Concept Of Power-Authority-Responsibility And Delegation

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Concept : Power – Authority – Responsibility and Delegation


It is an ability or capacity to influence decisions. In other words power refers to the capacity that one has to influence the behaviour of others so that others do something he or she would not otherwise do.

The sources of power can be explained below

  1. Position of the person holds in an organisation’s hierarchy –  This kind of power is called legitimate power because they gain power from the formal position in an organisation hierarchy. They can influence others by means of position held or recognised.
  2. Having knowledge or expertise in a particular area –  They influence others through the position of knowledge or skill that is useful to others. such people are highly appreciated by organisations for their problem solving skills. This power is called expert power.
  3. The capability of a person to influence the allocation of incentives in an organisation – This type of power is known as rewarded power. People with this power influence others by controlling things they want, such as money, acceptance, praise, promotion and status.


The term authority is coined by Chester Barnard.

Mooney and Reiley Describe the authority as the ‘supreme coordinating power’ That provides legitimacy to the organisational structure. The defining characteristic of authority is legitimacy, while that of power is insistence authority is the legitimate power of the office holder.

There are three sources of authority in public administration

  1.  Law 
  2.  Traditional
  3.  Delegation

Theories of authority –  There are two theories given by nothing kars associated with authority.

  1. Positional theory – This theory  is supported by  Classical thinkers. Max Weber and Fayol view authority as an attribute of position in the organisation and not of an individual member.In other words authority lies in the formal position and whoever occupies it, it shall exercise authority and issue order and command. In this way the duty of subordinates is to obey those Orders and Commands.
  2. Acceptance theory –  It is advocated by Barnard (he was a behaviourist).According to this theory, the basis of legitimacy of the superior authority is the acceptance lended by the subordinates.Superior can exercise authority, only when it is accepted by subordinate.

According to Bernard, a subordinate will accept a communication as authoritative only when

  • He understands the communication.
  • It is not inconsistent with the purpose of the organisation.
  • It is compatible with his personal interest as a whole.
  • He is able mentally and physically to comply with it.

The authority can be classified into three types

  1. Line authority – This type of authority is concerned with the achievement of the organisational goals.
  2. Staff authority – This type of authority is concerned with advising the line of accomplishing the goals of the organisation.
  3. Functional authority – This type of authority lies in the job to be performed.


Responsibility denotes an obligation of an individual to carry out his duties.

According to G.R.Terry – “ Responsibility is the obligation of a person to achieve the result mutually,& is determined by means of participation by his superior and himself ”.

According to Fayol – “Authority and responsibility are interrelated and commensurate”.

Types of responsibility 

  1. Operating responsibility
  2. Ultimate responsibility

Operating responsibility can be delegated to subordinates, while ultimate responsibility cannot be delegated.

In administrative process the responsibility is of three kinds

  1. Political Responsibility – Political responsibility denotes the responsibility of the executive to the Legislature, which in turn is responsible to the people.
  2. Institutional Responsibility – Institutional responsibility denotes the responsibility to the administrative agency towards public welfare, that is being responsive to the public interest.
  3. Professional Responsibility – It denotes the responsibility of civil service to the professional standards, ethics and code of conduct. It is also known as ethical responsibility.


The principle of Hierarchy binds together the different units and levels of the organisation with a continuous chain of authority. The essence of this principle is the delegation of authority.


  • According to Mooney – Delegation means conferring of specified authority by a higher to lower  authority.
  • According to Terry –  Delegation means conferring authority from one executive or organisational unit to another.

Features of Delegation

  1. Assessment of duties by the superior to the subordinate.
  2. Granting of authority by the Delegator to the Delegatee, to facilitate the work assigned to him.
  3. Creation of an obligation, that is the Delegatee has to complete the given work or task.
  4. No further delegation of the obligation by the Delegates to his subordinates.

It must be clarified here that the scheme of delegation is subject to the supervision and control of the delegator. further, the delegator neither transfers his final authority nor abdicates his ultimate responsibility.


  • Downward, Upward and Sideward – The delegation is downward when higher authority delegates to a lower authority.The delegation is upward when a lower authority delegates to higher authority.The delegation is sideward when it is at equal level.
  • Outward delegation – The delegation is outward when the authority is granted to an outside body, which is not under the direct control of the delegator. e.g. Delegation of Ad- Hoc committee set up for a specific purpose.
  • Permanent and Temporary – Delegation is permanent when authority conferred forever, while it is temporary, when authorities are granted for a short period. Usually delegation is temporary.
  • Full and Partial – Delegation is full when complete powers are granted to the delegate to take final decision and actions, while it is partial when the delegate has to consult the delegator on important aspects of the job assigned to him.
  • Conditional and Unconditional –  Delegation is conditional when the decisions and actions of the delegate are subject to control and confirmation by the delegator, while it is unconditional when the delegate is free to take decision and act without any reservation.
  • Formal and Informal – Delegation is formal, when based on written rules and orders, while it is informal when based on customs and conventions.
  • Direct and Intermediate –  Delegation is direct when no third person is involved, while it is intermediate when it is made through a third person.

Advantages –  It is needed for the following reasons

  • To reduce the burden on the superior.
  • To avoid delays in the administrative process.
  • To have proper adjustment of policy and programs to local conditions.
  • To train the subordinate in the art of sharing responsibility and making decisions.
  • To develop a second line of leadership.
  • To overcome complexity in procedure, that is delegation to specialists.
  • To overcome conjunction work at the toplevel.


Even though delegation is essential and advantageous,no superior can render himself superfluous by Delegating entire authority vested in him. It is identified by M.P.Sharma,the following powers are usually not delegated – 

  • The power to supervise the work of the first line.
  • The power to sanction expenditure above a specific amount.
  • The power to sanction new policies and departure of old policies.
  • The power to make rules and regulations.
  • The power to make specified higher appointments.
  • The power to hear appeals against the immediate subordinates’ decisions.

Hindrance – The hindrance to delegation can be categorised into two kinds

  1. Organisational
  2. Personal

Organisational Hindrance

  1. Lack of well-established organisational methods, procedures and rules.
  2. Lack of effective means of internal coordination and communication.
  3. In competency of subordinate staff.
  4. Unstable and non respective character of work.
  5. Centralisation requirement of special programs.


  1. Delegation should be specific and return.
  2. Delegation should not be made to an individual but to a position.
  3. Delegation should follow the usual chain of commands.
  4. Delegation should be backed by adequate resources.
  5. Well-defined policies, Regulation and procedure to be adopted.
  6. The competence of subordinates should be taken into consideration.
  7. The communication system should be kept free and open.

This article is written by Vinay Pathak.

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