What is Authority? Types, Delegation of Authority

  • Post last modified:12 May 2022
  • Reading time:18 mins read

What is Authority?

Authority is the power given to a person for carrying out certain activities and tasks by an organisation. The person given the authority by the organisation determines the position he/she holds for making decisions, commanding people, giving directions, and making use of resources for carrying out certain tasks.

The authority authorises the person to command and get work done through the employees working under him. Authority allows a person to influence the subordinates and creates a relationship between them for making efficient and effective use of the resources for achieving the objectives of the company.

Authority according to Koontz and Weihrich, the right in a position (and, through it, the right of the person occupying the position) to exercise discretion in making decisions affecting others.


Types of Authority

Line Authority

It defines the authority of the person to command and give instructions to subordinates. The line authority is the authority given to the manager to get the work done by subordinates in the chain of command.

The managers are termed as line managers who have the power to delegate tasks and activities and control the functions of the people working under them. Line authority exists in every organisation where the manager delegates jobs and responsibilities for carrying out the tasks. ‰

According to Louis. A. Allen, line authority refers to those positions and elements of the organisation which has responsibility and authority and accountability for the accomplishment of primary objectives.

Staff Authority

It is created in the organisational structure for assisting the line authority and other staff personnel. It is used to provide advisory functions to the line managers based on their knowledge and expertise.

The staff authority is not part of the organisational hierarchy, but are employed for assisting, advising, and counseling the line managers on different issues when required. A good example of staff authority is legal advisors who provide legal advice to line managers.

Functional Authority

It is the right given to a person or department for managing and controlling certain functions, procedures and activities that are carried out by the people in that department. The purpose is to issue directions to the people who do not come under the normal segment of line supervision.

This authority is given to individuals to assist and supplement the line authority or staff authority. It may be required for a specific task or for a specific time duration.


Line and Staff Relationship

The relationship between the line and staff personnel is interlinked and they work closely together to achieve the goals of the organisation. Every organisation has the line and staff personnel for helping the organisation while maintaining the efficiency and effectiveness of the operations to increase productivity. The line and staff personnel work together to achieve the desired objectives and help the organisation in achieving its goal.

Many large organisations follow the line and staff form of structure. This structure consists of both line and staff departments. There are also functional specialists to help and advise line managers in the areas of quality, production, marketing, and more. It is a vertical form of relationship between the various levels of line and staff. The role of staff personnel is advisory and usually does not possess and command authority over line managers.

The organisation needs to define the roles of the line and staff people for running their system. The smooth functioning of the organisation requires the effective contributions of line and staff people who play an important role in the outcome of the operations and add to the profitability of the enterprise. Many organisations have line and staff members at various levels of organisational structure and advisors for helping the line managers.


Art of Delegation of Authority

The art of delegation is all about assigning responsibility to a person for carrying out certain activities or tasks in a written or unwritten form. The art of delegating authority gives freedom and authority to the people for carrying out their responsibilities for the success of the organisation.

It is important for the manager and the person who delegates the authority for ensuring that the activities are being carried out for producing successful results.

The three steps involved in delegating authority are:

  • Identifying and assigning the responsibility
  • Granting authority to the person for doing the job
  • Assigning the activities and tasks to the different job positions to be completed
  • Establishing accountability for the work assigned

The principles on which authority is delegated are as follows:

  • Delegating tasks as per specialisations and expected results
  • Defining the functional role
  • Scalar principle
  • Level of authority
  • Unity of command
  • Parity of command and authority
  • Ensuring absoluteness of authority

Managers in the organisation use his/her position to delegate and distribute work to their subordinates. Managers delegate authority along with the responsibility of completing the work and achieving the targeted results.

According to Martin and Bartol, Delegation of authority is the assignment of part of a manager’s work to others along with both the responsibility and the authority necessary to achieve expected results. Delegation of authority in an organisational structure is shown in Figure below:


Benefits of Delegation

Delegation is a method of delegating authority and sharing the work- load for getting the tasks and activities completed in a certain time. The process of delegating authority at different levels of management is necessary for coping with the amount of work and performing duties efficiently.

The benefits of the process of the delegation are as follows:

Reduces the workload

Delegation of authority leads to assigning jobs and activities to the subordinates that result in minimising the workload and completing the work on time. In this way, it is possible for the managers to effectively concentrate on other activities and functions to improve their managerial effectiveness and efficiency.

Using expertise and specialisation

Delegating authority helps the organisation in making use of the expertise and specialisation of its employees. Through effective delegation of authority, a manager can delegate the responsibility to subordinates according to their specialisation and abilities that contribute to the success of the organisation.

Improves confidence and morale

The delegation of authority leads to promoting a sense of responsibility and taking initiative among employees. It enhances their morale and confidence to achieve efficiency in their work and encourages them to perform better to achieve the goals of the organisation.

Creates a framework for development

Delegation of authority provides people the framework of developing their managerial abilities by performing tasks and taking decisions according to their knowledge and capabilities. It provides subordinates a platform for training and development when the manager delegates them with responsibility and authority.

Facilitates expansion and growth

Delegation of authority increases flexibility in the organisational system and also facilitates the growth and expansion of the organisation. It helps the organisation to add more levels of hierarchy according to their needs in the organisational structure.

Faster and better decision making

Delegation of authority leads to faster and better decision making since subordinates have the authority and freedom of working on the tasks freely and make decisions within certain parameters. The process of decision making helps subordinates in gaining experience through the delegation of authority.

Facilitates the function of organising

The efficiency in delegating responsibility and authority leads to the smooth functioning of the system and adds more layers to the organisational structure. The organisational structure ensures the smooth working of systems through effective delegation of authority at the various levels of management.


Barriers to Delegation

The process of delegation gets hampered due to many factors that act as barriers in delegating authority due to certain problems. Many managers do not like to delegate authority due to fear of losing their hold on subordinates.

Sometimes, subordinates are also reluctant to accept the responsibilities. These forms of barriers weaken the organisational structure and hamper the work of the organisation.

Some barriers to delegation are as follows:

  • Reluctance to delegate and share power
  • Fear of losing importance and being insecure ‰
  • Loss of control and mutual distrust
  • Feeling threatened by subordinates
  • Lack of confidence in subordinates
  • Insufficient knowledge of employee skills and capabilities
  • Failing to establish standards of control
  • Personal biases and attitude
  • Inefficiency and ability to direct the people
  • Incompetent subordinates
  • Lack of motivation and incentive
  • Not having access to resources

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