Delegation of Authority: Definition, Features, Process, Principles, Importance, Barriers, and Ways To Overcome

In our personal life, when we have too much work to do we transfer some of our responsibility to others say, brothers or sisters. While transferring the responsibility we also give the required right to make decisions so that the brother can make necessary decisions on his end to do the task efficiently. This is the meaning of authority delegation. The same happens in organizational settings but here it is formal in nature.

What is Delegation of Authority?

Delegation of authority is the management technique in which a manager or superior grants work responsibility along with decision-making rights i.e. authority to the subordinate at the chain of command. This is simply the act of allowing subordinates to use the authority of a manager while doing the job.

In simple words, delegation means assigning something to others that we have to achieve the predetermined goals. Similarly, authority delegation means assigning some authority to employees to get the job done efficiently and effectively.

In delegation, a person who delegates the authority is known as a delegator while the person who receives the delegated authority is known as a delegatee.

It includes a formal process of sharing authority from the superior to the qualified subordinates to enable them to make decisions to use resources effectively. It facilitates decision-making at the right time so that jobs can be accomplished at the right time.

Delegation of authority consists of not only assigning duties and responsibilities to subordinates and granting authority to them but also ensuring accountability. Managers can only delegate a part of the authority that they have. This means neither the full authority nor the authority from others’ areas can be delegated.

It enables managers to reduce their workload. They delegate certain parts of their respective authority to the trusted employee. The delegated authority can be restored at any time after the completion of the task or the manager thinks the employee can not accomplish the assigned task as expected. It helps to conduct activities more effectively and efficiently in the increasing business complexities.

What is the Objective Delegation of Authority?

Authority delegation objectives lie in the following points.

  • To enable managers to get more jobs done through others.
  • To reduce the workload of the manager or superior.
  • To increase job satisfaction as employees enjoy authority and enhance their skills.
  • To increase efficiency and effectiveness in the job done.
  • To make practical the business operations in this increasing business complexities.

Characteristics of Authority Delegation

Delegation of authority is the most significant concept in management practice which is essential in the complex business world. It is the process of assigning responsibilities to employees and transferring necessary authority to get the job done as expected.

The following are the main features/characteristics of authority delegation.

Legality for Autonomous

Through delegation, the superior delegates decision-making power to the subordinates for the accomplishment of job responsibility. This legalizes a subordinate to perform functions independently within the broad limits of authority specified by the superior. Thus, it legitimates subordinates to perform the task autonomously.

Delegation of Only Part of Authority

Here, in the process of delegation, a manager does not delegate the total authority he has. He only delegates a certain part of his authority. In addition, neither he delegate total authority nor does he delegate the authority that he does not possess.

Related: Difference Between Authority and Power

No Delegation of Accountability

In the delegation process, the subordinate is given authority and responsibility, but the ultimate accountability of the superior cannot be transferred to the subordinate. In order to prevent them from evading their job responsibilities, this forces managers to cooperate in the obligation.

Delegation of Only Authority that the Manager Has

No manager can delegate authority that he does not possess. This means, delegating authority is by those who possess the authority. Managers can only delegate authority from the area of their own authority.

Restoration of Delegated Authority

The delegated authority can be restored by the superior depending on the needs and situation. Authority can be increased, decreased, or withdrawn whenever the superior or delegator realizes it.

Representation of Superior

The subordinate to whom the superior wants to delegate authority must accept the delegated authority. Without accepting it can not be valid.

Related: Scalar Chain in Management

This delegation represents the subordinate as superior in the subject matter to which he is delegated. A person with delegated authority can act and behave as a superior. Decisions made by subordinates in this situation are supposed to be the decisions made by the superior.

Balance of Authority and Responsibility

The manager should maintain a proper balance between authority and responsibility while delegating authority to employees. Delegation of only responsibility without authority gives no meaning as subordinates can not accomplish the job independently.

Similarly, a delegation of authority without responsibility makes the subordinate indisciplined. There remains a chance of violation of authority when there is no responsibility. Thus, there must be a proper balance between authority and responsibility while delegating.

Components of Delegation of Authority

Authority, responsibility, and accountability are the three fundamental components of authority delegation. A proper balance between them is crucial to make the delegation effective and possible the desired goal achievement.


In an organization, authority is the formal right an employee or a job position holder possesses. It includes the right to make decisions on organizational operations.

Usually, superior or higher-ranking positions have the authority to make important decisions and instruct subordinates. The higher the position the higher the authority will be. Everyone has some authority in the workplace and all should use it considering the organization’s limitations.

Also Read: Difference Between Authority and Responsibility


Responsibility is the duty or obligation an employee has to complete the assigned tasks. A superior always assigns some tasks to his subordinates to perform, such tasks are the employee’s responsibilities, and by virtue of job position, the superior assigns the task is his authority.

Authority always flows from top to bottom as the superior assigns tasks to subordinates and responsibility flows from bottom to top.


Accountability comes with responsibility. It is a condition of being answerable for one’s actions and results. Meaning that anyone who undertakes a task and accepts a position at a corporation is accountable for the results of their efforts.

Unlike authority, accountability can not be delegated. It is inherent to a person who accepts the task.

Principles of Delegation of Authority

Managers need to consider some principles while delegating authority for its effectiveness. The principles are:

  • Principle of Authority Level – This principle states that the superior must consider his authority level before delegating it.
  • Principle of Absolute Responsibility – Responsibility can not be delegated. Meaning, responsibility is fixed on the manager even after delegating the authority.
  • Principle of Functional Definition – Subordinates should be clear about the functions to be carried out.
  • Principle of Balance – There must be a balance between authority and responsibility delegated to the subordinate.
  • Principle of Exception – The manager or delegator should have exceptions to either increase, decrease, or withdraw authority in specific situations.
  • Principle of Result Expected – This means before delegating authority to employees managers should define goals, targets, and results expected from them.

Related: The 14 Principles of Management

How To Delegate Authority?

As discussed, authority delegation is the process of dividing and assigning tasks and decision-making rights to the subordinate. To effectively delegate authority you should consider the five following steps:

Define the Result

The first step in the authority delegation process is defining the purpose and expected result from the delegation. Here, the manager who will delegate authority and the employee or subordinate who will receive it should be clear what is expected after that.

Assignment of Duties

In the second stage, the manager should assign duties to subordinates. While assigning duties manager should divide the task and assign it specifically to specific employees considering their interests, skills, and capacity to perform.

Assign Authority

After assigning responsibilities it is essential to assign authority to them as authority provides decision-making rights. Without authority, there will be no meaning of delegation. However, there must be proper coordination between the assigned responsibility and authority.


Delegation is only possible when the subordinate accepts the task. You should delegate authority in a way that matches the interests of employees so that they accept it. Once employees accept the task, the process of delegation of authority reaches its last step.

Create Accountability

Finally, this is the time to make subordinates accountable for the work done under assigned. Though the ultimate accountability remains to the manager who delegates the authority, the employee who has delegated authority should have to answer on the achievement or failure of doing it.

Read Also: What is Decision Making?

Importance of Delegation of Authority

The following points justify the importance of authority delegation in the workplace.

  • It reduces the workload.
  • Provides benefits of specialization.
  • Employee empowerment and development.
  • Increased accountability.
  • Continuity in operation.
  • Career growth opportunities for employees.
  • Facilitates growth.
  • The basis for organizational structure.
  • Increased productivity and performance.

Obstacles/Barries in Delegation of Authority

Although authority delegation provides many advantages, it is not an easy task and is easily acceptable by all the members of the organization. Because of superiors or managers and employees, there can be obstacles while delegating authority.

Barriers Related to Managers:

  • Lack of directing ability.
  • Lack of trust.
  • Fear of subordinates.
  • Showing personal importance.
  • Incompetent subordinates.
  • Lack of assessment skills, etc.

Barriers Related to Employees:

  • Lack of self-confidence.
  • Lack of incentive.
  • Lack of information and resources.
  • Fear of criticism.
  • A habit of depending upon the manager.
  • Mutual distrust, etc.

How To Overcome Barriers To Delegation of Authority?

Authority delegation is the basis for managerial thinking i.e. without which no managerial functions can be accomplished. There can be various barriers to the delegation process, and following guidelines will be worth considering to overcome such barriers.

Related: Techniques To Overcome Resistance To Change

  • Explain the relevance of delegated tasks to larger projects departments or organizational goals.
  • Established mutually agreed-upon results and performance standards for delegated tasks.
  • Encourage employees to take an active role in defining, implementing, and communicating processes on tasks.
  • As far as possible, provide employees the freedom to pursue the tasks in their own ways. If so, employees choose the task based on their interests which encourages them to accomplish it.
  • Ensure a high level of trust in employees with the completion of whole projects.
  • Ensure employees that they have essential authority to accomplish the delegated tasks.
  • Increase the information accessible to the employees for accomplishing their tasks. So, they have access to the necessary people and departments based on their tasks.
  • Make employees strong and efficient through training and guidance so that the delegated tasks can be attained at the best level of satisfaction.
  • Make delegation flexible with the delegation process to the interested employees so that other employees also get motivation for increased tasks, and try their best hard to accomplish the delegated tasks.

Hence, in conclusion, we can say that delegation of authority is an effective management tool to accomplish organizational objectives and increase overall organizational efficiency through the delegation of duties and power to qualified subordinates by superiors.

Read Next: Roles of a Manager

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