Authority and Delegation – Meaning, Definitions, Features, Sources (BBA/MBA Notes)


Meaning, Definitions, Features, Sources and Delegation of Authority

The Meaning

The hierarchical structure of an organization is based upon the flow of authority. Lack of authority in a manager may create chaos in an organization. No manager can get the job done through his people unless he has the authority to secure compliance of his advice and instructions. It is authority that makes the managerial position real and vests him with power to direct subordinates and secure necessary compliance.


According to Max Weber

Authority is the willingness and unconditional compliance of people, resting upon their belief that it is legitimate for superior to impose his will on them and illegitimate for them to refuse to obey.

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 superior, another subordinate. The superior frames and transmits decisions with the expectation that these will be accepted by the subordinate. The subordinate executes such decisions and his conduct is determined by them.

According to Chester Bernard

Authority is the character of a communication (order) in a formal organization by virtue of which it is accepted by contributor to or ‘member’ of the organization as governing the action he contributes .

According to Henry Fayol

Authority is the right to give orders and the power to exact obedience.

According to  Koontz and O’Donnell

Authority is the power to command others to act or not to act in a manner deemed by the possessor of the authority to further enterprise or departmental purpose.

According to Weihrich and Koontz

Authority in the organsiation is the power in apposition (and through it, the person occupying the position) to exercise discretion in making decisions affecting others.

According to Mooney

Authority is the supreme coordinating power.

Features of Authority

The basic features of authority have been listed below:

i. Authority is legitimate or legal (i.e., position-related and granted by superior) power or the right to decide and/or to order.

ii. The limit of authority (i.e., how much and in what way he can use authority) is determined in advance. One has the authority doesn’t mean he is authorised to do anything. He has to use the authority as per policies, rules, regulations, and norms prescribed.

iii. Authority is based on responsibility or assignment of work. Along with authority, responsibility is also given. One can use authority to carry out responsibility.

iv. It is position-bound. The right is given to a specific position holder. He enjoys authority as long as he occupies that position.

v. It is a relationship between superior and subordinates, in which the superior can exercise authority over the subordinates.

vi. Authority is offered or given by one’s superior. No one can be authorised without superior’s consent.

vii. Authority is a key to managerial action. Without it, superior cannot direct and control subordinates’ actions.

viii. The primary purpose of use of authority is to get the work done through others. It is basic element of management.

ix. Authority is also a link to integrate several parts/levels in the organisation. All parts in the organisation are connected via authority. It also a means (or tool) for coordination.

x. Authority is given objectively but can be used subjectively. Use of authority depends upon personality factors of authority holder.

xi. Authority, in the context of organization, can be permanent or temporary, and it can be increased, decreased, or even withdrawn.

xii. Authority is meaningless (i.e., has no value) if it is not exercised. It must be exercised by making decisions, taking action, and controlling behaviour of subordinates.

Authority in an organization may be of three types:

i.  The rational authority is based on the belief by the subordinates in the propriety and legality of rules. The bureaucratic structure in Government is based upon this concept. In business organizations also, rules and regulations confer powers on executives to make decisions within the prescribed limits of authority delegated.

ii. The traditional authority is based on the time honoured traditions. In family managed organizations, for instance, certain powers are assumed to be vested in owners. Industrial houses build their own traditions in dealing with their employees, customers and dealers.

iii. The charismatic authority is reflected in the devotion of subordinates to an individual who is believed to have exceptional characteristics. A manager who is popular among his people may exercise more powers than his counterpart in other department, who is not liked by his subordinates.

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