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17 Examples of Authority

Authority is the right, duty or ability to act and make decisions in a particular domain. The following are illustrative examples.

Individual Sovereignty

The rights and freedoms of the individual to pursue their life as they see it.
Freedom of movement is the authority to move freely, live where you want and leave a country as you please.

Positional Authority

Authority that derives from your role in a society, organization or group.
A bus driver who is granted the authority to ask a passenger to disembark at a bus stop if they are being disruptive.

Formal Authority

Authority that is rooted in law often indirectly.
The CEO of a company has formal authority to fully direct and control an organization such that they are accountable to stakeholders such as investors, regulators, employees and the communities in which the firm operates.

Delegated Authority

Authority that is transferred from one person to another. It is possible to delegate authority and responsibility. It is not possible to delegate accountability. In other words, you remain accountable for outcomes when you delegate your authority.
A CEO that delegates responsibility for operations to an executive.

Legal Authority

Authority that is directly based on a law.
A law that gives a government department a right to inspect factories for environment violations.

Informal Authority

Informal authority is the ability of an individual to direct, control and influence things without any formal authority.
A respected software developer who ends up setting the technical direction for a large organization simply because they know what they are doing and the people around them recognize their talents.

Charismatic Authority

Informal authority that derives from the force of an individual's personality.
A politician who cuts to the core of the frustrations, needs or biases of crowds to win people over en masse with their words.


The right of a nation to govern itself without interference from other governments.
The right of a people to set laws that reflect their culture without other nations imposing their values.

Popular Sovereignty

The authority of government based on the consent and participation of the people of a nation.
A democratically elected parliament that rules a government within the constraints of a constitution and system of law.

Coercive Authority

The use of force or the threat of force to gain authority.
Governments use overwhelming force such as military and police forces to support their authority.

Traditional Authority

Authority that derives from the traditions of a nation, culture or group.
A team captain in a sport who traditionally plays a leadership role in the team.

Authority Figure

Authority that derives from one's profession or role in society.
A teacher is an authority figure who has a responsibility to act in a manner befitting their profession.

Public Authority

Public authority is power that is derived from a government including all branches of government and any other organizations that are granted authority by government.
A chartered bank that is given the authority to participate in the core monetary processes of a nation.

Bureaucratic Authority

The powers granted to the administrative representatives of an organization or government by processes, procedures and roles.
A university representative who evaluates applications to a graduate program.

Petty Authority

Petty authority is the misuse of authority to enjoy a sense of personal power.
A customs official who gives travelers a hard time to vent personal frustrations because they are granted authority with little oversight.


A government that attempts to regulate and control every aspect of life with heavy use of its coercive authority.
A government that passes remarkably unpopular laws that are nevertheless rigorously enforced.


Totalitarianism is a government that recognizes no limits to its power such that it seeks to crush all opposition.
A one-party state that actively suppresses free speech and unapproved political activity.
Overview: Authority Examples
The right, duty or ability to act and make decisions in a particular domain.
Related Concepts


This is the complete list of articles we have written about authority.
Accountability Measures
Delegated Authority
Formal Authority
Informal Authority
Management Authority
Negative Selection
Petty Authority
Power Imbalance
Public Authority
Reporting Lines
Words For Authority
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An overview of authority.

Words For Authority

A list of words for authority.

Informal Authority

The definition of informal authority with examples.

Petty Authority

An overview of petty authority.

Authoritarian Personality

The definition of authoritarian personality with examples.

Charismatic Authority

An overview of charismatic authority.

Public Authority

The three distinct types of public authority.


The definition of centralization with examples, advantages and disadvantages.

Authoritarian Leadership

The definition of authoritarian leadership with examples.
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