the company and society, through its complex structure, gives them this authority, to start with, because, they bought the shares in the company and society, through its complex structure, gives them this authority.

While bureaucracy is the purest form of legal authority, other forms of such authority may comprise of rotating office holders, elected officials or office holders chosen by lot. They have similar authority since they must follow the same rules and regulations, which govern their positions and define the limits of their authority.

Some examples are the elected officials, such as the president of a country or a member of parliament or a community leader.

2. Traditional Authority:

This authority is based upon the belief in traditions and the legitimacy of the status of people exercising authority through those traditions. Such traditions have evolved from a social order and communal relationships in the form of the ruling “Lord” and the obedient “subjects”.

The obedience results on the promise of traditional “piety” and traditional respect and identity of the “Lord” or the King or the tribal chief. The traditional chief generally makes rules and decisions at his own pleasure.


Traditional authority has flowed from the top of the organisation to the bottom, from the owners or stockholders to the board of directors to the president to the vice-presidents to middle managers to supervisors to workers. Figure 7.1 illustrates this traditional top-down flow of legitimate authority, with referent, expert, coercive and reward power also influencing the acceptance of formal authority.

Traditional View of Authority


The bases of power or influence do not constrain the use of authority, but rather affect how the authority is exerted and accepted.

3. Acceptance Theory of Authority:


The acceptance theory of authority presents a contrast to the traditional formal view of authority. According to the acceptance theory, authority in the ultimate analysis depends on the acceptance or consent of the people who are managed (subordinates) rather than legitimacy, or any legal, social or cultural norms.

If the subordinates don’t accept the command of their superior, the superior cannot be said to have any authority with reference to them.

Chester Barnad, in 1938, began writing about organisations being ‘co-operative systems’ and proposed the ‘acceptance theory or bottom-up theory of authority”. He argued that management has only as much authority or power as subordinates is willing to accept and to the extent they consent to comply with directives.

Barnard suggested that at least four conditions must be met for subordinates to comply with authoritative communication.

a. The communication is fully understood.

b. At the time of decision, the employee believes the directive is consistent with the objectives of the organisation.


c. At the time of decision, the employees believe the command is compatible with personal interests and objectives.

d. The employees believe he or she is physically and mentally capable of complying with the communication.

4. Charismatic Authority:

The Charismatic Authority rests on personal charisma of a leader who commands respect of his followers on the basis of his personality and his personal traits such as intelligence and integrity. This is especially true of religious and political leaders. The followers become highly attached to the leader partly because the leader’s goals seem to be consistent with their own needs.

A charismatic leader is a forceful orator and generally has hypnotic effect on his followers who accept his command and authority. For example, President John. F. Kennedy of America was known to have such a Charisma and hold on people that many succeeding presidential candidates tried to imitate his style.

Some organisational leaders are also known to be charismatic and responsible for the success of their organisations.

5. Competency Theory of Authority:

This is also known as “technical authority” and is implicit in person’s special knowledge or skill. For example, when doctor advises you to rest, you accept his “order” because you respect his knowledge and his skills as a doctor. Again, this order will not get results unless you accept and obey and in that sense it rests on acceptance theory of authority.