In any business arrangement, it is necessary to know who exactly has the power to make decisions. This is true for everything from approving a sale to granting the request for a change in a process be implemented.

Just being in a position of power does not make you a great leader. A lot of factors are involved in demonstrating good leadership. Someone in a position of authority who does not show proper team leadership skills is not likely to maintain that authority for long.

Overview: What is authority?

Authority can be defined as having the power to make decisions on behalf of oneself and/or others. This power can be granted or taken, and it can also extend to a certain level of influence outside of actual decision-making.

2 benefits and 1 drawback of authority

There are some clear benefits to authority and a drawback that should be recognized:

Benefit 1: Less need to run things past others

If you have authority in a position, there is less need for you to run every little decision by others.

Benefit 2: Influence

By having authority, you are in a greater position to be able to enact changes for the betterment of your organization.

Drawback 1: Corruption

It is possible to be corrupted by one’s own authority to the point that you stop listening to colleagues, workers, and customers in decision-making to the detriment of your company.

Why is authority important to understand?

Authority is important to understand for the following reasons:

Know who makes the decisions

Understanding who has authority in any given situation is important to understand, so that you know who is the one that can actually get something done.

Know who can’t help you

Inversely, it is important to understand authority so that you know when a person does not have the ability to get something done for you.

Keep getting valuable input

Another reason for understanding authority is so that you realize how easy it is to lose your way when given authority. Should you be placed in a position of authority, you need to remember to continue to accept valuable advice, input, and constructive criticism from colleagues, employees, and customers. Doing otherwise would likely be detrimental to your organization in the long run.

An industry example of authority

A sales representative for an automatic box-marker sets an appointment to show off their company’s latest products to the warehouse department of a large corporation. After an hour’s meeting, the person that he demonstrates the products to tells the representative that he is not the person who has the authority to make a purchasing decision. In this situation, the sales representative would have been best served by ensuring that the person that they were planning on having the meeting with was indeed the person that had the authority to make a purchase.

3 best practices when thinking about authority

When in a position of authority, here are some key practices to maintain:

1. Be mindful

When in a position of authority, it is best to be mindful of the type of control you have over others and how to use it responsibly.

2. Use authority as a guide

Use your authority to help guide your entire team to success, not just yourself.

3. Use authority appropriately

It is also a good practice to not overuse your authority. The best leaders do not often need to regularly display their power.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about authority

What are three types of sociological authority?

Three types of sociological authority are charismatic authority, traditional authority, and rational-legal authority.

What are the eight types of everyday life authority?

The eight types of authority encountered in everyday life are founder authority, ownership authority, punitive authority, relational authority, reward authority, results authority, expert authority, and reverent authority.

Does authority alone make for great leadership?

No. A person in a position of authority should also practice respect, show that they are to be trusted, show good judgment, display integrity, and demonstrate expertise.

Using authority wisely in your organization

If given a position of authority in your organization, be sure to use that authority wisely, fairly, and always for the betterment of your team. By demonstrating that you are responsible with the authority you are given and are capable of being a good leader, you are more likely to be put in other leadership positions in the future.
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