Authority, Responsibility and Accountability

In laymen terms, authority means nothing but power. Responsibility means an obligation to do anything. Accountability means responsibility to answer for the work. But it is not that simple as it seems to be. Authority, Responsibility, and Accountability are very deep terms and are equally important in management. In this article, we will discuss each of them and try to find some common difference between authority and responsibility.

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Authority, Responsibility, and Accountability


Authority is nothing but the rights or the powers with the executives which the organization provides them with the aim of accomplishment of certain common organizational goals.

Hence, it includes the powers to assign duties to the subordinates and make them accept and follow it.

Without authority, a manager ceases to be a manager because he will be able to make his juniors or subordinates work towards the accomplishment of the goals.

ResponsibilityAn organization cannot think of its existence without proper assignment and detailing of authority throughout the organization.

Authority flows downwards as the top management provides it to the managers and executives at different levels of management. It needs to be accepted from the below too, i.e, from the subordinates.

Definition of Authority

As per Henri Fayol, “Authority is the right to give orders and the power to exact obedience.”

As per Mooney and Reily, “Authority is the principal at the root of Organisation and so important that it is impossible to conceive of an Organisation at all unless some person or persons are in a position to require an action of others.”

Browse more Topics under Organising

Read the Concept of Authority here in detail


Responsibility is nothing but the duty that comes along with the job. In other words, it is the obligation of the person to complete the task given to him/her.

It becomes his responsibility. Moreover, it shows that the authority is properly used and work is done accordingly. Under this, a person is eligible to delegate the work to the subordinate but not the ultimate accountability.

That means, even if he transfers his work, he will remain responsible for the obligation of the accomplishment of the work.

Authority, Responsibility, and Accountability

Definition of Responsibility

As per Davis, “Responsibility is an obligation of an individual to perform assigned duties to the best of his ability under the direction of his leader.” In the words of Theo Haimann, “Responsibility is the obligation of a subordinate to perform the duty as required by his superior”.

As per McFarland, responsibility means, “the duties and activities assigned to a position or an executive”.


  1. Its importance lies in the creation of the obligation to perform the work.
  2. It arises from the superior-subordinate relationship.
  3. Unlike Authority, it flows from bottom to top.
  4. It is always in the form of a continuing obligation.
  5. No one can delegate responsibility.


It is nothing but the liability created for the transfer of authority. Accountability creates the obligation of the subordinate and makes him answerable for the work done by him/her.

Hence, it is the answerability for the performance of the assigned duties. Once a person accepts authority, he deems to accept Responsibility and Accountability at that time only.

Definition of Accountability

As per McFarland, “accountability is the obligation of an individual to report formally to his superior about the work he has done to discharge the responsibility.”

Solved Question on Authority, Responsibility, and Accountability

Question: How are Authority, Responsibility and Accountability are inter-related?

Answer: All of the 3 elements are very much related to each other as the creation of one leads to the creation of another two at a similar point of time. None of the elements can exist in isolation. That’s why the top management needs a lot of consideration before deciding the flow of authority. Once authority to take any action for the accomplishment of any objective is given, the remaining 2 elements viz, Responsibility and Accountability emerges automatically.

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