Formal Authority

Formal authority can be thought of as the right to command or compel another person to perform a certain act. Power is the ability to influence or cause a person to perform an act. It is possible for a manager to have formal authority without power, just as it is possible for a subordinate to have power without formal authority. The distinction between these terms may be significant for the manager, who may assume that his formal authority automatically gives him power but overlook the fact that his subordinates also have power, at times greater than his own. The manager in such a situation can encounter difficult and frustrating experiences without knowing why.

If formal authority were dependent upon physical power only, life would be even more difficult than it is. Ultimately, formal authority is dependent upon the law, but most frequently it results from a  shared perception that those with formal authority have rights that ought to be acknowledged. This “ought” is so widely believed that those with formal authority may very frequently have real power as a result.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit, and my Lectures.