Authority and Responsibility

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Authority is defined as the rights inherent in a managerial position to give orders and expect them to be obeyed. Responsibility is defined as an obligation to perform assigned activities.

In greater detail, authority is the formal and legitimate right to make particular decisions, issue orders, and allocate resources (without having to ask someone else's permission) to achieve desired outcomes for the organization. A manager's authority is defined in his or her job description. Organizational authority has three underlying principles:

  • Authority is based on the position (not the individual), and anyone in the same position has the same authority.
  • Authority is accepted by subordinates. Subordinates comply because managers have a legitimate right to issue orders.
  • Authority flows down the hierarchy. Positions at the top are vested with more formal authority than positions at the bottom.

Responsibility is the obligation to accomplish the goals and tasks related to the position and the organization. Managers' primary responsibilities are to examine tasks, problems, or opportunities in relationship to the company's short-and long-range goals. They must identify areas of potential problems, search for solutions, and be alert to new opportunities.

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