What are examples of authority and responsibility in management?

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In business, authority and responsibility need to be aligned appropriately, with the person responsible for certain outcomes having the authority to make them happen.

Authority refers to the official capacity to make a decision or take an action. For example, a manager might have the authority to make a hiring decision, decide to spend a certain amount of money on something, choose a supplier, set deadlines and priorities, or sign a purchase order. A secretary might have the authority to sign certain documents, schedule meeting rooms, or issue purchase orders for routine restocking of office supplies. Salespeople might have the authority to offer certain specific discounts to customers.

Responsibility means having a certain duty or obligation with a concomitant consequence for success or failure. A project manager may be responsible for the completion of a project in time and under budget. In other cases, the consequences can be severe. In the case of disasters such as the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger or the Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon oil spills, responsibility can be very serious, as the consequence of, for example, allowing a shuttle launch to go forward despite known issues with O-ring performance in cold weather resulted in the deaths of seven astronauts. Responsibility for disasters in some cases can lead to criminal convictions for individuals or huge fines for companies.

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In management, authority plays a major role in directing and controlling the resources available. Authority provides one with the power and ability to make decisions that affect the members of an institution and the tasks they perform. For instance, the leader of a team can delegate duties to other team members. However, the leader is expected to make the final decision based on sound judgment and best practices for the benefit of the task at hand.

Responsibility is the obligation to perform a task. The person responsible for the work is answerable for the results. For instance, a project manager is expected to deliver on the tasks related to the project as required by his/her superior.  Thus, responsibility also refers to the tasks and duties assigned to the project manager. The project manager may be required to coordinate the team. Organizing the team becomes the project manager's responsibility.

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