Difference between Authority and Accountability

Key difference:  In business functions, 'authority' and 'accountability' are roles which work hand-in-hand. Authority is the right or power assigned to an individual, whereas Accountability is the ability to handle authority from all aspects.

Authority is the set of rights issued to an individual. These kind of rights are generally given to an executive or a manager in an organization. Rights under an authoritative power play a major and drastic role in running an institution. They are the genesis of an organizational framework. A perfect and proper authoritative charge is applicable while guiding a working individual in an organization. Authority initiates the freedom of taking decisions, which needs to be proven beneficial from the point of view of an organization. The most important aspect is that the authoritative commands assigned to any executive or senior officer should be obeyed and accepted by his/her subordinates or juniors, co-workers, etc., as their work in unity will result in good functioning of an institution.

Accountability is the process of making and maintaining the agreements or expectations in any formal relationship of a business management enterprise. It generally refers to the ability of an individual to take and justify his/her decisions. When it is said as ‘to be taken into account’, it means the thing is taken into consideration with an aim of benefiting the enterprise. Accordingly, the necessary modification or changes can be done to implement the process. Hence, accountability plays a major role in maintaining and keeping a back-up of the data in any organization. The term 'accountability' is specifically applicable in business forums, and institutes, and in places where there are bulks of accounts and necessary decisions have to be taken regarding the management of accounts.

Authority and Accountability are the two associative terms on which any business enterprise functions. For any forum to work efficiently, these two must work co-operatively, which results in an efficient management of the forum. Authority is rights assigned to an individual, whereas accountability is the maintainence of those rights. Under authority, the necessary decisions are taken, while under accountability, they are followed. They both work in a parallel arrangement for a successful working of the business enterprise. They both are achieved after gaining experience, knowledge, and efficiency in the respective field. For example: a ‘team-leader’ is wholly responsible for authority, along with the maintainence of accountability.

They are vast branches in the management field that comprise of heavy research and fundamentals. These are the most basic and perspective roles that are to be managed correspondingly. An efficient authoritative service and accountability gives rise to a prosperous and rewarding enterprise; hence, they are essential to work collaboratively and efficiently.

Comparison between Authority and Accountability:




Short definitions

“Institutionalized and legal power inherent in a particular job, function, or position that is meant to enable its holder to successfully carry out his or her responsibilities.”

“The obligation of an individual or organization to account for its activities, accept responsibility for them, and to disclose the results in a transparent manner. It also includes the responsibility for money or other entrusted property.”

Derived from

Latin word ‘auctoritas’, meaning invention, advice, opinion, influence, or command

late Latin ‘accomptare’ (to account), a prefixed form of compute (to calculate)


taking decisions; commanding, instructing and making rules and laws; etc.

maintaining, keeping, managing, and modification of records 

Image Courtesy: strivetoenter.com, copblock.org

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