Authority-based Power

“Organizational theorists argue that organizational goals are only rarely established by people in positions of formal authority” (Shafritz et al., 2005). Using Kenney’s From Pablo to Osama, comment on the previous quote and examine how power relations are established and become permanent features of organizations. Explore the different forms of power in addition to authority-based power and determine the most effective form of power and authority in this case.

Pfeffer defined that power is the ability to get things done the way one wants them done. Pfeffer thought that people don’t have power themselves, while their position empowers them special authority to influence others in political life. Power derives from responsibility. Power is the result of division of labor and specialization. In this sense, Pfeffer didn’t think that manager must be able to establish a pattern of management, since power derives from position rather than personality. Power is not rational. Therefore, the manager could be powerless.

According to Michel’s analysis, capitalist society, divided into classes, has need of the state as an organization of the ruling class, whose purpose it is to maintain the capitalist system of production in its own interest and in order to effect the continued exploitation of the proletariat. Michel admitted the powerful role of the manager, since the majorities cannot govern themselves.

March defined power as a major explanatory concept in the study of social choice. The core question of power applied to management is question about to what extent one specific concept of power is useful in the empirical of mechanisms for social choice.  March raised three assumptions. First, the choice mechanism involves certain basic components. Second, some amount of power is associated with each of these components. Third, the responsiveness of the mechanism to each individual component is monotone increasing with the power associated with the individual component.

Mintzberg thought that power is to voice, which aims to stay in an organization and try to change the system. In exercising the power, the influencer requires 1) some source or basis of power, 2) the expenditure of energy in a 3) political skillful way. Power is based on the control of a resource, a technical skill or a body of knowledge. However, Mintzberg also thought there are three levels of managers who possibly cannot establish their real power. They are first-line supervisors, staff specialists and top executives.

Kanter thought that power is necessary existing in organizations for productive power brings accomplishment. Power provides the access to necessary resources and information to carry out a task, and to direct them with support and approval. Power brings effectiveness. Organizational power can grow by being shared. However, it all depends on the managers’ ability whether they can establish their power after have a strong basis for the power.

Weber identified three types of legitimate authority in the ideal-type bureaucracy: 1) legal authority, which is based on a belief in the legality of certain patterns or rules and in the right of those in positions of legal authority to issue commands; 2) traditional authority, which is based on a belief in the importance of enduring traditions and those who rule within such traditions; 3) charismatic authority, which is based on an emotional attachment or devotion to a specific individual (Denhardt, p.31).

Fayol argued that there are two different authorities. One is a manager’s official authority, which derives from one’s position and office. The other is a manager’s personal authority, which is compounded of intelligence, experience, moral worth, ability to lead, past services, etc (Fayol, p.48). Official authority is an official power, which is conveyed from one’s position. Personal authority is the indispensable complement of official authority. Personal authority varies from one’s ability to establish his power after receiving necessary resources.

There are three kinds of power relations reflected in Kenney’s From Pablo to Osama. They are the kinship and friendship based power relation in cartels, the cruel and centralized power relation in terrorist organizations and the legal and hierarchical power relation in law enforcement agencies.

As far as the kinship and friendship based power relation in cartels organizations, there are two types of power relations. In wheel networks, the power is highly centralized. The core-group leaders issue orders and the nodes and networks carry them out. The power relation in chain networks is hierarchical. People share information layer by layer. Similarly, in both wheel networks and chain networks, the power relation is based on kinship and friendship, which make their power relation trustful and highly organized. The power relations, in cartels, become permanent features of organizations through maneuvering and bargaining among individuals and coalitions, simply, in the process of their learning techs and merits and the game of competitive adaptation.

The authority of terrorism is highly centralized. “Leaders issue orders and underlings carry them out” (Kenney 2007, 149). The power relation is designed to safeguard the integrity of ongoing operations and prevent low-level workers from exposing the terrorist network to unnecessary risks. The cruel and centralized power relation is established from terrorists’ physical and ideological training among the apprentices. As far as terrorism, power is not as common as asking people to do something. The centralized power relation in terrorist organizations is more like an ability to compel the actions of other individuals against their will or contrary to their interests, needs, and desires. In this situation, I think their organizational goals should be established by certain people who are the terrorists in power.

The power relation in law enforcement is highly hierarchical and legal, with a large size of structure of management levels. “Law enforcers carry out their daily activities within complex institutional frameworks that must obey constitutional law, criminal statutes, and bureaucratic regulations” (Kenney 2007, 128). In DEA, from administrator to ordinary agent, no one would act beyond one’s authority or overstep their power. Their organizational goals are not established by people in positions of formal authority. Their goals are established and changed continuously in the process of their acts.

Authority-based power is legal and rational. Authority-based power is conveyed by higher authority, derived from one’s position. However, authority-based power could be powerless. Authority-based power also causes conflicts and inefficiency. The most effective form of power should be the centralized power in terrorist organizations. The leaders issue orders directly to underlings with clear directions and careful planning, targeting specific goals. There are no individual interest and information flow barriers.

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