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Without authority its difficult to fulfil responsibilities

Updated: Dec 23, 2023

Ever so often, we discover that people are entrusted with a responsibility but lack the authority to get things done. On the other hand, it is also common to witness people who have seized or inherited authority but carry no responsibilities.

When assigning responsibility to anyone, we have to ensure that the senior who is assigning the responsibilities to the subordinate grants authority of an appropriate level to enable juniors to deliver on their responsibilities.

Most organisations typically appoint people outlining their responsibilities without specifying the authorities being granted to meet their responsibilities.

It is important to remember that - Responsibility without authority is impotence, and an impotent person cannot perform satisfactorily, if at all. On the other hand Authority without responsibility is dictatorship. A dictator is like a bull in a china shop and that cannot be good either.

Both impotence and dictatorship are not desirable within a functioning organisation. So the solution is to grant adequate and appropriate authority to subordinates.

Authority can be loosely defined as the power granted to a subordinate to appoint, commit, communicate, decide, deliver, spend, etc.

To get the best results, bosses should avoid unilaterally bestowing authority upon juniors.

Authority has to be discussed and mutually agreed upon, between both the senior and the subordinate. Of course, the boss's decision should be final.

If we do this, the probability of achieving success and strengthening both the organisation and team members is high.

There is a caveat though.

Not every responsibility and authority needs to be negotiated, as is the case where a person is simply instructed without being held accountable for results.

However, as we grow we have to make the shift from merely instructing to delegating and with it the need to empower juniors.

Sure authority can be misused and even be abused, but that cannot be a reason to not authorise people because the vast majority of people want to do good.

Views and criticism are welcome.


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