Managing local practices in global contexts
Managing local practices in global contexts

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Managing local practices in global contexts

4.2.1 Three sources of authority

According to Weber, there were three major bases to authority.

  1. Charismatic authority means that deference and obedience will be given because of the extraordinary attractiveness and power of the person. The person is owed homage because of their capacity to project personal magnetism, grace and bearing. For instance, management gurus such as Jack Welch, politicians such as Nelson Mandela, or popular characters such as Princess Diana are charismatic authorities: people follow them because of their personalities and the success they have achieved.

  2. Traditional authority occurs where deference and obedience are owed because of the bloodline. The title held is owed homage because the person who holds it does so by birthright – they are in that position by right of birth. Prince Charles, for instance, is not so much an authority because of his charisma, but because of tradition: as the Queen's eldest son, he is the future King of England.

  3. Rational-legal authority signifies that deference and obedience are owed not to the person or the title they hold but to the role they fill. It is not the officer but the office that is owed homage because it is a part of a rational and recognised disposition of relationships in a structure of offices. Examples are easy to find – one just has to think of passport control or the police. These are authorities, although one does not know the people acting in the roles: they are ‘secondary’ – what is important is the office they represent.


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