Line authority, staff authority, and functional authority are the three types of authority that can exist in any organization.

This is why we will be looking at each one of them in this post.

Line authority 

This is the most fundamental authority in the organisation, reflecting the existing superior-subordinates relationship in the organisation.

Line authority is the right to make decisions and give orders that are related to the primary purpose of the organization.

It can also refer to the positions and elements with responsibility, authority and accountability for the accomplishment of the organizational goals.

Line authority can directly impact the attainment of organizational objectives through the decisions they make.

Line authority is what makes superiors expect obedience from subordinates.

The primary purpose of line authority is to ensure the effective functioning of the organization, which it accomplishes in the following ways:

1. Line authority makes the basic decisions that keep the organization running.

2. Its decision-making power serves as a point of reference for the approval or rejection of a proposal.

3. Line authority serves as the basis for the chain of command in the organization.

4. It improves the effectiveness of the leadership process by establishing real communication channels.

Staff authority

Staff authority refers to the elements and positions that have responsibility and authority for offering advice and services related to the objectives of the organization.

Simply said, staff authority is the right to research and give advice to people with line authority.

People who have staff authority are called staff personnel or officers.

Line personnel are more effective in achieving the organisation's primary objectives thanks to staff personnel.

Staff personnel provide various forms of specialist advice and support to line managers.

In most organizations, staff authority studies a problem, identify possible solutions and make recommendations to the line officers, who then make decisions based on the recommendations of the staff authority

The staff officer offers suggestions to the line officer, who may accept, modify, or reject them.

Line and staff personnel must work together to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the organization.

Line managers make decisions and exercise command authority, whereas staff personnel or officials provide advice and counsel to the line managers

The only time staff personnel makes a decision is when the line manager has delegated him the authority to do so.

Benefits of staff authority

1. Their advice is critical and helpful because they are experts in their fields.

2. Staff authority reduces the workload of land executives because it relieves the line executive of detailed analysis.

Limitations of staff authority

1. There is always the danger of undermining line authority

2. Staff authority bears no responsibility for decisions made in their respective areas because they lack decision-making authority.

3. Staff authority is very expensive to operate. This makes it unsuitable for small organisations with limited resources.

4. The presence of staff authority may make line authority more reliant on staff personnel's advice.

5. The recommendations of the staff person may be rejected completely by the line officer.

Functional authority

This occurs when top management gives limited rights to staff officers to make decisions relating to a particular department and implement them within clearly defined guidelines.

Functional authority is a kind of restricted line authority where staff officers have formal authority to make decisions within their departments.

It is based on legal and expert power in the sense that functional authority is somewhat a mixture of line and staff authority.

The existence of functional authority reduces the workload of line managers as it allows for maximum use of staff personnel.

Benefits of functional authority

1. It relieves line executives of specialized tasks, thus reducing their workload.

2. It provides the necessary framework for applying expert knowledge.

Limitations of functional authority

1. It tends to create a complex organizational structure, which makes authority relationships very complex.

2. Functional authority may result in high centralization of authority.

3. Functional authority violates the principle of unity in command as given by Henri Fayol

Differences Between Line Authority And Staff Authority

1. Line authority refers to the ability to issue orders and make decisions, whereas staff authority refers to the ability to advise and provide other specialized services to the line authority.

2. There is a low level of specialisation in line authority while there is a high level of specialisation in staff authority.

3. Line authority is very cheap to operate whereas staff authority is expensive to operate. 

4. Building on the previous point, line authority is very suitable for small organisations whereas staff authority is not suitable the small organisations because it is very expensive.

5. Line authority has a direct impact on achieving organizational goals, whereas staff authority has an indirect impact on achieving organizational goals due to their lack of decision-making power.

6. Line authority is based on legitimate power whereas staff authority is based on expert power.

7. Line authority exists in a line organization, but no staff authority exists in a line organization.

Only line and staff organizations use staff authority.

Final words

To repeat, Line authority is the power to make decisions and issue orders in an organization.

Staff authority is the power to advise and provide specialized services to the line authority.

Functional authority is a restricted line authority where a staff person has the power to make decisions within their department.

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