Difference Between Authority and Responsibility (With Table)

From a general point of view, an Authority always comes with responsibilities; however, only a person given with legal authority can compel someone to perform a specific task. Responsibility means a person is obligated to do his duty forcefully or by his commitment. An authority can give orders, and in responsibility, one has to follow the orders.

Authority vs Responsibility

The main difference between Authority and Responsibility is that authority means when a person is designated to a post, he has the right to order others and make decisions of his own. The most common scene is that authority flows from top to bottom. Being responsible is an obligation for someone delegated with a specific task.

Even an entity that sits on the top pyramid has a corresponding responsibility towards its subjects. These two are coextensive and most often misconstrued by people.

Comparison Table Between Authority and Responsibility

Parameter of Comparison




An Authority is a power that comes with a position or designation to enforce rules and extract compliance.

Responsibility is the consequence that entails the power to govern.


Authority is delegated from a superior to a subordinate.

Responsibility can’t be delegated.

Flow effect

Authority effects transcend.

Responsibility’s effects ascend.


Authority sites a long time.

Most often swift.

What is Authority?

Authority is a legitimate power to influence and command a thought into action. It usually goes with a position and entails a level of consent, depending on a chain of command.

Authority has a broader context as it not only rooted its sustainability in a person or organization but in a social hierarchy or social order too.

Authority is more of a power vested in an entity usually in a higher position, and the level of authority decreases as it transcends down to a lower position.

It runs top to the bottom, fact, or fictitious, from leader to its subordinates or from divination to its followers.

According to
a sociologist and philosopher, Max Weber, there are three types of
Legitimate Authorities:

  1. Charismatic authority – is a kind of power derives from the charisma of the leader, an entity that possesses exemplary behavior and heroism. Examples are the followers of some religious groups, celebrities, world leaders, and martyrs/divinities.
  2. Traditional authority – Is an authority legitimate in the sanctity of tradition. This type of power does not change over time, and it usually ignores social trends and status quo. The right and ability to pass down the authority is often through heredity. Prominent examples are the hereditary ruling monarchs such as the Tudors of England and The Yamato in Japan.
  3. Legal-rational authority – is a type of authority that is a contrast to both traditional and charismatic power. It derives its power to a set of uniformed principles, law, or natural law (rationality). Its policies and characters tend to change throughout time, depending on the community’s needs. Examples of which are modern democracies where voters elect officials, or perhaps in a corporation where shareholders vote for the next CEO.

What is Responsibility?

Responsibility refers to a duty or obligation that comes along with authority. Being held accountable the moment an entity acquires such power, and this is something that can’t be delegated to others.

Its role is mainly to follow and obey, upholding ethics and morals to the highest standard, being responsible means to act with common sense, authority, maturity, and reliability.

For example, in a business community or organization, the business director has the power to set a standard, work ethics, and enforce rules, benefiting the company.

He is also responsible for getting this standard across his subordinates to ensure that it has been met. Delegating authority always entails responsibility and expectation.

Lack of parity between responsibility and authority often results in not achieving the desired outcome.

There are
types of responsibilities evolving in the present community.

  1. Social Responsibility – is the accountability to act in the benefit of society and the environment as a whole.
  2. Corporate Responsibility – More known these days as the CSR practice or Corporate Social Responsibility. Its goal is to seek sustainable development and improve market value by creating a positive impact on society, economy, and environment.
  3. Personal Responsibility – Also known as individual responsibility, refers to taking accountability with regards to your action regardless of repercussions without blaming others.
  4. Fiduciary Responsibility – Is the obligation between two entities with one acting on the other party’s behalf in the best interest. A fiduciary is the one who provides this responsibility while the recipient is called a beneficiary. A perfect example of this liability is between a trustee and its beneficiary or a lawyer to his client.
  5. Civic Responsibility – This refers to the individual’s responsibility and commitment as a contributing citizen in its country. It may be voluntary participation for a fire brigade or government activities for the country’s cause. An example of this is South Korea’s mandatory military service, which requires almost every male to enlist for approximately two years, regardless of status, and has minimal exemptions.
  6. Fiscal Responsibility – This refers to an individual’s responsibility to pay taxes and government dues mandated by law.

Main Differences Between Authority and Responsibility

  1. Authority’s primary role is to give orders while responsibility is to be held accountable.
  2. Authority refers to the legal right to relinquish command, influence or compel someone, while responsibility comes after authority.
  3. Authority can be obtained or delegated to anyone through charisma, tradition, and legality. At the same time, responsibility is assuming tasks delegated to be completed.
  4. An authority transcends downwards, while responsibility goes from bottom to top.
  5. The purpose of having someone to authorize is to make a decision and delegate someone to execute it. At the same time, responsibility assumes the task carried out and be accountable for it.


Authority and responsibility are both on the two sides of a coin. An authority always comes with a corresponding responsibility making sure that it matches each other.

Too much power with less responsibility is subject to misuse. The same goes for more significant responsibilities and too little authority as it won’t work correctly, rendering it ineffective. Hence, a balance between the two is crucial.


  1. https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/bakunin/works/various/authrty.htm
  2. https://www.jahonline.org/article/S1054-139X(07)00347-3/fulltext
  3. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10111-011-0191-6
  4. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0379073805001039