Responsibility and Authority - Radiant

The Radiant Blog

Some things just go together automatically in our minds. If I were to do a word association test with you and said salt there is a good change you would say pepper. If I said ketchup there is a good chance you might say mustard. If I said hamburger there is a good chance you would say fries. If I said responsibility you might say...? Well I have no idea what you would say to that one. You might say authority but only because the two were paired together in the title of this post.

Why do these words belong together you may be asking? Simply because in the work place neither responsibility or authority can survive apart from the other. Let's start this line of thinking with the definitions of the word.


1.The state or fact of being responsible.
2. An instance of being responsible: The responsibility for this mess is yours!
3. A particular burden of obligation upon one who is responsible: the responsibilities of authority.


Answerable or accountable, as for something within one's power, control, or management.


1. The power to determine, adjudicate, or otherwise settle issues or disputes; jurisdiction; the right to control, command, or determine.
2. A power or right delegated or given; authorization: Who has the authority to grant permission?

Suppose there is a company working for another company on a project, or even an employee working on a project for their employer, they need to have the proper authority to ensure the job gets done right as per the project requirements. If they do not have the authority to get the job done right then they should not be held responsible for the outcome of the project.

With authority comes responsibility and with responsibility should come authority, but often that isn't the case and I am not sure why.

The worst and most frustrating thing that can happen to a company or individual is to be given the responsibility to get something done but being handcuffed by not having the authority to get it done the way their experiences and expertise dictate.

I once heard a speaker talk on this matter and I found it very true. He said that he would happily turn down a job that paid him $1 million dollars per year if that job saw him being responsible for things he had no control over and was the one left taking the heat. That was something I had never considered before but it was something that I could agree strongly with.

Have you ever found yourself in this kind of a situation? Maybe putting out a fire you didn't start or one that you could had avoided altogether? Could you concede that maybe you helped start a fire at some point and someone else was taking the heat for it? This is certainly a tricky balancing act at times but it is a very critical one when it comes to things going smoothly.

So remember if you're delegating a job to someone and you know that they can get it done, let them get it done. Follow their advice which should be rooted in experience. If things don't get done right, well, the responsibility is truly theirs. If you hinder the other party throughout the process then the responsibility is in your hands, because you have exercised your authority. And where the authority is found, the responsibility is found there with it.