Sociology Insights


The Role of Authoritative Leadership in Voluntary Organizations

Author(s): Carl Milofsky

Authority is central to leadership dynamics in many voluntary organizations. Leadership is authoritative when subordinates willingly obey because they believe a leader’s orders or directions represent followers’ self-interest and also the larger mission of the organization or institution. It is contrasted with leadership that is based on coercion or explicit exchange or an economic contract. Authoritative leaders may have expertise that fosters followers’ respect, they may express religious symbols and principles, or they may express the democratic consensus of a group. Authority is central to the dynamics of schools, churches, medical institutions, and many self-help groups. It also has a long tradition as a concept central in sociological and political analysis of institutions.

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