Authority is a legal power or right of an individual or group of individuals in a position that enables them to accomplish specific goals and targets effectively. Legitimate rights, decision-making, and implementation are three essential aspects governed under this concept. Authority is often synonymous with Power but is somewhat different at the core. Let us start with this topic to understand what Authority is, its features, and the difference between Power and Authority.
What is Authority in Sociology?
Authority in Sociology is defined as the socially approved or legitimate power exercised by one individual or a group of individuals over another. In other words, this concept refers to a form of power as described by the German sociologist Max Weber. Authority is practised as per the norms entailed by a social system, and it is generally accepted by every individual or group that takes part in these norms. Furthermore, there are aspects of Authority that are not related to individuals. They are instead linked to a set of social systems.
Characteristics of Authority
Let us understand the concept the Authority in Sociology with its following characteristics:
Legitimacy can be understood as one of the essential characteristics of Authority. Authority refers to the legal right of superiors in an organisation. This legitimate concept is practised with a common intent of achieving some goals. And the norms and control it entails are supported by every entity within that realm.
Decision-making is an integral part of Authority. When an individual or a group is authorised to exercise control, they ultimately have the Authority to direct decisions concerning the operations carried out in an organisation.
Once the decision is made, the operations boil down to the process of implementation, which has a lot to do with the person in Authority. The way a function has to be executed varies from manager to manager in every organisation. Every subordinate or group of subordinates must adhere to that.
Features of Authority
The following are the noteworthy features of Authority in Sociology:
Authority is a legitimate right of an individual
It is exercised with a set of norms to govern the operations carried out in an organisation
It refers to a legal right to follow compliance
It brings the right to maintain power and keeps every role and responsibility in sync
It helps make and achieve organisational goals
Power and Authority
Power refers to an individual’s own ability to make an impact on what others do or don’t do. It is informal and boundless, and is associated with the status and influence of an individual. Power is an ability that one acquires from their knowledge and experience and uses as a right to direct others’ decisions and actions.
On the other hand, Authority is a legal right exercised by an individual to make decisions, command order, and control others to perform a task. It is formal and hierarchical and is associated with those who hold higher positions in an organisation.
Difference Between Power and Authority
As you can infer from the definitions of these terms, Power and Authority are different from each other. Let us look at some of the fundamental parameters that distinguish Power from Authority.
Authority and Responsibility
While Authority is defined as a legal right of an individual or superior to order or command his subordinates, Responsibility means a person’s duty to carry out their actions or performance as per the norms of a company. The operations start from Authority and flow towards implementing a particular task for which the subordinates are held responsible. With Authority, a senior performs control and expects accountability from subordinates.
Authority in Sociology is a concept of a legal right of a person or group to govern the actions of their subordinates and make decisions for the organisation. It is different from Power, as the latter is a personal ability of a person to exercise control over others’ actions and be able to give orders and commands. Power and Authority are acquired using different sources. While the former is a product of one’s skills and expertise, the latter comes in the form of a designation. As decisions are made and the command is passed under Authority, its implementation is the responsibility of subordinates or a group of subordinates.