Management Corner

Exploring authority


Typically, we don't spend much time thinking about authority, yet we spend a lot of time, thought and energy reacting to what we perceive to be authority. Who do you see as people or entities with authority or power over you? Might it be a boss, law enforcement officers, government officials, clergy or God? During childhood, do you remember how you felt about the authority of parents, teachers, coaches or various community leaders? Were you fearful of some of those folks? And now as you are older and wiser, has your sense of their authority changed?

What is authority all about? Is it actual power, perceived power or does the authority someone has connect to unique skills, knowledge or training? Do you have authority? Are you authorized to do certain things that most other people can't do? Do you respect people with authority? If you do, think about the specifics of why you respect them. Do all people have authority and deserve respect at a basic level because they are human beings? What about the other nature kingdoms of minerals, plants and animals? Do we respect them because of their natural authority?

Last week, I stated that authority relates to competence, empowerment and wisdom. Here are some thoughts about that relationship:

Competence. The basic definition of competence is the ability to do something successfully and efficiently. Recall one of your childhood authority figures. Did they have authority because of their role, their power or their competence in a certain area? If we use competence as a criterion to give authority to someone, does that change our understanding of authority or how we treat or respect that individual? In what areas of your life or work are you competent?

Empowerment. This is a complex word and concept because of the many understandings, perspectives and dynamics of power. The basics of empowerment are that we know the specific sources of the power that we have and can use them with intention and in accordance with our values. Empowerment at the organizational level includes working as a team with collaboration and interdependence. Empowerment relates to authority as we are conscious of the specific connectedness and extensionality of core values. The embodiment of values, especially shared core values, creates the authority.

Wisdom. Until I was almost 60 years old, I had little or no real understanding of wisdom regarding myself, others or the world. I guess I needed a weary, experienced, more mature mind and heart to understand. My introduction to and study of the ancient wisdom traditions in recent years began my eternal journey of insights about wisdom. Some wisdom comes from the hard knocks of life and death over the years. Most wisdom ultimately is about learning the rhythms, flow and laws of Mother Nature, the universe and grace-filled love. Those laws are what true authority is all about.

Linnartz - of Empowerment Experts - is a consultant, coach and facilitator of individuals, teams, families and organizations. Comments, questions and suggested topics are welcome. Call (575) 770-4712 or email