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14 Types of Management Authority

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Management authority is the right to exercise direction of teams and control of resources. This is a basic means of organizing society, institutions, organizations and teams whereby you decide who has the power to do what. The following are the basic types of management authority.

Legal Authority

Authority based on a system of laws, rules and procedures such as a Chief Executive Officer who has the power and duty to direct and control an organization to achieve and defend stakeholder's interests.

Root Authority

Authority is often rooted in one thing and then broadly delegated out with secondary artifacts. For example, all legal authority over an organization may be based on the authority of a board of directors as recognized by law or tradition. This can be viewed as the root authority from which all other authority over the organization is derived.

Formal Authority

Formal authority is derived from legal authority and is officially documented and communicated with artifacts such as an organizational chart or job description.

Informal Authority

Informal authority arises from uncommunicated or unofficial authority such as a manager who has approved budgets for years without actually having this power documented anywhere.

Traditional Authority

Authority based on customs such as how managers are viewed in a particular culture. For example, a collectivist culture where managers are expected to achieve consensus with their peers before making major decisions.

Line Authority

The authority created by the reporting lines in an organizational chart. Generally speaking, managers have direct authority over employees who report to them and indirect authority over employees to report to their reports.

Positional Authority

Another term for line authority whereby a person derives authority from their position in an organization such as job title, job level and position in an org chart.

Delegated Authority

Managers can delegate authority to subordinates along with responsibilities. For example, a front desk manager at a hotel who delegates full authority to make all customer service decisions to a staff member when they aren't present at the front desk.

Centralized Authority

An organization that places authority in the hands of a few people at the top. In this case, most employees will require regular approvals in order to deliver their work.

Decentralized Authority

Organizations that try to match authority to responsibilities so that employees can deliver to the expectations of their role without seeking approvals from others.

Expert Authority

Authority that derives from an individual's talents, knowledge, reputation and skills. This relates to employees who are given the authority to complete work within some domain of expertise. For example, an expert at configuring elevator systems who can proceed with this without any approvals.

Shared Authority

Organizations where employees report to multiple individuals. This is often represented with solid and dotted lines whereby an employee has a primary manager and many other managers to whom they report in some context such as a project.

Segregation of Duties

Segregation of duties is the principle that authority is divided such that no one person has too much power. This applies to critical functions such as control of finances whereby a system of approvals, audits and checks ensures that no one person has the power to execute financial transactions without involving many other people.

Charismatic Authority

Charismatic authority is a term for leadership that is independent of any formal authority whereby an individual leads in an organization with their talent and personal presence. In practice, managers may exercise actual authority far beyond their formal authority using relational capital or a willingness to take on responsibility.


In practice, a manager's authority derives from their position and role within an organization. Modern organizations have complex structures of authority that can include multiple reporting lines and segregation of duties whereby there are checks and balances put in place that prevent authority from being misused.


The following are the basic types of management authority.

Management Theory

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