Where Does Authority Come From?

Do you know a natural leader?

Some people seem to possess authority.

Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss this question: ‘Where does authority come from?’ We also discuss another question as well, ‘What does your favorite music say about you?’

What is it that makes a person trustworthy in a crisis, or who makes a good executive, or who can convince others to listen and follow them? What is your role in providing authority to someone else?

Where does authority come from?

Related questions: How important is intuition? What are effective means of persuasion? How do you know who to trust? How are leadership and authority different?

6 thoughts on “Where Does Authority Come From?”

  1. Unhealthy authority often comes from:
    — the imposition of rank for its own sake
    — the threat of violence for the sole purpose of retaining power
    — non-defensive use of force
    — politics without principle (this one from Gandhi’s Seven Sins)

    Healthy authority, usually granted by others to an individual or group, often comes from one or more of the items below:
    — deserved position(s) and respect within a worthy institution
    — the power and willingness to fix a difficult problem
    — wisdom gained by ample success (and, likely before that, many failures)
    — trust through maintaining integrity over time
    — courage to act even when you stand to lose

    1. When I think of what makes a good leader, I think of a servant-leader. Someone who cares for and serves others, and doesn’t lord his/her power over others. Someone who is humble who will pitch in and help to get the job done. I’ve had some leaders like that, and I thank God for them.

  2. I agree Michael. To add to your comment, there is also Natural authority. Whether good or bad, parents have authority over their children. Until children reach the age of emancipation, each parent has the natural right (within the confines of local laws) to raise their children as they see fit.

  3. You had mention the difference between leadership and authority. I found this a very interesting comparison.
    Leadership, in my opinion takes skills, as well as talent.
    On the other hand Authority often is the position that is given over other people. Such such as your boss at work, or a teacher. Now they can have good leadership skills, but be poor at Authority.
    Someone who has authority over others doesn’t always use it in a correct manner. They can be harsh or abrasive.
    The best example I can think of are the last two presidents that we’ve had. Our current president has Authority but doesn’t know how to use it. President Obama, in my opinion, used his authority and a very effective manner.
    So leadership and Authority are very much connected. And at the same time very separate.

  4. The word “authority” contains the word “author” (see it?). Anyone who is an author — of a piece of writing, etc. or of one’s own life — inherently has authority. The trick is seeing it and believing it. I’m working on both.

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