The 3 Main Authority Types

As you grow as a manager you’ll quickly discover that there are not only different levels of management but different levels of authority as well. Several individuals on the same level of management (middle management, for example) may have similar job duties but one may have a higher level of authority than the others.

The three main authority types are as follows:

  • Line authority
  • Staff authority
  • Functional authority

Individuals with line authority are managers who have the ability to supervise employees or, in some cases, other managers. They give direct orders, evaluation performances, reprimand mistakes, and reward positive behaviours.

Those with staff authority are seen as advisors. They don’t necessarily have direct control over their subordinates but will help the managers beneath them to make decisions. They can and do have authority over their subordinates and can exercise that authority if the need arises. For the most part he will simply offer advice or assistance as it is needed in between taking care of his own day to day tasks.

Functional authority is often exercised by managers with staff authority as well. Functional authority gives individuals the ability to make decisions regarding the way a department will be run. They can create, manipulate, or change procedures in order to complete a project. Functional authority applies to the department the manager works in and no other. The marketing manager, for example, can not tell the accounting department that they must change their procedures.

What type of authority do you currently have in your own management position? Are you exercising your authority or are you depending on others because you are unsure of your own position?

Thanks again,


Sean McPheat

Managing Director

MTD Training   

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Updated on: 29 July, 2009

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