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Authority, Responsibility and Accountability

Last updated date: 16th May 2024
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What is Authority, Responsibility and Accountability?

In general terms, Authority is all about power. Responsibility is the commitment to fulfilling work. Accountability refers to the Responsibility to answer for duty. These terms hold deep meaning and are equally vital in management. These terms showcase the basic etiquette of management. Without Authority, a manager cannot assign work to the staff and oblige them to do the work. This will lead to a mismanaged work structure with zero output. Without holding anyone accountable, an organization cannot function entirely. An individual requires to be answerable for any work. This piece is all about Authority, Responsibility, and Accountability and how Authority differs from Accountability and Responsibility.



It might seem easy to work in an organization but managing it? Well, that takes a lot more than just working on the tasks and submitting them on time. It needs three main factors so that an organization goes on smoothly. The three main factors that are needed to be followed are Authority, Responsibility, and Accountability. Without these three factors, it might have been a mess inside any organization.

These three factors are also important for the employee and the superior to complete their tasks. If these factors are not exercised well, the employee will slack out and not work on their tasks and hence leading to a pile of work in no time. Students will now get to understand all about the Authority, Responsibility, and Accountability – Explanation and Solved Examples through Vedantu while also being able to prepare for exams.


Definition of Authority in Business:

Authority is all about rights or powers with the managers which the organization empowers them for achieving a common organizational goal. Thus, it involves the power of assigning duties to workers and asking them to accept and pursue the assigned work. An organization can never stand without ethical assignment and detailing Authority. 


According to Henry Fayol, Authority is the power to give orders and garner obedience. Authority streams downwards as the board of directors provides it to executives and managers at various management levels.



According to McFarland, Responsibility is the duties or responsibilities allocated to a position or executive. Responsibility is the obligation that comes with a job. It simply means the person needs to commit to the job and complete it. It is their Responsibility to finish the task in a given time frame. Also, it shows that the Authority was well implemented and the task is completed accordingly. 


Beneath this, an individual is qualified to delegate the task to associates but not to definitive Accountability.  This means that even if the person has the power to transition the work, he/she will still be held responsible for the task. Responsibility flows from bottom to top and is in the form of constant obligation.



McFarland defines Accountability as, "the obligation of a person to register formally to their senior executives about the task to discharge the Responsibility." Accountability definition in management goes, "It is all about the liability created to handover the Authority". Accountability makes an individual answerable about the task or job he/she has done. 


Hence, it makes an employee answerable for the performance of the assigned work. An individual who has accepted Authority, he/she deems to approve Accountability and Responsibility at that time itself.


Authority, Responsibility and Accountability: Disparities

Authority, Responsibility, and Accountability are important parts of management and have distinct characteristics. However, there is a relation between these three terms but differs from each other in business terms.


Authority is the power delegated by senior executives to assign duties to all employees for better functioning. Responsibility is the commitment to fulfill a task given by an executive. Accountability makes a person answerable for his or her work based on their position, strength, and skills.


Responsibility is task-specific, every individual in a team can be responsible for an assigned task to complete a project. Accountability arises after an incident has happened regarding the work. It is the way to establish ownership of the results


Solved Examples

Q. What are the Key Differences Between Accountability and Responsibility?

Ans: Despite having many similarities, Accountability and Responsibility differ in management. Their distinct characteristics separate both in the business world.  Responsibility can be shared by many, you can work with a team to divide responsibilities. Whereas Accountability is specific to an employee or person based on their position, skill-set, and strength.


Even in bad times, true leaders stand by the results and own the whole incident.


Fun Facts

  • Authority is delegated from senior executives to subordinates.

  • Authority flows from top to bottom.

  • Responsibility streams from bottom to top.

  • Responsibility is swift whereas Authority is long-lasting.

Tips on How to be Accountable:

To be accountable the following tips must be considered:

1. Talk about the risks that are being noticed in the team. Assess the risks and check whether you are willing to accept these or change the strategies.

2. Take part in the decision-making process and check whether there are any details that you have skipped while forming the strategies.

FAQs on Authority, Responsibility and Accountability

1. What are the Five Types of Authority Given to Managers?

Authority is the clout, the right, the power to influence employees and get them to do what and how managers want them to complete a task. In an active leadership, the definition of authority is delineated, here are five types of authorities that can be leveraged by the managers.

  • Legal- The ability to influence workers is based on position and official authority.

  • Expert- The ability to influence people is based on the awareness and understandings of several topics.

  • Reverent- The ability to influence people is based on the way of approach, behaviour and manner.

  • Reward- The ability to influence people by offering rewards or incentives.

  • Punitive- The ability to influence employees by imposing a fine or penalty for a fault, guidelines violation or offence.

2. What is the Relationship Between Accountability, Authority and Responsibility?

Authority, accountability, and responsibility work together in the management. The creation of authority leads to the creation of the other two at some point. These three elements cannot work in isolation and require the support of each other to achieve common organizational goals. This is the reason why the top management thinks so much before agreeing on the flow of authority. 

Proper use of authority can be witnessed in the individual who is responsible for completing the task and the person who is held accountable for the results. Accountability occurs when an event takes place and needs a person to own the results.

3. What are the features of Authority?

There are several features that Authority consists of and can be provided as follows:

  1.  It is the power to make the decisions and to see that they have been carried out in the right manner while following the right schedule.

  2.  It is the relation between two individuals which is seen between the superior and the subordinate.

  3. Authority is applied to an organization to achieve various goal

  4.  It is a legitimate right and is provided to a higher position.

  5. Authority is the key to all the jobs that need proper management

  6. Authority can be delegated and hence once delegated you need to take it on yourself.

4. What are some of the definitions of Authority based on various perspectives?

Some of the definitions that are stated by various people based on their perspective can be provided as follows:

Definition 1: According to Koontz and O’Donnell: Authority is said to be the power that is used to command others to act in a manner that is deemed by the possessor of the Authority to further company or departmental purpose.

Definition 2: According to Herbert G. Hicks Authority is the right that a manager needs to request their subordinates to do something or some task that will help achieve the goals that are set.

5. What are the restrictions to the Authority?

While Authority provides freedom for a person in a higher position to command people whatever they would like to, it also comes with a lot of restrictions and can be provided as follows:

1. Physical limitations: There are certain physical limitations such as climate, geography, chemical elements, and so on that put limits on the Authority.

2. Natural or biological limitations: There is no way an sb-ordinate can sit for days and weeks together and complete a task due to biological limitations and hence it is needed to understand how much time each of the work requires.

3. Economic constraints: Some economic conditions might be favorable to one organization while for others it might not be very favorable and hence it is needed that a manager checks the economic needs and then assigns the work.

6. What are the various forms of Responsibility?

The various forms of Responsibility can be provided as follows:

1. Operating Responsibility: An employee must carry out the tasks that are assigned within the time provided. They also need to report this task and its progress that takes place day by day.

2. Ultimate Responsibility: It is the final obligation of the manager to make sure that the task has been done by the employee efficiently or not. If there are any mistakes, correcting them and checking how to make them more efficient is very important.

7. What are the characteristics of Accountability?

The characteristics of Accountability can be provided as follows:

  1. Keeping the superior informed: If there is a task that has been assigned then the employee must inform the manager regarding the progress of the work.

  2. Legal Responsibility: Accountability is said to be a legal Responsibility and it can neither be delegated nor be shared.

  3. Derivative of Responsibility: Accountability is said to be a derivative of Responsibility as the employee tends to be responsible for the results and needs to inform the superior once the tasks have been assigned.

These and other features of Authority, Accountability, and Responsibility can be found out via referring to the Vedantu NCERT Solutions for Commerce. Students can now access it completely free of cost and it can be used anytime they want anywhere.