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Authority and Power in contemporary Organization

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Authority and Power in contemporary Organization


Power and authority are relative terms that can be easily confused. In a real sense, they mean different and should not be assumed to mean the same either. Authority is the formal responsibility bestowed on someone to make decisions or control a group of people in a particular situation. In contrast, power is the ability to influence a decision or behavior of people.  These two concepts work in the same manner, and one, it is interesting to learn how they are so loose but far apart in meaning. Law and constitution are always in between power and authority; the constitution gives the powers legitimately to an individual, institution, or organization. In this case, the power is not necessarily about leadership or authority; it is about the targeted group’s rights and freedoms. Authority now is the legitimate recognition of individuals by law to hold specific higher positions to make decisions. The contemporary organization is different from the traditional organization. It discourages a single channel system of governance instead brings about a sense of responsibility among workers at all levels.

Authority might be effective in an organization if those in authority have the power to influence other organization employees. It is meaningless to have control with no influence on employees; it can result in low productivity and disrespect. My opinion is that authority may not be effective in the contemporary organization; instead, it can influence workers in dealing with different situations. Those with more significant influences can be trusted with the power to ease the managerial task. In an organizational setting, managers have the authority and powers; employees also have controls in achieving the set goals. Managers, therefore, have to work closely with other employees to achieve goals. In this essay, previous theories and researches will form a base for discussion.



Authority may be conceptualized with rulers having subjects to be ruled or an individual’s ability to control others through command. Authority is the formal responsibility trusted in an individual to make decisions in an organization (Lee and Edmondson, 2017, p.36). These individuals are legally recognized and accepted; they include managers in an organization. Weber identifies authority with legitimacy. He argues that, although people with authority have powers to influence, those not in management can control. In contemporary organizations, there is no specific leadership method; instead, the manager has to be conversant with the environment, market, and current situations (Asdal and Hobæk, 2020, p.260). By having this kind of knowledge then managers can make informed decisions on achieving company goals.

Illusion influence is the sense of having self-determination and influence through belief from either supervisor or other staff. The feeling of being self-supervised gives an individual the illusion of influence (Harrell and Thye, 2018, p.222). It is advised that the self-assessment be looked into by the supervisor to provide an honest opinion. Thus the individual can improve on areas recommended by the supervisor. From this insight, it is evident that authority is effective in an organization.

Types of authority

Powers given through written rules and regulations are always termed as a rational-legal authority. In this type of authority, management is entrusted in the structured office but not the individual. Therefore the individual has to behave on the required office traditions (Woods, 2018, 158). Employees may have different authority from the managers, as stated in the guidelines of the company.

There is another type of authority that emerges when leaders develop solutions in times of crisis. These people are given power out of the belief that they can offer solutions to problems faced (Hernández, 2019, p.106). This type of authority is referred to as a charismatic leader.

Another type of authority is the traditional authority. The legitimacy of this type is the acceptance from society for an extended period (Asdal and Hobæk, 2020, p.260). It is a primarily hereditary type of authority, in the kingdom type of governance, like the Buganda kingdom where there is kabaka as the ruler.

Theories of authority

Previous writers and researchers discuss different theories. In this essay, the forms of authority will be based on these previous theories research.

  1. Top-bottom theory

It is also referred to as the formal theory of authority. In this kind of authority, the instructions follow a structured way of communication hierarchically from the top management to the support staff. It explains the rules the administration uses to issue orders (Lee and Edmondson,  p.40). All decisions are made at the managerial level without consultation with the employees. Management of the organization defines the job roles in different positions at the organization. It is a fact that this kind of authority is vital in the running of organizations. Decisions about the organization’s operation and success are majorly bestowed in managerial positions. Coming up with innovative ways to market and balance the revenue with costs incurred are decisions the executive level has to deal with effectively (Tatsis, Wagner and Maj-Tatsis, 2018, p.1030). In the new organization, authority leaders have to possess interpersonal skills and understand other workers. A company that aims to revolutionize with the current market might decide to have automated machines at work. The management can dictate the training of staff on how to operate the machines.

  1. Bottom-up theory

In this type of theory, the decisions are based on the views of the employees. Managers depend on the employees in achieving the set goals. Authority is only effective if it is acceptable by the employees (Hernández, 2019, p.106). It explains how management uses authority on employees. Employees exercise their acceptance or rejection in several ways, such as by voting or submissions. When making decisions, the employee has to put in mind the organization’s objective, personal growth, and they have clearly understood the communication (Asdal and Hobæk, 2020, p.260). Therefore they may proceed to make decisions communicated by the manager if it was well and timely communicated, the proper channel was followed, and the manager showed good communication skills. A distribution company can have a decision discussed among its distributors on possible payment methods; the authority will be exercised once the response from distributors is acceptable on the rates communicated.

  1. Situational authority

An occurrence usually prompts this kind of authority. The situation at hand always gives power to an individual to help control a case at the moment (Woods, 2018, 158). In deliveries, anyone available can provide directions for the delivery lories or messengers on where to channel the parcels.

  1. Knowledge-based theory

In this theory, skills and knowledge are recognized and referred to when faced with a specific situation. In team building, one person who is a sports enthusiast among the team can take charge of the activity and control others on the program (Tatsis, Wagner and Maj-Tatsis, 2018, p.1030). It may be from the management or one of the workers in the organization. According to Ruggie (2018, p.319), authority exists when there is a superior and subject. The superior gives orders to employees; the employee can perform orders or decline. In instances where it is defiant in fulfilling orders, then the authority declines, and the superior can reinforce their power by taking action.


Power can be based on the ability to influence others; behaviors. Possessing the right skills and knowledge gives an upper hand in control. Authority, too gives power to individuals. Those in authority can influence decision-making in an organization (Li, Matouschek and Powell, 2017, p.217). Power also is not inbound in the administration since commoners in the organization can have capabilities too. In contemporary organizations, power can be indifferent authority levels depending on the knowledge and understanding of the current situation or possessing specific skills. Power is seen as very lucrative, and everyone wants to influence society.

Having illusion influence brings a false sense of self-confidence in a person. Exposure to information can make one have the confidence to possess power. It creates self-confidence in someone; having self-confidence encourages entrepreneurial skills in an organization (Ruggie, 2018, p.318). Supporting the employees to explore their capabilities should be guided by the management in the organization. However, proper measures and guidance need to be considered to prevent diverging from the company’s objectives.

Powers can be given to different managers in the organization to deal with various issues. Employees’ welfare may be in other management, products, and service determination quality in another department (Seidel, 2018, p.42). The horizontal approach is efficient in dealing with company issues. According to Richard Emerson’s theory, power is inherent in relationships, and one party in the connection has to be dependent on the other. He further argues that if an individual has or possesses something that others lack (Avelino, 2021, p.13), then that person is perceived to have powers over the others.

On the other hand, Max Weber, in his theory, puts power as a control. He also concurs with Richard that power is associated with a dependency nature. Power includes leadership and authority; the power to give orders brings authority, and having power and authority provides leadership (Nahar, and Kumar, 2017, p.968). He further states that power in a pluralist manner can be divided into insiders and outsiders. The insiders have a lot of influence and can easily access government officials compared to the outsiders (Hernández, 2019, p.106). Therefore he suggests that there is a need to strike a balance on dependability in powers. Managerial and employees have to depend on each other to achieve the company goals rather than employees depending on management (Gainochenko, 2017, p.3). He concludes by stating that everyone in the organization is powerful, and a mutual working relationship is vital in enhancing trust and goal achievement.

According to (Gelfand, et al., 2017 p. 514) power is the ability to influence another person or group. It is being able to compromise the interest of others and having your way. The pluralist theory on power states that power is spread among different groups that compete in the political process for influence and resources. These groups may win or lose, and therefore they have equal impact.

Mills also described the power elite as those in government, big businesses, and the military. And that they work on their interest rather than the nation’s interest (Hernández, 2019, p.106). Mill further states that this ruling class is in the same social class and understands each other.

Power sources

There are different ways those in leadership can acquire power. They focus on having the ability to control the rest either in the society or organization. Source of power can be viewed in different ways, from the position held to qualities possessed. Therefore it is essential to highlight these sources in this essay.

Power through position

Some positions carry power in terms of influence and control. Manager’s post has influence over other employees in a company. Managers can control resources and activities in the organization (Nahar, and Kumar, 2017, p.968). Therefore anyone that occupies this position in the company is entitled to power. However, the individual cannot have capabilities outside the managerial position. Meaning if the person is relieved from the manager’s job, then he/she cannot have the company’s powers anymore.

Power by the resource control

Power and resources are at most dependent. Resources can be material wealth or monetary value. People with money or wealthy individuals have more significant influence in society, and they are perceived as powerful (Morrison et al., 2017 p.479). In the new organization, it is the same scenario. Those individuals who can control more resources influence others; therefore, their powers can be seen in decision-making. According to (Harrell and Thye, 2018, p.222), power is the act of excluding others from resources. The ability to control the resources and deciding who to access is power.

Power through expert knowledge

As it is known that knowledge is power, in the real sense, it is. Having knowledge and skills in a particular field gives an individual an upper hand in decisions concerning the said field. Professionals, experts, and even talented individuals (Tenzer and Pudelko, 2017, p.47) have a more significant influence when they give out their opinions. Their contributions are highly regarded, and at times they are heavily appreciated. This crop of individuals may at times be given positions in leadership,

Power through personal relations

Also referred to as referent powers, it is the influence one has in the organization through good relationships. The managerial team’s relationship is also taken into account (Ruggie, 2018, p.318). Such individuals are perceived to be of good character with high standards. Interpersonal skills are vital in such a scenario; good communication skills make other employees trust and believe in the person.

Power by threat and coercive

One can also acquire power through threats and manipulations. Punishment is observed in such powers; the superior administer punishment to the subject whenever there is a misunderstanding (Seidel, 2018, p.42). Managers can issue a penalty to employees whenever they make mistakes Threats about being sacked at work or salary cuts make employees remain obedient to the bosses.

Reward power

It is another way of power acquisition whereby employees in the company are rewarded and appreciated for their excellent performances. The manager or the person giving rewards has a more significant influence on the organization (Vallebona and Weber, 2018, 262). When favoritism influences the rewarding process, then conflict and rebellion may arise in the organization.


Power and authority are essential in contemporary organizations. Authority is needed to give supervision for goals to be achieved. On the other hand, power is equally critical in an organization’s running (Li, Matouschek, and Powell, 2017, p.217). Therefore, it is vital if authority and power are integrated for efficacy. Influence is greatly admired globally; people, institutions, and governments want to influence others. We have superpowers nations, which means they have a more significant effect on the United nations’ decision-making. However, it does not mean other countries don’t have powers. No person, organization, or country is powerless (Gelfand et al., 2017 p. 514). It is the level of influence that differs. In the current world and organization, knowledge power is shaping the landscape of power and authority. Those with the know-how and technological advancement have a more significant influence than others (Dougherty, 2017, p.850); for example, South Korea is the leading Samsung product manufacturer. It has a more considerable impact around the globe than the superpower countries in the world.


In conclusion, power and authority are vital in any economy. Authority gives direction and guidance in a trusted, legitimate way. The holder of authority position is active and influencing. It is embarrassing that a company manager could be a lame-duck whose opinion and directives are squash by junior staff. Self-discipline and good interpersonal skills are essential for managers.

On the other hand, power without legitimacy is problematic and might lead to rebellion if misused. Inequality in society has continued the power disparity; control of resources and misuse of authority have been the major factors influencing society’s power. As evident in the essay, the elite class has always influenced governments’ decisions and acquired extreme wealth for the citizens. In a business setup, managers and directors allocate themselves hefty allowances and salaries at other employees’ expense. They, therefore, have a more significant influence on the employees who earn little. Several theories have emphasized coming up with a proper model where no party feels powerless.

This essay has provided a base for other studies to be done in the future. The gap between leadership and power is evident in this essay. Therefore future studies can focus on this relationship.














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