Sources of Authority

Some disagreement has developed in management literature about the sources of authority. The basic source of disagreement arises because of the question ‘who legitimizes power and gives it the status of authority? ‘Who designates the areas in which a manager may legitimately exercise power, that is, exert his authority?” One view is that authority derives from higher levels; that is normally referred to as the theory of formal authority. However, according to another approach, legitimization comes from below and flows upward. Accordingly, authority is conferred by those below a given manager. To the extent this legitimization upward fails to occur, real authority is lacking. This controversy here has much common with that between economic man and administrative man theory. The discussion here is concerned with the specific nature of formal and acceptance theories and with the conflict between them.