Delegation Vs Decentralization of Authority: 8 Key Differences [Explained]

Delegation of Authority and Decentralization

Delegation of authority and decentralization of authority both have some common features. Both describe that the top management should provide proper authority to middle and lower levels to perform the activities more effectively and efficiently.

They come into existence because a single manager can not do all the activities of the organization as such he has to transfer his duties and authority to lower levels.

Delegation is a process of giving authority to the subordinate by the superior to execute the given responsibility. Decentralization is the management philosophy of systematically distributing authority to middle and lower-level managers.

Both are interchangeably used in management practice. In fact, decentralization is the result of delegation. The sum of the delegation of authority makes completes the decentralization concept.

Despite many similarities, both the delegation of authority and decentralization of authority differ from each other. Let’s understand how they differ.

What is Delegation of Authority?

Delegation of authority is the process of delegating i.e. transferring authority to subordinate employees by the superior so that the subordinates can complete the given task more efficiently. It simply means granting decision-making power by the manager to his subordinate so the subordinate can make the necessary decisions on his own at the level of the job done.

In the delegation, the manager or superior who delegates authority is known as the delegator, and the subordinate who receives it is known as a delegate.

Related: Barriers to Delegation

The goal of delegation is to get the work done through others. In it, the manager only delegates a certain portion of his total authority and no one can delegate the authority which he does not possess.

In delegation, the manager can delegate the responsibility and authority but the ultimate accountability remains with him. He can not escape from this, he is the ultimate one who should be accountable for the performance, failure, and success of his subordinates to whom he had delegated the authority.

What is Decentralization of Authority?

Decentralization of authority is a management concept in which authority, responsibility, and accountability are distributed to all levels and functions. Decentralization simply is the delegation of authority to all levels, departments, and functions of the organization.

In decentralized organizations, considerable decision-making power, responsibility, and accountability are vested in the levels where the work is to be done. Additionally, if the delegation of authority is an individual approach, decentralization is the whole approach.

Related: Centralization of Authority

Decentralization is not compulsory, it depends mainly upon the attitude of the top management. Here, by introducing decentralization in the workplace top manager totally becomes free from his responsibility. He has sufficient time to address the strategic issues. However, he has to act in a supervisory role.

Difference Between Delegation and Decentralization

The following are the main points that are worth notable to differentiate between the delegation and decentralization of authority.


The delegation of authority can be defined as the process of transferring authority to the subordinate who is trusted by the superior.

Similarly, decentralization of authority can be defined as the process of delegating authority to the middle and lower levels in the scalar chain i.e. by the system.

Extent of Authority

In the delegation of authority, only a certain portion of the superior authority is delegated to the subordinates. Whereas, in decentralization, full authority can be delegated to the level or employee who is going to do the job.

Core Value

The core value lies in delegation is that it is a technique to get work done by others. Whereas, decentralization is not only a management technique but also a management philosophy.

Read Also: Pros and Cons of Participative Management

Ultimate Authority

In delegation, since the manager only delegates some of his authority the ultimate authority remains with the delegator. The delegator has the full right either to increase, decrease, or restore the given authority. Conversely, in decentralization, full authority is given to the decision-making level.

Ultimate Accountability

Authority, responsibility, and accountability are the three main components of both delegation and decentralization.

In delegation, responsibility, and authority can be delegated to the subordinates but the ultimate accountability remains with the superior. It is impossible to delegate his accountability.

On the other side, in decentralization, all three authority, responsibility, and accountability can be delegated to departments, functions, or units. As such decentralization totally reduces the workload of top managers.

Superior-Subordinate Relationship

In delegation, the superior usually delegates authority to individual subordinates. As such, there is a personal relationship between the superior and the subordinates.

Whereas, in decentralization, authority is delegated systematically. As such, there are positional relationships between top management and various departments of the company.


Delegation of authority can be done without decentralization. Delegation is necessary for all organizations.

On the other hand, decentralization is not possible without delegation. The concept of delegation has made up the decentralized management practice.

Here, the only thing to note is that when authority is delegated to an individual person or entity it is delegation, whereas, when it is delegated to a whole entity or in the entire organization (i.e. to all departments, units, and levels) it becomes decentralization.

Freedom To Subordinates

In delegation, a little freedom is available to the subordinates. Whereas, in decentralization, considerable freedom can be exercised by the subordinates.

Read Next: Mechanistic Vs. Organic Organizational Structure

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