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You love it or hate it, rail against it or suck up to it. Every single one of us has authority, and we must all also submit to it – or else everything falls apart.

What or whom do you have authority over? Certainly, you have authority over your own self. You control your words, deeds and thoughts. You decide when to get up, what attitude to put on, and whether or not you are going to be a responsible citizen for the day. You have authority as a parent. You have authority at work.

Is authority clearly defined in your company? Does everyone know who does what – and who better not do what? Is the authority spread out over different levels and departments, or is there one go-to person for the whole shebang? That gets old after a while, for everyone concerned.

Authority can be given or earned. “Given authority” is the power of your brand spankin’ new sales manager to ask a salesperson to help a customer. It comes with the job or the title, regardless of performance or personal history. It is usually well-documented in a job description or employment contract. It is the kind of authority that lets you say, “Because I’m the Dad/Mom/Boss, that’s why!” No other reason is necessary. Given authority can be begrudgingly given.

“Earned authority” has nothing to do with title or position and everything to do with performance. It is the power of your most revered delivery person to ask a salesperson to help a customer. Earned authority is freely given because it was purchased at a high price of time, responsibility, loyalty and achievement. Those who have earned authority are generally loved and respected.

If you follow every job, every task, every responsibility in your company up, up, up its chain of command, there should be one and only person with absolute authority sitting over it.

Can you do that? I hope so, because the opposite of “authority” is “anarchy.”

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