Is Obedience To Authority A Virtue Or A Crime?

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World War II marks a turning point in almost every facet of mankind. From science to engineering, from business to politics, to the very core of our culture, the world changed as America rebuilt Europe and reframed Japan. You see a shift from a feudal/monarchical-centric philosophy towards a populace/organizational-centric viewpoint.

Within the academic arena, research on authority moved from the Sociology Department to the Psychology Department. In fact, one of the most famous and useful psychology experiments of the mid-twentieth century represents this shift. It answered the most compelling question regarding the nature of authority to come out of the Second World War.

The Psychological Origins of Authority

You might not recognize the name Stanley Milgram, but you’ll instantly recognize his Continue Reading “Is Obedience To Authority A Virtue Or A Crime?”

The Three Classic Forms Of Authority

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What is “authority” and how does it differ from “power” and “influence”?

Ironically, we can see elements of authority in the original research on power bases as well as an explicit reference to it in research on influence and persuasion. Yet, an authority doesn’t necessarily have influence. And if you don’t have influence, can it really be said that you have power?

Said another way, power is the ability to impose your will upon others, authority is the honest recognition of power by others, and influence is your ability to sway others regardless of your power or authority.

To better understand this, it’s important to explore how scholars have traditionally defined authority. Through this, we’ll see why some “authority” is powerless, why some authority evaporates quickly, and what kind of authority has real staying power.Continue Reading “The Three Classic Forms Of Authority”

What Every Leader Wants (and Better Have)

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When we think of leadership, we think of power, authority, and influence. We often assume these three traits are interchangeable, that they mean the same thing.

They don’t.

According to Merriam-Webster, those with “power” have the “ability to act or produce an effect.” In addition, the dictionary also says power may be a “legal or official authority, capacity, or right” that possesses “control, authority, or influence over others.” Despite this, don’t confuse “power” with either “authority” or “influence.” You can possess power without having either authority or influence.

How is this so?

Merriam-Webster fails to help here, as it defines “authority” as the “power to influence or Continue Reading “What Every Leader Wants (and Better Have)”

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