Five Dysfunctions Around the Principle of Authority

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When there’s dysfunction in the authority structure of an organization, its growth is limited and possibly even totally prevented. Here are the top five dysfunctions around the principal of authority in corporate America today.

  1. Lack of a clear authority structure
    When the chain of command is not clearly defined, chaos, dysfunction and frustration will ultimately ensue. This dysfunction is most frequently displayed in partnerships—whether 50/50 or some other equal split of authority. Eventually there will be decisions that can’t be made leading to stress or arguments. There are also frustrations or jealousies due to unequal workloads or pay amongst such partnership situations.
  2. Lack of respect for the chain of command
    When you have subordinates who disrespect the chain of command, they create conflict. The same goes for titular leaders that don’t differentiate between the open door of communication and the proper channels of appeal.
  3. Inability to communicate up the ladder
    One of the quickest ways to shut down communication and growth is to allow managers to get away with punishing subordinates who have made legitimate appeals or efforts to communicate appropriate matters up the chain of command. It’s healthy for a company to have a healthy process of appeal; otherwise, bitterness and resentment will quickly grow and choke out your employees’ commitment and productivity.
  4. Lack of checks and balances
    “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” A titular leader with no checks and balance is bound to get into situations where the lack thereof will stagnate growth in the team. Regardless of your integrity, if you are the top leader without a check, with every conflict, you might become engaged. Despite your belief that it has been resolved, it will often fester unresolved in the heart of those who feel wronged. These offenses will inevitably affect employees and thus productivity, growth and profit. You must instill checks and balances with your power to prevent this now and in the future when your succession plan takes hold.
  5. Megalomania and rebellion
    This can be displayed through the titular leader, whether it’s a president that is an employee, or an owner. But any leader that refuses to submit to the higher authority of either a board of directors/ advisors or of the customer in appropriate matters will eventually endanger the existence of the organization.

Regardless of what areas are appropriate for the titular leader to submit to, the main concern is whether or not that titular and seemingly autonomous leader is willing to submit to anyone on anything. The will to submit to correction is usually either there or not. Either the person tends to exhibit some signs of megalomania and general rebellion against other authorities, or that leader is one with some sense of true humility and thus coachable and willing and able to be a part of a turnaround when and if one is needed. There is no middle ground on this issue.

The clear solution is that, as a leader, you must be able to demonstrate your willingness to submit to some higher authority on at least some issues.


About Mark Faust 1 Article
Mark Faust, founder of www.EchelonManagement. com is a growth consultant, executive coach and national speaker. His new book, “Growth or Bust: Proven Turnaround Strategies to Grow Your Business” is now available at all book stores. Faust can be reached at or by phone at 513-621-8000.

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