Difference Between Leadership Power and Authority

Difference Between Leadership Power and Authority-Featured Image

The main difference between Leadership Power and Authority is that leadership power stems from an individual’s ability to influence and inspire others based on personal attributes and skills, whereas authority is a formal right granted to a person or role within an organizational structure, enabling them to make decisions and enforce rules. Leadership power is often seen as more personal and charismatic, relying on a leader’s expertise, reputation, or interpersonal skills. In contrast, authority is more institutional and is often linked to a specific position within a hierarchy, with its legitimacy derived from established laws, rules, or procedures.

What is Leadership Power and what is Authority?

Leadership power is an individual’s capacity to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute toward the effectiveness and success of the organizations of which they are members. It arises from a variety of sources, including but not limited to, an individual’s charisma, knowledge, experience, and emotional intelligence. Leadership power is often intangible and not formally designated. It is more about the personal attributes and abilities that a leader possesses, which makes others willingly follow their guidance or emulate their behavior.

Authority, on the other hand, is the formal right given to a leader to make decisions, command resources, and expect compliance. It is often associated with a particular position within an organizational hierarchy. Authority is granted by the organization and is typically defined by a job description or a formal role. It includes the power to allocate resources, make decisions, and enforce rules. Authority is more about a formal position than the personal attributes of the individual occupying that position.

Key differences between Leadership Power and Authority

  1. Source of Power: Leadership power is derived from personal attributes and skills, such as charisma, expertise, and emotional intelligence. Authority is derived from a formal position within an organization.
  2. Dependency on Position: Leadership power can exist independently of a formal position, while authority is inherently tied to a specific role or title.
  3. Nature of Influence: Leadership power influences through inspiration and persuasion, whereas authority influences through directives and mandates.
  4. Basis of Followership: Followers of a leader with power often follow voluntarily, driven by admiration or respect. In contrast, followership under authority is often obligatory due to the hierarchical structure.
  5. Flexibility and Adaptability: Leadership power is more flexible and adaptable to different situations and people. Authority is more rigid, being based on specific rules and protocols.
  6. Longevity and Sustainability: Leadership power can be more enduring, as it is based on personal traits and relationships. Authority might be short-lived, lasting only as long as the individual holds the position.
  7. Scope of Impact: Leadership power can extend beyond formal boundaries, influencing people across and outside an organization. Authority usually is confined to the specific scope defined by the role.
  8. Recognition and Respect: Leadership power often earns respect and recognition based on personal qualities. Authority, however, might be followed due to obligation rather than genuine respect.

Key similarities between Leadership Power and Authority

  1. Goal of Influence: Both leadership power and authority aim to influence others, albeit through different means.
  2. Contribution to Organizational Success: Both play critical roles in the success and functioning of an organization.
  3. Necessity in Leadership: Both are essential components of effective leadership, each complementing the other.
  4. Decision-Making Role: Individuals with either leadership power or authority are often involved in decision-making processes within an organization.
  5. Potential for Abuse: Both leadership power and authority can be misused or abused if not exercised responsibly.
  6. Requirement for Responsiveness: Effective exercise of both leadership power and authority requires responsiveness to the needs and concerns of others.
  7. Impact on Culture and Morale: Both significantly influence organizational culture and employee morale.

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*Based on a survey of small businesses using QuickBook Online conducted September 2018.