After reading this article you will learn about:- 1. Concept of Authority 2. Characteristics of Authority 3. Kinds.

Concept of Authority:

Authority means right (to command) and power to act. Authority empowers the superior to make a subordinate to do the work. Everybody in the organisation, from top to bottom, possesses some authority to secure cooperation from his sub­ordinates. Authority is the right to make decisions, direct the work of others and give orders. It is a right to direct, act and control. Authority is right to give orders and power to exact obedience.

Authority denotes certain rights granted to a person(s) in an organisation to influence the behaviour of the subordinates in terms of doing right things so as to achieve goals of organisa­tion. It may involve punishment for the erring subordinates and rewards for the outstanding ones. The extent and limit of authority of a position is not unlimited; it is specified in advance. The position holder is expected to use it as per rules, regulations, policies, practices and norms of the organisation.

The Authority is the rightful legal power to request subordinates to do a certain thing or to refrain from doing that, and if he does not follow these instructions the manager is in a position, if need be, to take disciplinary action, even to discharge the subordinate. Without authority, only anarchy and chaos would result. Authority includes such rights or powers as those of spending specified amount of money, of using certain quantities of materials, of hiring and firing people.

Characteristics of Authority:


1. Authority is given by the Institution (or organisation) and, is, therefore, legal or legitimate.

2. Authority is not endless or unlimited. Institution specifies the limits of authority of the position.

3. Authority should invariably be in writing, though in small organisations, it may be verbal.

4. Authority must be commensurate with responsibility. When a position in the organisation is entrusted with some responsibility, adequate authority should also be given to the position- holder so that he can successfully undertake the responsibility.


5. Authority must hold the legitimate command to punish the dis-obedient and to reward the obedient.

6. Authority may be centralised or decentralised.

7. Authority is given to the position and not to the position holder.

Kinds of Authority:

There are three types of authority:


1. Rational-Legal Authority:

Any individual who happens to occupy a particular position in an organisation, enjoys the (legal) authority attached to that position. Legal authority is derived by a position holder from rules, regulations, policies, practices and norms laid down for the systematic functioning of the organisation.

2. Traditional Authority:

Unlike legal authority, traditional authority is derived from tradition and is not obtained by competence. As an example of traditional authority, the eldest son of a king will succeed to the throne because of age old tradition.


3. Charismatic Authority:

Charismatic authority depends upon the special or exceptional powers or qualities of individual leaders. Charismatic leaders are usually found in religion and politics. The authority is irrational because followers obey it because of their emotions. No rules or regulations are involved.

Charismatic authority often evolves into traditional authority as informal status and role systems become stabilized over time. It is exemplified by the phrase, “It has always been this way”. Just as charismatic authority often evolves into traditional authority, so traditional authority can evolve into rational-legal authority if the system is legitimized formally.