An individual in authority makes use of power in other to get people to side or undertake an activity with him or her. Such a person has the backing of whatever laws are there and therefore he or she is able to get others to perform their part in achieving a particular objective.
On the other hand, leadership does not make use of that forceful power which is so evident with someone in authority. A leader gets people to perform a task or embark on a journey out of their own interest. These people are able to identify with whatever the leader is doing and as such makes conscious efforts to also work in the same direction as the leader in other to achieve the set objectives.
It is not however very easy to distinguish between a person in authority and a leader as these two roles are always being used as if they meant the same thing. That is why it is very common to see a leader rather urging and forcing people to follow whatever he or she is doing. However, it should be seen as the execution of tasks by an individual who is in authority rather than as a leadership role.
Authority comes in various forms and can be seen by the way a particular person exerts his or her power on others. These may include the following;
Charismatic Authority: This is the type of authority that is exerted by an individual on others as a result of having a very strong inner self belief in whatever they were doing to such a point that others were automatically willing to accept everything that such a person says. A clear example can be seen in some people who have walked the length and breadth of this earth and these people include Jesus Christ and Mohammed. They were so engrossed in their self belief and goals and set forth to achieve them in a way that portrayed their humanity and as such people practiced and executed whatever they said. People with charismatic authority are those who are able to influence others with whatever that they say to the extent of getting them to obey the words that are spoken by such authoritative figures. This type of authority can also be formalised as it can be seen in religious bodies using the charismatic authority of people like Jesus and Mohammed to influence the behaviour of their members.
Traditional Authority: This is the authority that exists in the society on a natural basis. An example can be made of the authority that an adult has over the social behaviour of a child in a particular society. It is permitted for the adult to use this type of authority to ensure that the child puts up a behaviour that is acceptable in the society. This also goes for those traditional rulers who have the authority to ensure that each and every individual within their Kingdom obeys and adheres to the societal norms and regulations. Such people have been given the power to mete out punishments to those who flout any of the rules and regulations that govern the society.
Rational or Formal Authority: This comes as a result of the charismatic authority of an individual being formalised or rationalised to serve the course of a particular body. This mainly refers to each and every religious body as they have been able to draw on the authoritative presence of their founders like Jesus Christ, Mohammed and Mahatma Gandhi to instil some norms and regulations which members are tasked to follow to the end. These religious bodies mainly get their authority from the authority that their various founders had on people and use it as a yardstick for keeping the social and moral behaviours of their members in line with that of their founder.
These three types of authority do not however qualify an individual as a lead. This is due to the fact that even though such people like Jesus, Mohammed and Gandhi all had charismatic authority with which they could have asked people to come follow them, none of these important leaders made use of that. The main thing that is very evident in how they used their charismatic authority can be seen in the granting of each and every individual the opportunity to make a choice as to whether he or she wants to follow the lead of such a person or not. This is what makes authority very different from leadership.
A leader allows those who follow to make their own choice: This is the most significant distinction between a leader and someone who has authority. A leader always ensures that his or her followers made their own choice to follow his or her lead without being forced or asked to do so.