Difference Between Authority and Responsibility (With Table)

Authority vs Responsibility

The key difference between Authority and Responsibility lies in the fact that authority means when a person is designated to a post, he has the right to order others and make decisions of his own.

Responsibility means a person is obligated to do his duty forcefully or by his commitment. An authority can give orders, and in responsibility, one has to follow the orders.

From a general point of view, an Authority always comes with responsibilities; however, only a person given with legal authority can compel someone to perform a specific task.

The most common scene is that authority flows from top to bottom. A higher position has the most power, and while it transcends to subordinates, the influence becomes slimmer.

Being responsible, on the other hand, is an obligation for someone delegated with a specific task.

Even an entity that sits on the top pyramid has a corresponding responsibility towards its subjects. These two are coextensive and most often misconstrued by people.


Comparison Table Between Authority and Responsibility (in Tabular Form)

Parameter of ComparisonAuthorityResponsibility
Definition An Authority is a power that comes with a position or designation to enforce rules and extract compliance.Responsibility is the consequence that entails the power to govern.
DelegationAuthority is delegated from a superior to a subordinate.Responsibility can't be delegated.
Flow effectAuthority effects transcend.Responsibility's effects ascend.
DurationAuthority sites a long time.Most often swift.


What is Authority?

Authority is a legitimate power to influence and command a thought into action. It usually goes with a position and entails a level of consent, depending on a chain of command.

Authority has a broader context as it not only rooted its sustainability in a person or organization but in a social hierarchy or social order too.

Authority is more of a power vested in an entity usually in a higher position, and the level of authority decreases as it transcends down to a lower position.

It runs top to the bottom, fact, or fictitious, from leader to its subordinates or from divination to its followers.

According to a sociologist and philosopher, Max Weber, there are three types of Legitimate Authorities:

  1. Charismatic authority – is a kind of power derives from the charisma of the leader, an entity that possesses exemplary behavior and heroism. Examples are the followers of some religious groups, celebrities, world leaders, and martyrs/divinities.
  2. Traditional authority – Is an authority legitimate in the sanctity of tradition. This type of power does not change over time, and it usually ignores social trends and status quo. The right and ability to pass down the authority is often through heredity. Prominent examples are the hereditary ruling monarchs such as the Tudors of England and The Yamato in Japan.
  3. Legal-rational authority – is a type of authority that is a contrast to both traditional and charismatic power. It derives its power to a set of uniformed principles, law, or natural law (rationality). Its policies and characters tend to change throughout time, depending on the community’s needs. Examples of which are modern democracies where voters elect officials, or perhaps in a corporation where shareholders vote for the next CEO.
Difference Between Since and From (With Table)
Depiction of Authority
Authority is associated with power and influence

What is Responsibility?

Responsibility refers to a duty or obligation that comes along with authority. Being held accountable the moment an entity acquires such power, and this is something that can’t be delegated to others.

Its role is mainly to follow and obey, upholding ethics and morals to the highest standard, being responsible means to act with common sense, authority, maturity, and reliability.

For example, in a business community or organization, the business director has the power to set a standard, work ethics, and enforce rules, benefiting the company.

He is also responsible for getting this standard across his subordinates to ensure that it has been met. Delegating authority always entails responsibility and expectation.

Lack of parity between responsibility and authority often results in not achieving the desired outcome.

There are types of responsibilities evolving in the present community.

  1. Social Responsibility – is the accountability to act in the benefit of society and the environment as a whole.
  2. Corporate Responsibility – More known these days as the CSR practice or Corporate Social Responsibility. Its goal is to seek sustainable development and improve market value by creating a positive impact on society, economy, and environment.
  3. Personal Responsibility – Also known as individual responsibility, refers to taking accountability with regards to your action regardless of repercussions without blaming others.
  4. Fiduciary Responsibility – Is the obligation between two entities with one acting on the other party’s behalf in the best interest. A fiduciary is the one who provides this responsibility while the recipient is called a beneficiary. A perfect example of this liability is between a trustee and its beneficiary or a lawyer to his client.
  5. Civic Responsibility – This refers to the individual’s responsibility and commitment as a contributing citizen in its country. It may be voluntary participation for a fire brigade or government activities for the country’s cause. An example of this is South Korea’s mandatory military service, which requires almost every male to enlist for approximately two years, regardless of status, and has minimal exemptions.
  6. Fiscal Responsibility – This refers to an individual’s responsibility to pay taxes and government dues mandated by law.
Responsibility defines success
Responsibility defines success

Main Differences Between Authority and Responsibility

  1. Authority’s primary role is to give orders while responsibility is to be held accountable.
  2. Authority refers to the legal right to relinquish command, influence or compel someone, while responsibility comes after authority.
  3. Authority can be obtained or delegated to anyone through charisma, tradition, and legality. At the same time, responsibility is assuming tasks delegated to be completed.
  4. An authority transcends downwards, while responsibility goes from bottom to top.
  5. The purpose of having someone to authorize is to make a decision and delegate someone to execute it. At the same time, responsibility assumes the task carried out and be accountable for it.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Authority and Responsibility

  1. What are the three elements of delegation?

    The three elements of the delegation are:-
    Responsibility – Responsibility is given to the subordinate by his supervisor to achieve a task or to perform his duty well.
    Authority – Authority refers to a post where the person has many rights, such as making decisions, handling work to juniors, making rules and regulations, etc.
    Accountability – Accountability refers to obligation where the subordinates are obligated to perform their best as they are answerable to their supervisors.

  2. What are the two types of span of control?

    The span of control means how the relations are designed between superiors and subordinates.

    The two types of span of control are:-
    The narrow span of control: It means there is one superior or manager who manages few subordinates. They raise a tall organization as the narrow span of control has many levels that lack communication.
    The wide span of control: it means only one supervisor or manager manages a large number of subordinates. It raises flat organization as the communication level is good, and there are not many levels in it.

  3. What are 3 types of authority?

    There are three types of authority, which are:-
    1) Charismatic Authority
    2) Traditional Authority
    3) Legal-rational Authority

  4. What is responsibility without authority?

    Without authority, an organization cannot work properly. There will be no guidance or order from the seniors.

    There will be more issues and problems between the subordinates because there will be no authority to provide a solution.

  5. How do you gain authority?

    To gain authority, one should have good bonding and relation with his co-staff along with leadership qualities.

    He should treat everyone equally and remove obstacles. He should guide and help his subordinates in difficulties. Even after gaining the authority power, he should serve his best to the company rather than ordering others.

  6. How do you deal with an employee who undermines you?

    A person having authority is not liable to ask the employee but should command them to do their respective work properly.

    He should behave friendly and politely with the subordinates but should not be friends with them.

    He should approach the subordinate and discuss his behavior towards him. He must make him understand that he would not like to see the same behavior in the future.

Difference Between Juxtaposition and Oxymoron (with Table)



Authority and responsibility are both on the two sides of a coin. An authority always comes with a corresponding responsibility making sure that it matches each other.

Too much power with less responsibility is subject to misuse. The same goes for more significant responsibilities and too little authority as it won’t work correctly, rendering it ineffective. Hence, a balance between the two is crucial.


Word Cloud for Difference Between Authority and Responsibility

The following is a collection of the most used terms in this article on Authority and Responsibility. This should help in recalling related terms as used in this article at a later stage for you.

Authority and Responsibility
Word Cloud for Authority and Responsibility



  1. https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/bakunin/works/various/authrty.htm
  2. https://www.jahonline.org/article/S1054-139X(07)00347-3/fulltext
  3. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10111-011-0191-6
  4. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0379073805001039