Originating in the Latin word auctorĭtas, the concept of authority refers to a power that someone achieves, a legitimate leader and someone who obtains powers or faculties over a group of people. In general, it allows to appoint those who govern a country or region and have, by imposition or popular will, the voice of command: “The authorities have decreed the closure of the company accused of polluting the environment. “
The authority, according to its theoretical definitions, also describes the prestige that an individual or organization has garnered over the years as a result of its quality, its preparation or the importance reached in a certain plane: “Dr. Segovia is an authority in the field of cardiology ”, “ An authority on these issues, such as the Applied Research Foundation, has ratified the complaint from the neighbors ”.
Specifically, we can establish that there are two clearly defined types of authority. Thus, on the one hand, we find what is the legal authority that is one that is determined and imposed by obligation. In turn, it is made up of two classes: the formal, which is the one exercised by a boss over his corresponding subordinates, and the operative. This is the one that is characterized because it is not exercised on people but is defined as the power that someone has to decide to carry out a series of concrete actions.
An example of an operational legal authority, so that it can be understood by all, is the one that the head of a business department has to establish the purchase of a series of materials that serve to develop the work of that area.
On the other hand, the second type of authority is called moral. In this specific case, it is what gives a person not only knowledge but also prestige or position. As was the case with the legal system, it can be divided into two forms.
Thus, we have the technical moral authority that is the one that an individual has based on his professional experience. This supposes that capacity and expertise be recognized so that in addition their opinions will be very taken into account on the aforementioned subject in which they are an expert.
The second mode of moral authority is the personal call. Whoever has this can be said to be a leader because his psychological, moral and social qualities give him an ascending position with respect to others.
It should also be noted that the idea of authority is usually linked to the power accumulated by States. Officials in the state sphere are empowered to give orders and decree certain measures, which must be implemented and respected as long as they do not violate any law or oppose the rules in force.
Authority, then, can be considered as a modality of domination because it implies obedience on the part of others. Without someone to obey and carry out orders, there is no authority possible. To cite a hypothetical example that can be seen in everyday life: if the teacher orders the students to be silent and they do not comply, the teacher is not exercising the authority that, formally, entails her role.
This means that, beyond the titles, positions and official appointments, authority is something that is exercised and not displayed. There may be the paradox that there is an authority without authority, as could be the case of the head of a company whose employees do not obey him. On the other hand, there are people who lack formal positions but, nevertheless, exercise authority (like a friend who has power and influence over the decisions of another).