Authority & Types of Authority in Formal Organization

Authority implies the voluntary obedience on the part of subordinate to the superiors or the legitimate right of superior to give orders to subordinates. For instance, a court of law has the right to punish a criminal legally as the law says.

Authority is very important in organizations and for the managers to perform their job since they need it to produce compliance. Authority also gives organization its hierarchical characteristics. Authority is guided by span of control, chain of command, authority and responsibility principles.

There are two bases of formal authority, which are: classical view and acceptance view. Classical view posits that management has the right to give orders and that subordinates have the obligation to obey. The acceptance view means that obedience to authority depends on the person receiving orders and who may or may not obey.

Authority is accepted if the person to whom order is given understands it, if the order is consistent with the purpose of the organization, if the order is consistent with the person personal values and if he/she is mentally and physically able to comply with the order.

Conditions for enhancing the Acceptance of Authority in Organization

Managers or administrators in organizations can raise the likelihood of the authority being accepted by doing the following:

  • Using formal channels of communication that are familiar to all organization members.
  • Assigning a communication channel to each member of the organization through which he or she receives orders.
  • Ensuring direct communication as far as possible between himself as the manager and his subordinates.
  • Ensuring that he possesses and displays adequate communication skill.
  • Authenticating all communication as coming from him as the manager.

Types of Authority

Traditional Authority: this is the type of authority that one has by virtue of tradition or custom. Example is authority exercise by traditional rulers.

Charismatic Authority: this is the type of authority invested and exercised by someone by virtue of his personality. An example of this authority is the one exercised by religious or group leaders. In this case, such a leader might have succeeded in generating strong feeling of loyalty or commitment among his followers.

Rational/legal Authority: this is the type of authority which Max Weber associated with bureaucratic organizations. In essence, this is the type of authority exercised by bureaucratic officials or political office holders like the governor, the president, the local government chairman, the senate president, director general, a manger, an administrator or a chief executive.

Types of Authority in formal Organization

In public administration, there are basically three types of authority in formal organization that are in line with the classification of organizational personnel into line, staff and functional authorities.

Line Authority: this is the type of authority that a superior has over his subordinates. This type of authority is basic in organization and represent the ultimate authority to command, direct, act, decide approve or disapprove the activities of organization or units of organization.

Staff Authority: this type of authority refers to the right of member of organization to offer advice to another staff, or other members of the organization. the staff executives who are specialist and with technical or professional knowledge or expertise have the authority to advice chief executives on what to do or decision to take in certain situations. This is possible as there is usually the understanding in organizations that staff advice will be sought and listen to.

Functional Authority: this is the right that is delegated to an individual or a department to control specified processes, practices or other matters relating to the activities undertaken by a person in other departments. Functional authority confers upon its holder the right to command in matters pertaining to that function and across departmental lines.

The legacy of functional authority is rooted in specialized knowledge. Functional authority is commonly used as a way of integrating the work between those who have line authority and those who have staff authority.

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