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Mercy Odongo Nov 26, 2020

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In this blog, we shall cover the concepts of leadership and authority, the difference between leadership and authority, expose you to the different types of authorities; and also show you how to lead with or without authority.


Many people tend to confuse leadership and authority and sometimes use the two terms interchangeably.
Let us look at the meaning of authority.

Authority is power entrusted for service;

Authority is a role;

Authority is a transactional relationship: trust and power in exchange of services;

One can lead from formal authority granted by an external body or Informal Authority is earned by providing a service that is does not exist but is needed, by representing the underrepresented or through affiliation. There are different kinds of authorities,

There is traditional authority, which is tied to a tradition or custom like the monarchs.

There is charismatic authority that rests on devotion to the exceptional sanctity, heroism or exemplary character of an individual person.

There is also the rational or legal authority whose legitimacy comes from legal order or laws that have been enacted.

With authority, every role in any organization, community, position or family carries distinctive expectations. The purpose of authority is to provide protection, direction, control, create norms, order, security and sometimes representation

Let's have a look at what each of these expectations mean;

Direction- where the team is headed and what is the vision.

Protection- offer protection from external threats.

Norm- provide values that will ground the team’s activities.

Order- resolving conflicts and keeping things calm.


Jane founded Fashionista Inc, which specialized in custom made clothing, from alterations to newly made men's suits and shoes. As the CEO of the company, she hired half a dozen people to work for her. When she started out, she laid out all the responsibilities and roles. She also defined the problems, made all the decisions and instructed her employees on tasks to undertake. Her employees, trusting her judgement, made sure to comply with the set rules and guidelines, and also follow her vision. As their boss, that's the way it was.

Being CEO, Jane was the authority figure in the company. She was responsible for providing direction, protection, norms and order for her employees.

Authority figures are also the people you recognize as experts in various fields or knowledgeable for example parents, teachers or police officers among other when faced with a routine problem, are experts who come up with a solution. For instance, James, a car mechanic exercises his authority by telling Job, one of his customers, what's wrong with his car and what he's going to do to fix it. It's not a complex situation. James is an expert, and because of this, Job granted him the authority to determine what his car’s problem was and how to fix it or Daniel, a doctor who writes a prescription for a patient. In this case, James and Daniel both hold positions of authority as experts.

The expectations of someone in authority can sometimes be impossible to meet.

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Written by

Mercy Odongo