>Sources of Authority

>When I became a dean, I was struck by the authority that I obtained by just holding a position. I was the same person, but the office held particular authority. And of course, as soon as I was a “lame duck” I lost the authority overnight, even before I left the position.

I have been contemplating sources of authority. My sense is that when I was a dean I had authority that came with the position and so I could exercise it quite independently as long as it was within the scope of the office. My authority was grounded in my placement in the office. I have been asking people in Hong Kong about this because my sense is that office does not have the same sense of authority tied to it. Authority seems to come from the person above you in the bureaucracy. It means that decisions have to be checked with those above before any decision can be made. There is some sense of this in the U.S. of course, but there seems to be some difference. Your ability to make decisions if you are in middle management can be more independent of the changes above you in the U.S. In Hong Kong this doesn’t seem to be the case. It means that in Hong Kong change in direction happens regularly. You change someone in the bureaucracy and then everything is reshuffled down the bureaucracy.

OK. I’m not sure this is all true, but it is something to think about–what gives us authority when we hold positions in middle management? The appointment to the position, or our relationship with those above? or both?

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