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What is the Delegation of Authority?

The delegation of authority is a critical management tactic in any organization. Many companies, both small and big, use it to get tasks done. But then, there are a lot of things one needs to know before deciding to delegate duties.

One of the goals of delegating authorities to an employee or a subordinate is to ensure various tasks are accomplished efficiently and also within the specified time frame. In this post, you will learn about the meaning, and principles of delegation of authority.

Delegation of Authority

The Meaning and Importance of Delegation of Authority

Almost everyone has delegated authority at some point during their childhood days without knowing. In such a situation, you have asked your little brother or sister to watch over your other siblings while you are away.

It’s the same way authority is being delegated in the workplace, but this time, a specified task is assigned and result expected.

Back to the question, what’s the meaning of delegation of authority? It is an acceptable procedure within an organization whereby the manager shares his or her duties among lower-level employees or subordinates.

In other words, the manager divides the task he or she is supposed to perform, amongst the juniors. They will now have the same power and audacity to make decisions that will enable successful completion of the said task, in the absence of the manager.

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The delegation of authority moves down the curve with regard to power in an organization. In other words, a lower-level employee or staff doesn’t have the authority or audacity to delegate authority to a higher manager or employee. And in most cases, the manager does not sit quietly and folds his or her arms waiting for results.

He or she has to supervise those authority has been delegated to and ensure that the subordinates are efficient and following due process in the discharge of their duties. But then, those assigned are left to make decisions and face the consequences.

However, delegating authority does not in any way mean that the manager no longer has power over his or her subordinates. In short, authority is not surrendered entirely in this regard. What the manager does is to share the workload among the juniors and grant them as much power as required to complete the assigned task.

Elements of Delegation

There are three elements of the Delegation Authority.

  1. Authority
  2. Responsibility
  3. Accountability

The process of Delegation of Authority

There are three elements or steps followed when delegating authority.

1. Assignment of Task

In situations where a manager has a heavy workload, the only way to accomplish the job within the given time-frame is to delegate duties to the subordinates. But this can only take place when the manager divides the workload into various parts.

Then, he or she will also determine the part that goes to the subordinates. However, the process by which a top manager defines the task that goes to the subordinates is the assignment of duties. But it is best to delegate responsibilities to subordinates based on their experience, knowledge, qualification, and training.

2. Granting of Authority

The assignment of duties will be useless if the subordinates do not have the same power and right the manager would need to accomplish the same task delegated to them. So for the delegation of authority to have an impact, the subordinates should be granted enough power.

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And this includes the right to spend money on the task, represent the company outside, use raw materials, and instruct other persons working with him or her to accomplish the given task.

3. Creation of Obligation

The creation of obligation also called accountability for performance is the last lap in the process of delegation of duty. At this stage, once the subordinate accepts the request to work on the project, it then means he or she has invariably agreed to be accountable and put on the best performance in the discharge of his or her duties.

What are the Principles of Delegation of Authority?

The primary aim of delegating authority is to achieve results. Without it, then the entire process would be a waste of time. So, for delegation of power to be effective, these are principles management must follow.

1. The Scalar Principle

The line of authority should be clear for everything to progress accordingly. In other words, there should be an ultimate authority that is clearly defined.

Plus the subordinates should also know whom to run to when things get out of hand. They should also have a clear idea as to who can delegate authority to them.

2. Functional Definition

Dual subordination can cause huge conflict amongst subordinates, as well as between them and higher authority. It can also lead to the division of loyalty, and no one would be willing to take credit for the outcome or result produced.

However, the best thing to do is to define what the job entails and the expected outcome. Tasks that are also similar can be in the same group. And each person should be made to understand the role they are to perform too.

3. The Delegation Based on Expected Results

Authority delegated to subordinates, in this case, is based on results expected. In other words, the authority vested on the said subordinate should be enough to perform the said duty and achieve the result the manager expects.

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4. Unity of Command

This principle tries to explain that a subordinate should report to only one superior. Though the subordinate might receive instructions or orders from other superiors, it may lead to conflict, confusion and make the process more difficult. So the relationship between authority and responsibility must be clarified.

5. Authority Level

This principle takes a look at the situation whereby managers after delegating authority to subordinates get tempted to make specific decisions for them

. For the delegation of power to have an impact and produce the expected results, the subordinates should be made to understand the rights they have. They should also be left to take decisions themselves instead of referring to a higher authority.

6. Absoluteness of Responsibility

According to this principle, once the subordinate accepts the power delegated, his or her responsibility becomes absolute to the said superior. But that doesn’t mean that the delegation of authority will make the superior’s responsibility to decrease.

Authority not responsibility is what the manager, delegates. That said, the manager will still be held accountable for the outcome of the work or responsibility delegated.

7. Parity of Authority and Responsibility

Authority is the power or right to perform an assignment while responsibility is the obligation given to an individual to accomplish the said assignment.

That said management needs to balance both to achieve the expected result. In other words, there should be a logical connection between responsibility and authority delegated.


The delegation of authority helps to simplify the task of managers and can also help an organization to accomplish much within a short space of time.

However, management should also follow the laid down principles to ensure authority is delegated and the expected result achieved is worthwhile. Subordinates should also be equipped with whatever they need to give their best performance.

About Sonia Kukreja

I am a mother of a lovely kid, and an avid fan technology, computing and management related topics. I hold a degree in MBA from well known management college in India. After completing my post graduation I thought to start a website where I can share management related concepts with rest of the people.