Delegation of Authority - Meaning, Importance and its Principles

A manager alone cannot perform all the tasks assigned to him. In order to meet the targets, the manager should delegate authority. Delegation of Authority means division of authority and powers downwards to the subordinate. Delegation is about entrusting someone else to do parts of your job. Delegation of authority can be defined as subdivision and sub-allocation of powers to the subordinates in order to achieve effective results.

Elements of Delegation

  1. Authority - in context of a business organization, authority can be defined as the power and right of a person to use and allocate the resources efficiently, to take decisions and to give orders so as to achieve the organizational objectives. Authority must be well- defined. All people who have the authority should know what is the scope of their authority is and they shouldn’t misutilize it. Authority is the right to give commands, orders and get the things done. The top level management has greatest authority. Authority always flows from top to bottom. It explains how a superior gets work done from his subordinate by clearly explaining what is expected of him and how he should go about it. Authority should be accompanied with an equal amount of responsibility. Delegating the authority to someone else doesn’t imply escaping from accountability. Accountability still rest with the person having the utmost authority.

  1. Responsibility - is the duty of the person to complete the task assigned to him. A person who is given the responsibility should ensure that he accomplishes the tasks assigned to him. If the tasks for which he was held responsible are not completed, then he should not give explanations or excuses. Responsibility without adequate authority leads to discontent and dissatisfaction among the person. Responsibility flows from bottom to top. The middle level and lower level management holds more responsibility. The person held responsible for a job is answerable for it. If he performs the tasks assigned as expected, he is bound for praises. While if he doesn’t accomplish tasks assigned as expected, then also he is answerable for that.

  2. Accountability - means giving explanations for any variance in the actual performance from the expectations set. Accountability can not be delegated. For example, if ’A’ is given a task with sufficient authority, and ’A’ delegates this task to B and asks him to ensure that task is done well, responsibility rest with ’B’, but accountability still rest with ’A’. The top level management is most accountable. Being accountable means being innovative as the person will think beyond his scope of job. Accountability, in short, means being answerable for the end result. Accountability can’t be escaped. It arises from responsibility.

For achieving delegation, a manager has to work in a system and has to perform following steps : -

  1. Assignment of tasks and duties
  2. Granting of authority
  3. Creating responsibility and accountability

Delegation of authority is the base of superior-subordinate relationship, it involves following steps:-

  1. Assignment of Duties - The delegator first tries to define the task and duties to the subordinate. He also has to define the result expected from the subordinates. Clarity of duty as well as result expected has to be the first step in delegation.

  2. Granting of authority - Subdivision of authority takes place when a superior divides and shares his authority with the subordinate. It is for this reason, every subordinate should be given enough independence to carry the task given to him by his superiors. The managers at all levels delegate authority and power which is attached to their job positions. The subdivision of powers is very important to get effective results.

  3. Creating Responsibility and Accountability - The delegation process does not end once powers are granted to the subordinates. They at the same time have to be obligatory towards the duties assigned to them. Responsibility is said to be the factor or obligation of an individual to carry out his duties in best of his ability as per the directions of superior. Responsibility is very important. Therefore, it is that which gives effectiveness to authority. At the same time, responsibility is absolute and cannot be shifted. Accountability, on the others hand, is the obligation of the individual to carry out his duties as per the standards of performance. Therefore, it is said that authority is delegated, responsibility is created and accountability is imposed. Accountability arises out of responsibility and responsibility arises out of authority. Therefore, it becomes important that with every authority position an equal and opposite responsibility should be attached.

Therefore every manager,i.e.,the delegator has to follow a system to finish up the delegation process. Equally important is the delegatee’s role which means his responsibility and accountability is attached with the authority over to here.

Relationship between Authority and Responsibility

Authority is the legal right of person or superior to command his subordinates while accountability is the obligation of individual to carry out his duties as per standards of performance Authority flows from the superiors to subordinates,in which orders and instructions are given to subordinates to complete the task. It is only through authority, a manager exercises control. In a way through exercising the control the superior is demanding accountability from subordinates. If the marketing manager directs the sales supervisor for 50 units of sale to be undertaken in a month. If the above standards are not accomplished, it is the marketing manager who will be accountable to the chief executive officer. Therefore, we can say that authority flows from top to bottom and responsibility flows from bottom to top. Accountability is a result of responsibility and responsibility is result of authority. Therefore, for every authority an equal accountability is attached.

Differences between Authority and Responsibility

Authority Responsibility
It is the legal right of a person or a superior to command his subordinates. It is the obligation of subordinate to perform the work assigned to him.
Authority is attached to the position of a superior in concern. Responsibility arises out of superior-subordinate relationship in which subordinate agrees to carry out duty given to him.
Authority can be delegated by a superior to a subordinate Responsibility cannot be shifted and is absolute
It flows from top to bottom. It flows from bottom to top.

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