Do You Want Authority or Responsibility?

Have you ever run across a young person speaking excitedly about joining the workforce, and then realized that all he or she really wants to do is be in charge? “I’m good at telling people the right thing to do,” we recently heard one say.

Is that who you want to join your team?

Think for a minute about petty managers you have encountered at work, or while watching TV or a movie. They are always 100% focused on the perks of the job—a company car, nice office, big desk, maybe an assistant—but completely clueless when it comes to delivering results.

In short, they want the benefits of “power” but not the obligations. This is like saying, “Pay me, but don’t actually expect me to do anything."

That’s why it’s worth mentioning the difference between authority and responsibility.

Responsibility means being accountable for your results and the reward follows work done well.

Authority usually means that someone else has given you power. You get to hire 20 staff members because the CEO told you to do so. You're in a bigger office so that means you can just sit back, tell people what to do and coast now that you've "made it."

Some people argue that it’s not fair to give employees responsibility without also giving them some authority, and there is a bit of truth to that. You need a certain amount of authority to get people to listen to you and/or to have them take you seriously. It’s also true that customers like to know they are dealing with someone authorized to make things happen.

But here’s what really matters: Which thing motivates you more?

The very best leaders are motivated by responsibility. The same goes for the best professional athletes. They want the season’s outcome to ride on their shoulders. Even more importantly, they know that no one else can designate them as the greatest and have to earn such praise.

If you are looking to advance in your company, focus your efforts on accepting greater responsibilities. Recognize that more authority will likely come later, rather than before earn it.

If you want to hire employees who will make your business proud, look for people willing to stand up and be responsible. Hesitate before hiring those who seem overly focused on compensation, perks, and other trappings of “power”.

Results matter, so act like they matter.

About the author

Quality Edge

Quality Edge is one of America’s largest metal roofing accessories and exterior building products manufacturers. With facilities across the country, QE is able to provide an unmatched selection of color, innovation and high-quality products. Our products are favored by builders, contractors, distributors and homeowners throughout North America for residential and commercial projects.


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