What is authority

What is authority

Even today, no team can be directed without authority. But who is in possession of the management key “authority” and when, that is a matter of definition, as the survey of the engineering career shows.

Gabriele Alings
Medals for managers
One becomes authority through the other person, through the recognition and attribution of other people for whom one has authority. So authority is dependent on acceptance by others.
“Authority for what” leads to the concept of factual authority, to the luminaries in their respective field, to the masters of a subject, to the undisputed specialists in a particular field. Factual authorities are not necessarily associated with personal or social competence - on the contrary: If someone has undisputed authority in a certain subject area, this is perfectly compatible with associations of a scattered professorial existence, of unworldliness, and also with narrow blinkered perspectives. When dealing with employees, these authorities are sometimes helpless and clumsy and often overwhelmed. People behave in an authoritarian manner because they would like to be authority, but for others they are not.
If we look at the concept of authority under the aspect of “authority for whom”, the emotionally felt meaning turns positive. Someone who is generally recognized by people as an authority has social and emotional competence above all else. Qualities that are ascribed to these people have to do with integrity, credibility, cleverness, assertiveness paired with responsibility, consistency paired with fairness, empathy, clarity and sovereignty that is both encouraging and demanding at the same time. Such an authority is not necessarily popular because it is perceived as “different” and extraordinary, but it is respected and respected. People who are ascribed this authority are powerful because others follow them, be guided, influenced and persuaded.
Authority and power are closely related. However, while authority is dependent on acceptance by others, power is given or grasped. People don't necessarily have to endorse this power. For many Germans, power is a negative term. Although you can also see power neutrally as an opportunity to exert influence, implement your own ideas and help shape reality. A recognized authority has power in a positive sense.
The desire to be regarded as an authority and to be seen is great - even if it is not articulated. The influx of seminars on topics such as “Emotional Leadership” or “Charismatic Leadership” could be an indication of this. However, one cannot be trained or further educated in authority in any seminar. One becomes an authority in the most positive sense through the acceptance and attribution of one's fellow human beings. Authority is thus something like a medal that you acquire through everyday life with one another.
Gabriele Alings is a management trainer in Berlin

Claus Weyrich
Room for contradiction
The traditional concept of authority is based on a system that is hierarchically structured. However, managers, especially when working in a matrix structure, should not think in terms of categories such as “positions”. They take on a function in a goal-oriented process. Your job is to create a work environment in which specialists achieve the best possible results and then bring those results together. Successful managers set clear goals, delegate responsibility and are coordinators, motivators and, in the case of heterogeneous opinions, also moderators.
People achieve the best possible results when they identify with their task, get involved and then realize their potential. Anyone who demands commitment must also leave room for contradiction. Leadership behavior that aims at strict adherence to specifications counteracts this. It is therefore not in line with Siemens' management culture. If we use the term “authority” here, then it is in the sense of a “natural authority”. The control instruments available to the manager are open communication, employee motivation and team-oriented, transparent process control.
Claus Weyrich is a member of the Managing Board of Siemens AG, Head of Corporate Technology

Fredmund Malik
Measure by results
Authority is the indispensable foundation for the most important thing by which executives are to be judged: their effectiveness. What counts are not status, rank, position, title, number of employees and impressive media presence, what counts is only performance and results.
Power alone is not enough because today, unlike in the past, people can easily evade it. Transforming power into effect and performance is the art.
The prerequisite for this is what is called “natural authority”. It results from three sources: technical competence, professionalism in the craft of management and integrity of character. Where these three conditions are met, formal power is often not necessary to be effective, because people willingly submit to this type of superiority. If power is added to the position, great achievements are programmed.
All attempts to do without this type of authority have failed. You are naive. All attempts to establish power without authority resulted in tyranny.
Fredmund Malik is Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Management Center St. Gallen

Bernhard Schreier
Respect and tolerance
Authority means showing leadership, managing change processes and being a role model. Authority is defined by personal characteristics such as intelligence, persuasiveness, education etc. Often authority is also derived from an office or a position. For me, authority is closely linked to respect and tolerance and finding the right balance for the good of the team. If I manage to lead a dynamic “top team” or to be part of one, then I experience authority first hand and for the benefit of the person and the cause.
Bernhard Schreier is Chairman of the Board of Management of Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG

Michael Wöhler
Performance is the basis
Sometimes a company or a department in a company has to function like a ship! On ships there is always someone who will take care of the matter in case of doubt. This one - the captain - acts by virtue of his authority, not necessarily authoritarian, like Jack London's sea wolf, but ideally through an acquired authority shaped by his personality and competence, or at least through the (official) authority assigned to him. And this official authority must also be sufficient in case of doubt (not usually).
What is that supposed to tell us today? Didn't it take us long enough to overcome the false respect for official authorities in Germany? I believe - and I know that my opinion tends not to win a majority - that we have gone too far on this path. I often have the impression that in Germany today it is asking too much to show respect to a superior (he will probably not have come to his post without performance), to answer your questions without counter-questions and simply to obey without to discuss beforehand. It is therefore no surprise that many superiors tend to evade their management tasks and that powerful executives in German companies are almost as rare as lemon-folding brimstone butterflies. Is leading and being led an anachronism?
It is not for nothing that I put the word “sometimes” in front of the first sentence: I don't want any hacking cadaver obedience, and companies in which only executives are allowed to think and have a say would completely ruin our economy. What I would like, however, is a little less obstruction and misunderstood freedom of expression from people who see themselves protected by the well-intentioned German labor law (according to the motto: someone else bears the responsibility), and a little more respect for the people who are face the difficult task of taking responsibility and leading others every day. A big advantage in our system is that anyone who thinks they can do better can prove just that. Anyone can become a manager if they perform well - mind you: if they perform well. And it is precisely from this point that authority should arise!
Michael Wöhler is Director Human Resources at Terex Demag in Zweibrücken

Stefan Müller
Create clear structures
When we call someone “authoritarian” today, it sounds like a dirty word. An “authority”, on the other hand, still inspires us with respect. This dichotomy in our perception is already a first signal for the operational situation.
The rapidly changing management theories in the period that followed and in particular the temporary abolition of titles, hierarchies and management levels are now being quietly questioned again.
And while a minority of executives would prefer not to have a boss at all and toying with independence for this reason alone, I hear the message more and more often in advisory sessions that an important criterion for future work is a "strong boss", the clear goals pretends, creates orientation, combines competence and charisma and then creates freedom within a defined framework.
And suddenly it becomes evident that even control - a word with almost as negative connotations as "authoritarian" - has a component of attention and care. In other words: Those who do not control, observe or - to put it in one word - are “noticed”, are apparently not particularly important with their work.
It is precisely the line manager who is insecure about his position who resort to means that are experienced as "authoritarian" in a negative sense. In the absence of integration skills, intuition, professional competence and his own clear position vis-à-vis his bosses, he asserts himself with forms of behavior that lead to humiliation, injuries, demotivation or service according to regulations in his environment. The phrase “only a small person has to make others even smaller” applies here in a concise way.
The personality of a charismatic, fair supervisor with his own point of view and the necessary self-confidence allows his employees freedom and their own success without allowing “everyone to do what they want and nobody does what they should”. He will not understand free space as arbitrary leeway, not let discussions get out of hand and make a decision at the right time and bear with all the consequences. And he will especially endure conflicts and dissenting opinions and not immediately deviate from his line for a superficial harmony.
The "authority" among the superiors creates clear and recognizable structures, specifies manners and - lives them!
The alliance with employees against the joint superiors means a particularly rapid loss of authority - especially when in crisis situations a possible double role as the person responsible for the implementation and the person affected “threatens” at the same time. The old-fashioned word "looking up" is gaining importance here. The employee wants to see how the superior copes with a crisis, not how he complains.
Current discussions and leading articles describe the desire of many people to bring back values, orders and structures. The background to this is an increasing disorientation in the variety of information, opinions and messages that we are confronted with on a daily basis.
Today, the “authority” of a strong superior can help to give employees the predictability and security of a reliable personality and thus create the framework within which they can move confidently and continuously, achieve performance and achieve success.
Stefan Müller is the founder of Stefan Müller Personnel Development and Career Consulting in Stuttgart

Volker Hagmann
Knowledge is the key
Authority by virtue of an office, a position, a function has or will - especially against the background of the development towards a knowledge-based society - have little chance of survival. Fortunately, this process of rethinking has already started in successful, innovative companies or has already been partially completed.
In place of hierarchical authority, there is authority based on professional and social or personal competencies. This also includes communication skills, because information creates motivation and that is a main engine for the success of a company.
Volker Hagmann is the managing director of Lucas-Nülle Lehr- und Meßgeräte GmbH in Kerpen near Cologne

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