What is the key difference between Responsibility and Authority?

The difference between Genius and Stupidity is that Genius has its limits: Unknown


In politics, we are Responsible for choosing the candidate but Authority for any decision (for our wellbeing) lies with that candidate whom we have chosen! Till the next election, we keep on thinking about whether we acted responsibly as many elected candidates use their authority irresponsibly!


Identifying Responsibility and Authority is one of the key functions of Top Management. When defined correctly, the organization touches the highest level of achievement else they falter from time to time. There is a subtle difference between them both. By understanding them clearly, the organization and individuals can effectively implement them at their workplaces.


Responsibility: The duty, obligation, and accountability for the performance of assigned duties, tasks, and activities.

Authority: The power or right to control, command, issue orders, make decisions, assign resources, delegate, and ensure compliance to company policies and practices.

Detailed Information

From a general point of view, an Authority always comes with responsibilities; Both are coextensive and commonly misconstrued by the people; however, they are different. Lack of parity between responsibility and authority often results in not achieving the desired outcome.

Responsibility without authority is a common problem in organizations with uneven and inconsistent management. 

Purpose of assigning Responsibilities and Authorities:

  • Management system conforms to the requirement for specific roles like internal auditors, management review, etc.
  • Processes are delivering the intended results like the fulfillment of the objectives, achieving intended results, etc.
  • Reporting performance of the management system through management review
  • Promoting customer focus and enhancing customer satisfaction
  • Maintaining the integrity of the management system when changes are made like mergers, acquisitions, outsourcing, restructuring, etc.

Following are some of the key Difference between Responsibility and Authority:

S.No. Responsibility Authority
1 The outcome of authority. It entails the obligation of the subordinate, who has been assigned the duty by his superior Right to give the command, order, or instruction and compel the subordinates to do a certain act
2 Ability to follow orders Ability to give orders
3 To execute duties, assigned by superior. To make decisions and implement it
4 Ends, as soon as the task is accomplished. Continues for long period.
5 Superior-subordinate relationship Formal position in an organization
6 Responsibility can not be delegated Authority is delegated from senior to junior
7 Upward Downward
8 Example: To do job setup, in-process inspection, testing, documentation as per control plan Example: To stop the production or shipment when it is not meeting the customer requirement

Hence, Authority and Responsibility are both on the two sides of a coin. The delegation of authority can only be effective when it matches with the assigned responsibility, i.e. if the authority assigned to a person is greater than the responsibility, it ultimately results in the misuse of authority (Example: Some family-run companies where Authorities are mainly in the hand of one person!). Likewise, if the responsibility assigned is greater than the authority, then also the tasks will not be carried out properly due to the lack of necessary authority, thus making it ineffective (Example: Role of Management Representative-MR). So, a balance should be maintained between authority and responsibility.

Present Challenges

  1. Who is responsible for product/service quality? Production or Quality?
  2. How often the top management assigns the authority apart from giving the responsibility?
  3. How often management assigns the authority to the production/quality personnel to stop the production and despatch of material when the product/service does not meet the customer requirements?
  4. How often the top management utilize their AUTHORITY to monitor and take actions related to the effectiveness of the Management System?


ISO 9001: 2015

ISO/TS 9002: 2016

IATF 16949: 2016

Industry Experts


This is the 113th article of this Quality Management series. Every weekend, you will find useful information that will make your Management System journey Productive. Please share it with your colleagues too.

Your genuine feedback and response are extremely valuable. Please suggest topics for the coming weeks.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
3 years ago

So nice explanations with example sir
Hats to you and your knowledge

Anurag Priyadarshi
Anurag Priyadarshi
3 years ago

Excellent and well explained.