Power vs Authority


Extracted from US Navy Publication – 14144 http://navyadvancement.tpub.com/14144/


With authority comes power. Power is theability to influence people toward organizationalobjectives. However, you have limits on yourauthority and power. View your authority andpower as a funnel, broad at the top and narrowat the bottom. Always assume you have enoughauthority and power to meet your obligations, butdo not exceed that limit.

Authority Authority  only  exists  when  subordinatesaccept the idea that the supervisor has authorityover them. Subordinates can fail to recognizeauthority through disobedience, denial, or workdelays.  Subordinates  usually  accept  authorityreadily; however, abusing your authority as asupervisor can make you ineffective.Although most authority in the Navy resultsfrom a member’s rank or position in the chainof command, many types of authority exist. Mostauthority in the Navy is delegated.

LINE AUTHORITY. —Line authority is theauthority you have over subordinates in yourchain of command. This type of authoritycorresponds directly to your place within the chainof command and does not exist outside the chainof command. 

STAFF AUTHORITY. —Staff authority isthe right of staff to counsel, advise, or makerecommendations to line personnel. This type ofauthority does not give staff the right to give linepersonnel orders that affect the mission of the lineorganization.  A chief from another work center or divisioncould, by virtue of his or her rank, exercise staffauthority over a person in your work center ordivision by counseling or advising him or her toget a haircut. Failure to follow the advice orcounsel may result in non judicial punishment(NJP) for the subordinate. The other chief wouldnot, however, have the authority to enter yourwork center or division and make changes thatonly you and your superiors have the authorityto make. 

FUNCTIONAL AUTHORITY. —Certain stafforganizations are granted functional authority todirect line units within the area of the staff’sspecialty. Examples of staff organizations withfunctional authority include the Legal, EqualOpportunity, and Safety Departments.

Power In conjunction with your authority, you usepower to influence others toward the accomplishment of command goals. You can use power forpersonal gain or for the good of the organization.However, if your subordinates believe you usepower for personal gain, you will soon suffer anerosion of that power. On the other hand, ifsubordinates believe you use power to accomplishthe organizational goals, your power to influencethem will become stronger. Your power will alsobecome stronger when you share it throughdelegation of authority.Of the six types of power—reward, coercive,legitimate, informational, referent, and expert—you may use one or more in various combinations.Each situation will determine the one or ones youuse.

REWARD POWER. —Reward power stemsfrom your use of positive and negative rewardsto influence subordinates. Positive rewards rangefrom a smile or kind word to recommendationsfor awards. Negative rewards range from corrective-type counseling to placing a person on report.You will find one of the best ways to influenceyour subordinates is through the use of yourreward power. As a chief, you are responsible forstarting the positive reward process. First, writea recommendation for the award. Once there commendation  is  typed  in  the  command’sstandard award letter format, forward it up thechain of command for approval. Your job doesnot end here. Always follow-up on the recommendation, using your influence and persuasion to getthe award to the proper command level.Frequent use of positive rewards will amplifythe effect of a negative reward. Give positiverewards freely, but use restraint in giving negativerewards. If you use negative rewards frequently,subordinates  will  begin  to  expect  a  negativereward. Their expectation of a negative rewardwill lessen your power.

COERCIVE  POWER.  —Coercive power results from the expectation of a negative reward if  your  wishes  are  not  obeyed.  For  example, suppose you have counseled a subordinate twice for minor infractions of regulations. At the third counseling session, you threaten the subordinate with NJP. At the next occurrence of the un-desirable behavior, you place the subordinate on report. Coercive power works, but is not the preferred method of leading subordinates. It works best if used when all else fails and you feel sure you can carry through with a threat. Before giving a threat, you should have some insight as to how the CO will handle the case. You do not want to recommend maximum punishment only to have the CO dismiss the case at mast.

LEGITIMATE POWER. —Legitimate power comes  from  the  authority  of  your  rate  and position in the chain of command. You use this power in day-to-day business. Although legitimate power increases with added responsibilities, you can decrease that power if you fail to meet all of your responsibilities.  To increase your legitimate power, assume some of the division officer’s responsibilities. At first, the division officer will be glad to have the help. In time, the division officer will view the responsibilities as yours and formally delegate additional authority to you. That would increase your legitimate power without diminishing the power of the division officer.  Just as you can increase your legitimate power by assuming more responsibility, you can decrease that power by losing responsibility. For example, if you permit the division officer to assume some of your responsibilities, the division officer will eventually begin to view your responsibilities as his or hers. You will then have less legitimate power. However, when a subordinate wishes to assume some of your responsibilities, formally delegate those responsibilities to the subordinate.  That makes the subordinate accountable to you.  You then increase the subordinate’s power while retaining your power.

INFORMATIONAL POWER. —Informational power depends on your giving or withholding of information or having knowledge that others do not have. Use informational power when giving orders to subordinates. Give orders in such a manner that your subordinates presume the order originated at your level. When forced to comply with orders you do not agree with, don’t introduce the order by saying    “The  division  officer said.  .  .”   Phrase and present the order in a manner that leaves no doubt you initiated it.  Rely on your own resources to stay fully informed instead of depending on others. Subordinates may present unreliable information in a manner that makes it appear to be true. Superiors may become so involved with projects they forget to keep you informed of tasks being assigned or upcoming inspections. Information is power. Stay informed!

REFERENT POWER.  —Referent  power derives from your subordinates’ identification or association with you. You have this power by simply being “the chief.” People identify with the ideals you stand for. The chief has a pre-established image. You can enhance that image by exhibiting charisma, courage, and charm. An improved image increases your referent power. Always be aware of how others will perceive your actions. A negative image in the eyes of others will lessen your power and render you ineffective. Maintain a positive image!

EXPERT POWER. —Expert power comes from your knowledge in a specific area through which you influence others. You have expert power because your subordinates regard you as an expert in your rating. Subordinates may also have  this  type  of  power.  When  you  combine expert power with other types of power, you will find it an effective tool in influencing others. However, when you use it by itself, you will find it ineffective.