Types of authorities and their characteristics

Types of authorities and their characteristics

The process of maturation largely depends on the relationship towards the different types of authority. Ideally, obedience comes from conviction rather than imposition.

Types of authorities and their characteristics

Last update: Augusts 07, 2020

There are different types of authority although they are not clearly visible in our daily life. All of them define rules or guidelines of behavior. They are distinguished from each other, however, according to the source from which the power comes. Likewise, there are several reasons for obeying.

In principle, authority can be defined as the power exercised by a person or institution over others. The spheres in which it acts are varied and the type of authority depends on this: the effects of an order given by the mother are not comparable to those of a rule of law.

"Authority is the balance between freedom and power."

-Emanuel Levy-

The consequences of disobeying different types of authority also vary. This, of course, is closely related to the power of each of them. Much of our life is defined by how we relate to authority. So it's important to know the ways it manifests itself and the effect it has on us.

5 types of authority and their characteristics

1. Formal authority

It is one of the most common forms of authority. Corresponds to those people or institutions who exercise power and influence according to the role they occupy or the activity they carry out. Effectiveness essentially depends on the ability to impose rewards and punishments.

It is the basic authority, it is imposed and not chosen or recognized freely. Due to these characteristics, it generates numerous conflicts. Being imposed, it may not be fully recognized.

2. Types of authority: moral

This type of authority is opposed to the formal one. In this case, the power of the person or entity is recognized, although socially or collectively it does not occupy a position that gives it power as such.

In this type of authority, subjective approval or sanction counts, as opposed to reward and punishment. The power granted to authority depends on the respect it manages to arouse. The source of its influence are values, experience, knowledge, etc.

3. Charismatic

It is similar to moral authority, but in this case the source of influence is the leader's personality or personal charm. This does not necessarily have to be an example of virtue, but exerts a great power of attraction on others who follow and obey him.

Obviously, this type of authority must be accompanied by the personal skill of the leader. These virtues, however, are not necessarily ethical or moral. Sometimes it's just a special social skill or a certain skill in certain contexts.

4. Coercive

It is the most damaging type of authority since it does not derive from position or personal characteristics, but from the use of force. The source of power is fear and generally corresponds to an arbitrary imposition of rules and precepts.

This type of authority is exercised through criminal acts. It is usually a form of counter-power. In other words, it imposes norms that go against established laws or commonly accepted customs. It is a perverse exercise of authority.

5. Democratic

It is the healthiest and most appreciated authority. It starts from a formal authority, but is implemented in such a way that it also becomes moral. The fundamental element of this form of power is represented by the rules and not by the people who impose them. In turn, the rules are the result of a collective agreement.

In this case, authority is shared collectively. For obvious reasons, not all of them have the same degree of influence, but they all have it to some degree. The interest of the majority prevails, without however ignoring the interests of the minority. While it is never perfect, it is the healthiest form of authority.

We are all subject, in one way or another, to some form of authority. Being subject to them can make us feel frustrated, yet these hierarchies are fundamental for a peaceful and constructive social coexistence.

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