Difference Between Power and Authority (with Table)

When the question is about influencing or manipulating others, two things go that side by side within the field of management is Power and Authority. These two are used to make people respond within the manner directed. Power is described as the capacity of an individual to influence the desire or conduct of others. As against, authority is termed as the right possessed by an individual to offer the command to others.

Many folks think that these two terms are one and the same thing, but there exists a fine line of difference between power and authority.

The difference between Power and Authority is that Power resides with a person and is exercised in a personal capacity but, on the other hand, Authority resides with the designation given to the individual and is used in a professional capacity.

Comparison Table Between Power and Authority

Parameter of ComparisonPowerAuthority
MeaningControl that allow influence on othersControl delegated to an individual or group
What is itComes from who you areIs a right or privilege granted to you
ExecutionFlexible and dynamicTechnical and static
ResultCannot be accurately illustrated, flows in many directionsIllustrated in organisational charts which flows downwards
Resides withPersonDesignation

What is a Power?

By the term power, we mean the private capacity of an individual to influence others to do or not to do an act. It’s independent and informal in nature derived from charisma and standing. It’s an acquired ability that comes from knowledge and expertise. It’s the right to regulate other’s actions, decisions and performances.

Power isn’t hierarchical, i.e. it can flow in any direction like it can flow from superior to subordinate (downward) or junior to senior (upward), or between the persons functioning at an equivalent level, but different departments of an equivalent organization (horizontal), or between the persons functioning at different levels and departments of an equivalent organization (diagonal). In this way, it’s not confined to any boundaries. Moreover, the element of politics is typically attached to it.

Power

What is Authority?

Authority is legal and formal right to an individual, who can take decisions, give orders and commands to others to perform a specific task. it’s conferred to high officials, to accomplish an organization’s objectives. it’s hierarchical in nature, it flows downward, i.e. delegated from superior to the subordinate.

Normally, authority is used to get things done through others. it’s attached to the position, i.e. a person who gets the position enjoys the authority attached to it, the upper the position, the upper would be his authority. as the authority lies within the designation, in the absence of authority, the position offered to the person would be of no use. Moreover, it’s restricted to the organization only.

Authority

Main Differences Between Power and Authority

  1. Power is usually the product of personal traits like charisma and expertise. Power can be learned and gained, and usually, the more knowledgeable an individual is in their field, the more power they have. Authority is a title given from an outdoor source, like a corporation, a government, or another person. An individual in authority may have personal traits that also make them powerful, their authority is derived from their position, not from within themselves.
  2. Power is an informal method of influence. An individual or organization doesn’t get to have any formal status within a hierarchy to become powerful. For instance, an employee with a high level of experience and technical expertise will often become powerful and influential to their peers, managers, and clients, although they do not hold a managerial title. Authority is a formal method of influence. Authority must be given within a hierarchical structure, and can’t be assumed simply because someone is powerful.
  3. People who exercise their power often tend to violence or coercion to influence others. While power isn’t inherently violent, because powerful people often lack authority, violence becomes their preferred method of influence. Authority is the stature of individuals in reliable positions who have duties or tools that allow people to influence others or complete their work without having to resort to violence. When an authority uses violence against civilians or other non-authority figures, things become “asymmetrical” or unfair, and therefore the authority loses legitimacy.
  4. Power flows in any direction, i.e. it can be upward, downward, crosswise or diagonal, lateral. As opposed to authority, that flows only in one direction, i.e. downward (from superior to subordinate).
  5. The power lies in person, in essence, a person acquires it, but authority lies in the designation, i.e. whoever gets the designation, get the authority attached to it.

Conclusion

With respect to the above points, it’s quite clear that power and authority are two different things, where power has nothing to do with level or management or position.

On the opposite hand, authority completely depends on these two, i.e. the position level determines the extent of authority an individual has. Additionally, the authority relationships, i.e. the connection between superior and subordinate are depicted on the organizational chart. Conversely, the facility relationship isn’t shown within the organization chart.

References

  1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1467-7660.2009.01503.x
  2. https://heinonline.org/HOL/LandingPage?handle=hein.journals/amuilr20&div=24&id=&page=