Authority in Criminal Justice Administration


Administrators and managers play a significant role in organizational success. The managers are involved in controlling the routine organizational activities. Moreover, they are involved in devising strategies that help the organization remain competitive in the particular industry. Corporations have policies and rules that give the managers authority that should be exercised over the subordinates. According to Max Weber, legitimate authority includes the legal-rational, traditional, and charismatic authorities. The type of authority adopted helps to determine whether a leader is loved or not within an organization.

The legal-rational authority is based on the existing laws and policies that regulate the behaviors of leaders. Therefore, the obedience of people is not based on the leaders’ capacity, but the legitimacy and competence bestowed by the law on the authority (Rust, 2021). The authority is impersonal and associated with complex, contemporary societies governed by the rules and laws organized around bureaucracy (Glassman, 2021). According to Max Weber, bureaucracy is the most efficient large-scale administrative structure (Rust, 2021). Consequently, the leaders with legal-rational authority have limited actions, unlike the traditional ones. For instance, Constitutions provide the power of presidents and their limitations. The legal-rational authority is common in contemporary societies but may fail to address the needs of the society.

Traditional Authority

Max Weber traced traditional legitimacy back to the patriarchs, their households, and families’ ancient traditions. According to Weber traditional authority is derived when all the government officials are dependents and favorites of the rulers (Tieleman & Uitermark, 2019). Feudalism and patrimonial governments are perfect examples of traditional authority. The authority is significantly tied to the traditions and customs of a specific community. Power is conferred to the leaders based on the rules of inheritance, and the older father is usually the master. Unlike the other two types of authority, the traditional one has three advantages: simple transfer of power, it is clear who has the authority, and supports cultural continuation. However, the authority is difficult to dismantle, lacks qualifications, and is potentially restrictive (Tieleman & Uitermark, 2019). Therefore, the traditional authority is exhibited by monarchs and feuds, among others.

Charismatic Authority

Charismatic authority, unlike others, is derived from an individual’s capacity to lead. Max Weber utilized the theological notion of “charisma” to view leadership as an authority based on the followers’ attributes (Adair-Toteff, 2020). Charisma, as used by Weber, means the quality of an individual personality that sets apart a person from ordinary people, and is treated as endowed with exceptional powers (Joosse & Willey, 2020). Weber stated that a charismatic leader can be replaced by following the various methods of succession: search, revelation, and designation by the original leader or a qualified staff (Adair-Toteff, 2020). Charismatic authority is beneficial since the leaders act as role models, and the subordinates easily follow the directives for community success.

Application of the Sources of Authority

The three sources of authority determine the relationship between the leaders and their subordinates. While some sources encourage love between the management and the subordinates, some encourage fear. The legal-rational authority is backed by sanctions to which the subordinates may be subjected in case they fail to obey their leaders. Consequently, the legal-rational authority involves the use of fear for the subordinates to obey their leaders. Charismatic authority is solely based on the attitude of the subordinates towards their leaders. Charismatic leaders are loved by their followers, and can easily lead them through difficult situations. Furthermore, the subordinates approach the charismatic leaders without fear, making it comfortable to raise their opinion on various issues. Meanwhile, the traditional authority, like the legal-rational legitimacy, involves sanctions and punishments. However, the traditional authority involves the preservation of culture and traditions, making the subordinates happily accept the leadership. While charismatic leadership involves love between the managers and subordinates, traditional and legal-rational leadership is utilized to obey authority.

Love and Fear of the Managers

While love is significant for effective leadership, fear enhances the obedience of the leaders. According to Theodore Caplow, “Opinions differ about whether it is better for a manager to be loved or feared by subordinates, but to be loved and feared is best of all” (1976). Managers that are loved effectively execute their roles since their subordinates readily accept their directives. Moreover, the subordinates easily share their opinions on how to solve overarching problems. However, loved and charismatic leaders can be easily disobeyed hindering their performance (Van Vugt & Smith, 2019). Therefore, love among the managers and their subordinates is significant for organizational success.

Although the subordinates can willingly obey the authority, fear can be utilized to enhance absolute adherence to the existing laws and regulations. The legal-rational authority has set rules that must be followed, and failure to do that amounts to some form of punishment (Bernat et al., 2020). The use of sanctions and corrective mechanisms such as prisons encourages people to obey the authority. Since people love themselves, they easily avoid anything that can cause them harm or those close to them. Therefore, feared managers are easily obeyed, significantly contributing to organizational success. Love and fear of the managers are significant for the effective exercise of authority and consequent organizational success.


A cordial relationship between managers and subordinates is crucial for corporate success. According to Max Weber authority can be derived from three sources: legal-rational, charismatic, and traditional. The legal-rational involves the use of laws, norms, regulations, and other written authorities. The traditional authority involves the transfer and exercise of power based on traditions and customs. Meanwhile, charismatic authority is conferred based on a leader’s exceptional quality of their personality. While the legal-rational and traditional authorities apply fear, charismatic leadership is full of love. Regardless of the chosen source of authority, fear and love are significant for effective leadership.


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LawBirdie. "Authority in Criminal Justice Administration." October 2, 2023.