(Originally Posted: 05.30.98)
Authority does not just mean “having power.” It also means being able to control that power and to use it wisely and justly. Simply saying one has authority means nothing. Having it bestowed by an organization or company through the assignment of a position means only that your resume beat out all the others. The onus is now on your shoulders to prove that you have the authority. Similarly, being elected to a position means that the majority who vote trust you.
Authority is not a way to show off. Nor is it a vehicle to over-burden others. No one in authority should place upon subordinates or those who have elected them to a position any rule other than what is absolutely necessary. Moreover, it is essential that the person in authority take care to make sure that subordinates are not burdening others with undue rules as well.
Those in authority should ask:
are the rules I make for self-aggrandizement?
are they to provide me with an ego trip?
am I making this rule to exercise my muscle or to assist those I am overseeing?
is this rule being put in effect to control people?
Today, authority has been maligned by the everyday man precisely because those in authority have become drunk on it and its perceived power. Now, ego trips are taken daily. Former Hippies, now Yuppies, complained no end about the authority exercised over them by college officials. Yet they are now in positions of authority and showing a severe lack of comprehension of how to use that power.
A prime case of this is the President of the United States. Some may view him as a fool or incompetent. I view him as dangerous; he is a threat to the security of the nation. Ignoring the shady land deals, the man has abused the power given him by the American public. He has used his position to corrupt the morals and sully the reputation of several women. He has used it to intimidate others. He has used it to sell the safety and security of America.
Yet Americans continue to accept him as a “leader.” Why? Perhaps because he is doing what “everyone else” is doing.
Consider, for a moment then, how “everyone else” responds to the rules. We should be asking ourselves:
if I am against this rule, is it because it is unjust, or because I am stubborn?
is the purpose of this rule to deny me freedom, or to direct me safely through what I am doing?
am I against this rule merely because it is new?
Today, many still subscribe to the out-dated and ill-advised idea that we must “question authority.” It is not a matter of questioning the authority as much as it is questioning the person in authority. The “authority” itself is vested in the position by “the people,” whether they are voters or stock holders. Thus, it is advantageous for the holder of the position in which the authority is vested to act in the best interest of “the people.”
Thus it is with authority.