Authority vs Responsibility: Difference and Comparison

From a general point of view, Authority always comes with responsibilities; however, only a person with legal authority can compel someone to perform a specific task. Responsibility means a person is obligated to do his duty forcefully or by commitment.


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An authority can give orders, and in responsibility, one has to follow the orders.

Key Takeaways

  1. Authority refers to the power or right to make decisions, give orders, or enforce rules.
  2. Responsibility refers to the obligation or duty to ensure that tasks or assignments are carried out effectively and efficiently.
  3. Authority is the power to act, while responsibility is the obligation to act.

Authority vs Responsibility

Authority refers to the power or right to make decisions, enforce rules, or take action in a particular situation. Authority is vested in individuals. Responsibility refers to the obligations or duties of a particular position. It implies that individuals will own their actions and consequences.

Authority vs Responsibility

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

Comparison Table

Parameter of ComparisonAuthorityResponsibility
DefinitionAn Authority is a power 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 goes with a position and entails a level of consent, depending on the chain of command.

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

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

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

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

  1. Charismatic authority – is a kind of power derived from the leader’s charisma, which possesses exemplary behaviour and heroism. Examples are the followers of some religious groups, celebrities, world leaders, and martyrs/divinities.
  2. Traditional authority – This is an authority legitimate in the sanctity of tradition. This type of power does not change over time and ignores social trends and the status quo. The right and ability to pass down authority are 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 contrasts with a traditional and charismatic power. It derives its power from uniformed principles, law, or natural law (rationality). Depending on the community’s needs, its policies and characters tend to change. Examples are modern democracies where voters elect officials or perhaps in a corporation where shareholders vote for the next CEO.
Person Commanding Group of Men

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 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, and being responsible means acting with common sense, authority, maturity, and reliability.

For example, the business director can set a standard and work ethic and enforce rules in a business community or organisation, benefiting the company.

He is also responsible for getting this standard across to his subordinates to ensure 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 to benefit society and the environment.
  2. Corporate Responsibility – More known today as the CSR practice or Corporate Social Responsibility. Its goal is to seek sustainable development and improve market value by positively impacting society, the economy, and the environment.
  3. Personal Responsibility – Also known as individual responsibility, it refers to taking accountability for 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 their country. It may be voluntary participation in a fire brigade or government activities for the country’s cause. An example 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 refers to an individual’s responsibility to pay taxes and government dues mandated by law.
Couple at Home Sitting at Table and Looking at Laptop Screen

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 is accountable for it.
Difference Between Authority and Responsibility
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