Difference Between Authority and Responsibility

Authority vs Responsibility
 

One main difference between authority and responsibility is that authority talks about the power one has while responsibility speaks about the obligations we must fulfill. Authority and Responsibility are two words that are often confused due to the appearing similarity in their meanings. Authority can be defined as the ability that an individual has to give orders and enforce obedience. The word authority is used in the sense of ‘power.’ On the other hand, responsibility can be defined as a thing required to be done as part of a job or legal obligation. The word responsibility is used in the sense of ‘duty.’ This is the main difference between the two words. Through this article, the writer wishes to highlight the difference between the two words.

What is Authority?

Authority can be defined as the ability that an individual has to give orders and enforce obedience. Authority is considered as a legitimate form of power. People in different positions have authority. The scope of authority, however, may differ from one person to the other, depending on his or her position. For instance, the authority that a high ranked official has is much larger than a low ranked official. With authority comes power. When an individual has high authority, it is natural for him to have more power. In the English language, this word can be used as follows.

Observe the two sentences:

He showed the signs of authority.

He exercised authority over the affairs of the state.

In both the sentences, you can find that the word authority is used in the sense of ‘power’ and hence, the meaning of the first sentence would be ‘he showed the signs of power’, and the meaning of the second sentence would be ‘he exercised power over the affairs of the state.’ The word responsibility is quite different from authority.

It is important to know that the word authority is sometimes used in the sense of ‘expert’ as in the sentence ‘he is an authority in astrology.’ In this sentence, you can find that the word authority is used in the sense of ‘expert’ and hence, the sentence can be rewritten as ‘he is an expert in astrology.’

Difference Between Authority and Responsibility

‘He showed the signs of authority’

What is Responsibility?

Responsibility can be defined as a thing required to be done as part of a job or legal obligation. As human beings, we all have different responsibilities, within different contexts. In our personal life, we have a responsibility towards the people we love. For instance, a parent has clear responsibilities towards his or her child. Simultaneously a child has responsibilities towards the parent. Responsibilities are not confined to one’s personal life. Even in our professional life we have responsibilities towards our employer and the organization that we work for. We can also have responsibilities towards our clients. This word can be used as follows.

Observe the two sentences:

He shoulders lots of responsibilities.

He was given the responsibility of maintaining discipline in the campus.

In both the sentences, you can find that the word ‘responsibility’ is used in the sense of ‘duty’ and hence, the meaning of the first sentence would be ‘he shoulders lots of duties’, and the meaning of the second sentence would be ‘he was given the duty of maintaining discipline in the campus.’

When engaging in a comparison between the two words, it is interesting to note that the word authority has its adjectival form in the word ‘authoritative.’ On the other hand, the word responsibility has its adjectival form in the word ‘responsible’ as in the expression ‘responsible citizens.’ Otherwise both the words, namely, authority and responsibility are used as noun forms.

Authority vs Responsibility

‘He was given the responsibility of maintaining discipline in the campus’

What is the difference between Authority and Responsibility?

• Definitions of Authority and Responsibility:

• Authority can be defined as the ability that an individual has to give orders and enforce obedience.

• Responsibility can be defined as a thing required to be done as part of a job or legal obligation.

• Sense:

• The word authority is used in the sense of ‘power.’

• The word responsibility is used in the sense of ‘duty.’

• Connection to the Individual:

• Authority is something that an individual possesses.

• Responsibility is something that an individual has towards another.

• Connection:

• People with authority also have a responsibility towards those who are under his scope of authority.

 

Images Courtesy:

  1. William McKinley in the 1870s via Wikicommons (Public Domain)
  2. De Havilland Campus by Naveed Qazi (CC BY-SA 3.0)