On Authority Types

Especially in corporate functions, the talk of being “handicapped without authority but only more  responsibility” usually echoes in at least one meeting room daily. Governments and their structure teaches a thing or two about authority, for me the most important is the distinction between statutory authority and executive authority.

Statutory authority is usually independent of the government itself, i.e. the political party in power, an example could be the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India or the Securities and Exchange Board of India. They have certain key responsibilities like protecting interests of consumers, shareholders, investors and others, they set standards for transactions broadly, and they monitor adherence. They get their form from a legislation and they have a tribunal mechanism attached where disputes can be resolved. Resource needs for statutory authorities are usually small.

Executive Authority is usually part of a government and is controlled by the party in power. They execute simply, the Central Public Works Department is one such example. They take ” full responsibility for planning designing, estimation, evaluation of bids, finalization of contracts, defending arbitration and court  cases” but all within some statutory framework only. Resource need for this form of authority is huge.

Obviously to function effectively both are needed for the common good, issue within organizations and corporate functions is the confusion between what authority are we talking about among other minor issues like in dispute or lack of use how to deal and existence of competing standards.

Can we clarify when next time some one complains “responsible without authority” please.

And “empowered” means granting at least one type of authority.


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