Authority vs Responsibility – Difference and Comparison

What is Authority?

There are various definitions of the term “authority”, but all agree that authority is the legal capacity granted to someone in order that he is able to fulfill a particular function, make appropriate decisions, and make necessary modifications.

According to Buyuk Larousse Ansiklopedisi, 1986, authority is the right to act according to one’s thoughts and decisions, make free decisions, and give orders to one’s subordinates.

Having authority is having the ability to be obeyed or complied with; the right to decide what to do or present opinions based on personal experience (Oxford Dictionary and Thesaurus, 1996).

Having authority means being legally authorized to perform a certain function. Legal authority defines what an organization or institution is legally entitled to do.

In other words, a manager’s authority is defined as the formal power accorded to him or her based on their position. (Hodgets and Richard, 1990).

Becoming an effective manager means commanding obedience and cooperation to achieve your goals. This is the power you possess within your organization, commensurate with your job title and essential to its success. You also assign tasks, judge the results, award rewards, and enforce discipline, along with leading the group.

What is Responsibility?

The concept of responsibility is frequently confused with the concept of authority. They are both similar in many ways, but responsibility is ultimately what an individual has to do in accordance with the social or organizational standing he has achieved.

Auréen defines responsibility as “the area of activity under the manager’s control.” “Your responsibilities determine your responsibilities to the company, what duties you have to perform, and what actions you may and may not take.” Usually, the job identifies your role and responsibilities.” (Hodgets and Richard, 1990).

It is possible to authorize people to carry out certain tasks, i.e. to grant them authority. In contrast, responsibility belongs to a specific individual and cannot be transferred to anyone else. For what he does or does not do, he is responsible for his supervisor, manager, or the company.

People who avoid their responsibilities may not be able to get others to do what they need. A slow-running organization is a consequence. Individuals who know and understand their responsibilities will ensure that the organization is able to function smoothly.

The term responsibility refers to the obligation of fulfilling duties to accomplish the goals in a job. In an organization, each employee is responsible for his superior or boss; therefore, responsibility flows upward from the bottom up.

It is, on the other hand, authority that flows downward, from the boss to the employees. Authority streams down the vertical hierarchy (Daft, 1999), while responsibility flows upward due to one’s position.

Difference Between Authority and Responsibility

Authority can be handed over to other people but in contrary, responsibility belongs to a specific person and can in no way be handed to someone else.

Every employee is responsible to his superior or boss; therefore, responsibility flow is from bottom to top while Authority flows downward, from the boss down to the employees. Authority flows down the vertical hierarchy.

Authority represents the right of a superior to issue orders and instructions to his subordinates. Responsibility refers to the specific duties assigned to an individual by his superior.

Authority arises from the position of the boss in the organization, while responsibility is derived from the relationship between superior and subordinate, which involves the subordinate performing assigned duties.

Authority is delegated, but responsibility is assumed, i.e., it is inherent in the task.

Comparison Between Authority and Responsibility

 Parameter of ComparisonAuthorityResponsibility
MeaningPower or right to give orders, enforce rules, make decisions, and enforce compliance with a particular job or designation.Obligation to successfully accomplish a task, whether it is assigned by one’s senior or set by his or her own commitment or circumstances.
Results from   Formal position in an organizationSuperior-subordinate relationship
TaskDelegation of authorityAssumption of responsibility
RequirementAbility to give orders.Ability to follow orders.


  1. Buyuk Larousse Ansiklopedisi; Interpress Basin ve Yayincilk A.S., Istanbul, 1986, Cilt 24, p. 125.
  2. Hodgetts, Richard M.; Management: Theory, Process, and Practice; 5th Edition, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Publishers, Orlando, Florida, 1990, p.167.