Authority and Leadership

Savage, when discussing a concept Kousez and Posner, stated, “Leadership is a process, not a position. It involves skills and abilities that can be applied to a variety of situations.”

When establishing authority and leadership, Savage (1999)  defines five different types of authority a teacher may establish. These are as follows: legitimate authority, reward authority, coercive authority, expert authority, and referent authority.

                  1. Legitimate authority: Authority that comes with a position and is therefore ascribed or assumed. This is best used at the beginning of the year to establish respect, but is best when followed by a different form of authority.

                  2.  Reward authority: Authority that is based on giving incentives and rewards, which is due to the given position of authority.

                  3.  Coercive authority: Authority that is based on administering punishment.

                  4.  Expert authority: Authority that is based on the group viewing the individual as an expert, or views them as having superior knowledge about the subject. This type of authority is not one that can be forced; rather it is based on respect, and it is earned.

                  5.  Referent authority: Authority that is given because the person is perceived to be ethical, concerned for the welfare of others, and trustworthy. This type of authority, like expert, is based on respect, and it is earned.

 These five different types of authority can be categorized in two main types of authority: positional and personal. The positional authorities are the first three: legitimate authority, reward authority, and coercive authority. The personal authorities are expert authority and referent authority. 

Positional authority is temporary in that once students get comfortable with the teacher, or the teacher shows a lack of consistency, the respect level could go down. For this reason it is best to have personal authority, because personal authority is authority that is given based on merit, it is not likely to be discredited. 

The concepts of authority, as well as understanding the different forms, are very significant for teachers in understanding the flow of their classroom. The teacher needs to understand the importance of the five different types of authority, as well as understand that positional authority is usually temporary and to strive for personal authority. The teacher needs to understand how and why each type of authority works and when to use each type. This is because if the students do not accept the type of authority the teacher chooses, little will be accomplished.

Authority and leadership can be applied in a ninth grade Algebra class because, like any other math class, for a multitude of reasons. First, in general students do not like math. If the teacher shows referent as well as expert authority, it may not make them like math any more than they did before, but it can show them that it is doable and even fun. When a teacher has this type of personal authority, even if a student struggles with math; they will come to find a respect for the subject and the logic behind it. This is all weighted upon the teachers knowledge of the subject and ability to present it well. 

Spiritual Application

"When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law" (Matthew 7: 28-29).

This verse is comparing the loving and trustworthy teachings of Jesus to those of the Pharisees and Sadducees. When the Pharisees and Saducees taught they focused so much on the law and rules and regulations. Jesus was the ultimate example of personal authority, radiating expert knowledge as well as being referent in every situation. In the classroom we need to teach as Jesus taught. We need to use the correct type of authority, not just be teachers who mindlessly lay down the law.