Difference Between Power and Authority


Main Difference

Both concepts are different but are related to each other. Power is the capability to influence the behavior of others or sometimes events also. While authority is related to a person or an organization to giving orders and to make certain decisions as the power is given to them. When a person is able to influence the activities, actions, and beliefs of others then we say that he or she has power and this can be termed as personal power which is usually achieved by the personality or by the knowledge. The examples can be of a lawyer, programmer, doctor, etc. while authority in an organization or outside the organization is given to the managers and people to the work done through others in a constructive way, as that person has the decision making authority. Moreover, the concept of authority is vertical, it flows downwards which means that it is delegated from the top management to bottom.

As a whole power is a wider concept than authority and the flow of power, unlike authority, can be I any direction as there is not a limit set. Even the subordinates contain power over their seniors. Additionally with respect to management power can be informal but authority is usually formal. Likewise, power has many types which include referent power, which is related to personality power and personal power. Expert power is linked with the knowledge, with the level of expertise one has. Legitimate power which describes the position power of a person or the official power one attains. Reward power is linked with the rewards as the name suggests, people motivate the followers by giving them a reward which can be in any form. And coercive powers which is a strict form of power where the person gives punishment or sometimes even pose a threat. Power and authority both can be used in a positive as well as negative form but it depends on person to person that how is he or she utilizing it. Mostly the wrong use of power and authority results in a disaster that brings no good results for both parties. So they should be implemented in a way that their delegation is done constructively and the most positive results are obtained.


Comparison Chart

Possession of controlling influenceThe power or right to give orders or make decisions
Power is seen in a person through his personalityAuthority is seen by the post
Can be measured by the personality of a person and the level of expertise.Can be measured by the level of management

Definition of Power

The ability to influence the behaviors of others is called power. Power has no limits and can be asserted by any person whether he or she is superior or an inferior. Additionally, power has many types which include legitimate power, coercive power, reward power, expert power, and referent power. All of these powers describe different forms of powers used by the people whether they are in an organization are not. Most people associate power with their interest, as a result, they make the use of power in a negative way which is completely wrong. Having power does not mean that you can do whatever you want to with it. Likewise, power can be enhanced through networking and has other types too like personal power which a person develops with time, position power which a person enjoys when he has a certain post. If a person does not reside personal power it can be developed in many ways because it’s not that if a person does not have it he can’t achieve or learn it.


Definition of Authority

When we talk about the authority we mean that the person has decision making power, as a result, they are able to give orders. Examples of authority can be many but usually, it is referred to as formal. In an organization, the flow of authority is usually from top to bottom (vertical) instead of horizontal. And it mostly depends on the level of management that if the level is higher they have more authority and if they are at the bottom level then definitely they consist of low authority. So it depends on the level of post one has. Having authority over certain people does not mean that you are allowed to do whatever you want because there are certain limits provided.

Key Differences

  1. Power is seen in a person through his personality; authority is seen by the post.
  2. Power is not horizontal, vertical but it can be seen in any direction but authority is vertical.
  3. Authority can be measured by the level of management but power can be measured by the personality of a person and the level of expertise.
  4. The nature of power is informal; the authority has a formal nature.
  5. Power has 5 main types but authority varies.


Although if you look at the two terms there is an obvious idea that they are very different from each other. Though they relate to each other at different levels, which is another discussion. This article has covered all the main points which will help anyone in getting the idea of how they are different from each other and how they combine.

Aimie Carlson

Aimie Carlson is an English language enthusiast who loves writing and has a master degree in English literature. Follow her on Twitter at @AimieCarlson