Constituted Authority: A Clear Understanding for Academic Scholars

There are considerable disadvantages for a government which depends upon the use of power to maintain control. Therefore, it is important for all people in positions of power that they should have their positions recognized as legitimate by those over whom they have power.

Authority therefore refers to the ability to make others obey without any form of compulsion or force. When citizens recognize the right of the leader to rule over them, and obey him/her voluntarily, we say such a leader has authority. Authority which is derived from the consent of the people commands respect, influence and confidence.

Constituted Authority therefore, is any authority that is constituted based on the established laws of the land.

Types of Constituted Authority

According to Max Webber, there are three types of constituted authority

  • Traditional authority
  • Legal/rational authority
  • Charismatic Authority

Traditional Authority

This is a type of authority based on the customs and traditions of the people. Leadership here is hereditary succession to position.

Followers here believed that leaders are chosen by the divine. Example of such include: The Tor Tiv, Emirs in the north, Obas in Yoruba, Ochidoma of Idoma, and others in Nigeria.

Legal/Rational Authority

This type of authority is based on constitution and the law of the land. This is the type of authority exercised by Heads of State, Judge’s Heads of Institutions, Governors, Chairman, etc. The leader is elected in accordance with established laws and his authority derives from such laws.

Charismatic Authority

This is the type of authority exercised by leaders who possess unusual qualities which make them acceptable to their followers. Examples of such leaders are Jesus Christ, Dr Kwameh Nkrumah of Ghana, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Sir Ahmadu Bello the Sadauna of Sokoto, Joseph Tarka, Odumegwu Ojukwu etc.


According to Max Weber, power is the ability of imposing ones will upon the behavior of other persons. Power, for him involves domination a reciprocal relation between the rulers and the ruled in which the actual frequency of compliance is only one aspect of the fact that the power of command exist. For Lasswell and Kaplan, power is a special case of the exercise of influence. It is the process of affecting the policies of others with the help of severe deprivations for non-conformity with the policies intended.

See also  Systems of Government: Presidential and Cabinet (A Complete Overview)

Carl Frederick sees power as the capacity of an individual or groups of individuals to modify the conduct of others in the manner in which he desires. This accord with Bertrand Russells concise definition of power as the production of intended results on other persons. In the same vein, Robert Dahl sees power as the process of human relationships. “A” has power over “B” to the extent that he can get “B” to do something that he would not want to do. A person may be said to have power the extent he influences the behavior of others in accordance with his intentions.

Power is not only something that exists at national or international levels, but power exists wherever people are involved in relationships, at a family level, in school and work place. We all have some power, the problem is one of degree, that is who has more power than me and who has most power of all? Children do not only obey their parents because they know that their parents can reward or punish them, they also believe that their parents have a right based on age, experience, or simply because they are parents, to be able to tell them what to do. At school, teachers are not simply obeyed because of their power. Pupils accept their teachers because they are in a position to tell them what to do.

Three major types of power may be distinguished in terms of the type of influence brought to bear on the subordinated individual. These include;

  • Force: the power holder exercises force when he influences behavior by a physical manipulation of the subordinated individual e.g assault, confinement, etc
  • Domination: when he influences behavior by making it explicit to others what he wants them to do, i.e command, he request, etc
  • Manipulation: the third form of power, obtains when an actor influences the behavior of others without making explicit the behavior which he there by wants them to perform.
See also  National Identity: A Means of Identity for a Citizens

Also Read: Accents and Language Proficiency: Achieving Perfect Pronunciation

How do we Distinguish Power from Authority?

What demarcates authority from power is that the former is power/influence recognized as rightful. Authority is government that al accept as valid. Its exercise is therefore sanctioned by those who approve the particular act or agent and is tolerated by those who disprove. Confronted with power, the citizens have a choice whether to support or oppose. Confronted with authority, it is their duty to obey.

Resistance to power is lawful, while resistance to authority is unlawful. Power is naked, authority is power clothed in the garments of legitimacy. It is funded on consent. Those who oppose the government may have to submit to the decisions of power, that is, governmental decisions, but submission is different from acquiescence.

The mood of authority is distinctive. Authority expresses itself in the categorical or imperative. In other words, authority language is different from the language of power and influence. This can be expressed below

  • Do X (authority)
  • If you do X, I will do Y (power)
  • If you do X, you will feel Y (influence)

Other Differences Between Power and Authority

Difference Between power and authority is that power itself is defined as the ability to employ force or to produce action that can make people conform to a desired behavior.

According to Marx Weber, power is the capacity to control the actions of others not minding their resistance, interest or position.

  • Power requires the use of force and sanction while authority is exercised without the application of force.
  • The punishment that goes with the exercise of power is more grievous than that of authority.
  • Fear of sanctions is what compels people to obey order in a power relation while authority compels people to obey order in authority relation.
See also  Concept of Environment: A Study Guide for Students

Leadership & Followership


Leadership is a term used to describe the capacity or qualities of a person who organizes, directs and control others for the purpose of attaining the set goals for a group or society.


Followership is the process by which a group of people or group of persons who willingly surrendered or caused to surrender themselves to a body of people who are led by someone.

Qualities of a Good Leader

  • A good leader must be honest and dedicated
  • 2 He or she must be able to initiate action for members of his group (goals and new ideas).
  • A good leader must be patient
  • A good leader must defend his society
  • He/she must be disciplined, have self-control, etc.
  • A good leader must have endurance and perseverance, diplomacy, etc.

Qualities of a Good Follower

  • Followers should obey and respect their leaders
  • They should be loyal to their leaders and society
  • Followers should criticize bad leadership
  • Followers should obey the laws made for the benefit of their society
  • They should be committed and dedicated to the attainment of their group goals.

Leave a Comment