Where the world comes to study the Bible

A Power or Right

This concept of authority as something that causes another person to “do what you want him to do” is reflected in most definitions. For instance, the Random House Dictionary of the English Language speaks of authority as “a power or right to direct the actions or thoughts of others. Authority is a power or right, usually because of rank or office, to issue commands and to punish for violations.” Again the root idea seems to be control or direction of the actions of others.

We see this same idea even in sophisticated examinations of authority. For instance, William Oncken, Jr., in a 1970 Colorado Institute of Technology Journal, gives an analysis of authority that suggests it is comprised of four elements:

1. The Authority of Competence: the more competent the other fellow knows you are, the more confident he will be that you know what you are talking about and the more likely he will be to follow your orders, requests, or suggestions. He will think of you as an authority in the matter under consideration and will feel it risky to ignore your wishes.

2. The Authority of Position: This component gives you the right to tell someone, “Do it or else.” It has teeth. “The boss wants it” is a bugle call that can snap many an office or shop into action.

3. The Authority of Personality: The easier it is for the other fellow to talk to you, to listen to you, or to work with you, the easier he will find it to respond to your wishes.

4. The Authority of Character: This component is your “credit rating” with other people as to your integrity, reliability, honesty, loyalty, sincerity, personal morals, and ethics. Obviously you will get more and better from a man who has respect for your character than from one who hasn’t.

William Oncken, Jr., Colorado Institute of Technology Journal 22 (July 1970): 273.