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Fayol's Authority Principle: Overview

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  • 0:01 Overview of Authority…
  • 0:49 Who Was Henri Faylo?
  • 1:48 Why Is Authority Important?
  • 3:07 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebekiah Hill

Rebekiah has taught college accounting and has a master's in both management and business.

In the modern world of management, there are many guidelines and principles that must be followed. That was not always so. In this lesson, we will look at the work of Henri Fayol and discuss his view of the role of authority in management.

Overview of Authority Principle

Do you remember being a child and getting upset because someone told you what to do? Did you mutter under your breath that one day you were going to be the boss? The concept of authority is one of the very first things we learn in life. As a child, authority figures are our elders, and most importantly, our parents. We look to them for guidance and direction. As we age, more authority figures enter the picture. They come in such forms as educators, law enforcers, and leaders in the workplace. We may even become authority figures ourselves. Authority is a lasting part of the human world. For the purpose of this lesson, we will be discussing authority in the workplace, as seen by the managerial theorist Henri Fayol.

Who Was Henri Fayol?

Henri Fayol is known throughout the world of management theory as the first person to give credence to the importance of human asset management. Though he was born in Istanbul in 1841, Fayol grew up in France. This was where he became an engineer at the age of 19. He later moved up and became the director of the company.

In 1914, after being a part of the management world for over 30 years, Fayol decided to step down from an active managerial position to focus on the study of management. He believed that the concept of management was not well defined, and that neither educators nor managers understood management very well. In 1917, he opened the Centre for Administrative Studies, a place where educators could met and discuss the management concept in an attempt to define better guidelines for teaching the subject. It was during this time that Fayol introduced his 14 principles of management. These principles were what he believed to be the guidelines for effective management.

Why Is Authority Important?

Of the 14 principles, Fayol listed authority as number two. Though authority has a number of literal meanings, authority, in a nutshell, is the ability to tell someone what to do. Fayol agreed with the definition of authority, but added that along with authority came responsibility. It is not enough that a manager has authority and can delegate to employees what they can and can't do. They also must take responsibility for the choices they make and the actions they take. Since authority can be a double-edged sword, Fayol believed that managers must be individuals of strong moral character. They must be able to use their authority for the good of the organization and in the best interest of the employees. Used appropriately, authority is a valuable tool for any organization. Used inappropriately, and authority can bring about organizational downfall.

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