The Difference Between Power and Authority

As a part of their adults’ development conference, Capt. Warren Bruce, Coordinator of Area Bravo of the Fifth Battalion sought and received approval to invite prominent speakers to address a developmental activities for adult staff within the area.

The main speaker in the Adult Developmental Retreat held in Sept 2021 was the Honorable Adrian Leonce, Minister in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development. They held a weekend retreat in Oct 2021, which was addressed by Air Vice Marshall, Darryl Daniel, Chief of Defence Staff.

On Saturday 12th March, the area chose its third speaker in the person of His Excellency, Anthony WJ Philips-Spencer, Ambassador to the United States in Washington, DC and Permanent Representative to the Organisation of American States.

The developmental conference was held under the theme “Continue to Build a Strong Foundation

Ambassador Phillips-Spencer agreed to address the retreat, and discussions resulted in his presentation taking the format of a “Fireside Chat”. In addition, it was decided that participation would have been opened to all serving adults within the TTCF.

Subsequently, other persons external to the TTCF were also allowed to participate.

Several powerful messages were shared, and it would be remiss of us to keep those messages private. Some of these are shared in this article (compiled the Public Affairs Officer) and were written in the first person due to the personal nature of the messages shared.

It is hoped that these lessons can guide leadership training at all levels of the TTCF both within the organization and in their personal lives.

Key messages from Fireside Chat with the Ambassador


Public Interest and Public Trust are Important

Power and Authority

On Command

Responsibility, Integrity and Humility: Be Guided by These

Distributed Authority

On the Cadet Force and its Impact on Youth

The Cadet Force Inspires and Influences Youth

Inspiration is Different to Motivation

Public Interest and Public Trust are Important

All leaders must have a knowledge of two things, while in leadership.

  • What is the public interest?
  • How do you preserve public trust?

If you do not know what the public interest is, you may not be able to preserve public trust. Therefore, one must always know what the public interest is. Only then can you act in the public interest, and thereby preserve public trust.

In that, there are to main things that leaders must be cognizant of, to guide their understanding of their leadership. They are power and authority.

Power and Authority

Many hold these two words as synonyms, but there is a difference between the two. The difference between Power and authority is:

  • Power is the ability to act.
  • Authority is the right to act.

Here is an example. The private on sentry duty at the gate at any post, has the authority at any time, to restrict access and egress to the base at any time. If he asks the CO for his ID, he is within his right to do so.

In his words, “If you get nothing from this, please accept this.” You can reject power but will have to accept authority.

In a gendered context:

  • When a man abuses a woman because he can do it, that is power.
  • When a man communicates his concern to a woman because of a concern, that is authority. You may have the power to hit her, but you do not have the right to do so.

On Command

Command is one element of what I call a triumvirate of authority. Command is a derived authority. Command is at the top, with leadership and management at the bottom.

No one will give you command, and you do not have the ability to command without first having the authority to lead and to manage. It is a combination of competence in management, and character personally.

If you display the competence to manage, and the character to lead, this is what makes people give you the right to act, and the command authority.

Responsibility, Integrity and Humility: Be Guided by These

The exercise of Authority or the Right to act must be governed by Responsibility, Integrity and Humility.

Integrity must be a say-show gap. What you say and what you show must not be different. There must be no gap between what you say, and what you show. ‘Integrity exists where there is no ‘say-show’ gap.

Humility is one of the most powerful markers of success at both individual and organizational levels.

One must combine these with the responsibility to promote the public interest and preserve the public trust. They all work together.

Distributed Authority

Everyone must believe and be certain that power and authority are not only held by the Commanding Officer but are held by other persons at varying levels. This means that people at all levels have the power to make decisions and exercise authority to preserve the best interests of the organization.

On The Cadet Force and its Impact on Youth

The Cadet Force has existed for over one hundred years, which speaks to its importance in national development. The heritage of the TTCF is rich, and this is how we sustain the organization. This is not nebulous, this is real. This is the story by which you (Cadet Force members) serve at your units, battalions etc.

The Cadet Force has been pivotal and instrumental in difficult points in our country’s history. 1970 was one, and 1990 (the attempted coup) is another.

When I passed for my first choice (Trinity College) there was no cadet unit there, but soon after, a unit was created at the school.

At the time, there were a few things that were certain to me. I knew who the woman was, who I wanted to marry, and I knew that I wanted to serve the country in the army.

When the Cadet Unit was created, I had to give up rugby to join cadets. There was no doubt or hesitation. I continued to serve and became one of the escorts to the Cadet Force’s Colours.

Right at home, outside my mother’s house, I would command and play all roles rehearsing parades. For examples, during my recount of the national Independence parade, I would call the command

“March on the Colours”

…then I would reply as though I was the ensign

“Yes sir!”.

The Cadet Force gave me a deep sense of commitment, and the National Independence Parade inspires in the hearts and minds of citizens a deep sense of love and commitment, known as patriotism.

[The Cadet Force is] creating a space for creating leaders, giving them direction, and an understanding of how to make plans, develop strategy, to go where they want to go, and to see what they want to see.

I am grateful to the TTCF for this.

“Children don’t [just] go astray. They are left alone. Only if you leave them alone, they go astray.”

The Cadet Force Inspires and Influences Youth

At the time as a young boy, joining army seemed like the thing to do. At Annual Training Camp, former Cadet Force members would come to speak with us cadets. I remember seeing a gentleman named Lyle Alexander who visited the camp and spoke to us about joining the army. After that, no one could dissuade me from joining the army.

This was an example of the inspiration and influence that Cadet Force adults exert on young people.

Leaders of the Cadet Force are sources of inspiration to their young people and must exert positive influence, that promotes the public interest and that preserves the public trust.

Inspiration is Different to Motivation

Inspiration is where you do something because you have determined to do something, without any external influence. Some call it self-motivation. It is a deeply internal process. You have a deep desire in yourself to do something.

This is how we continue and sustain our lives.


We hope that these lessons can be shared with youth leaders everywhere, and that they will help to build a platform for excellent leaders everywhere.

This article is shared publicly as we continue to embody the motto of the Trinidad and Tobago Cadet Force.

[For] God and Country


2 thoughts on “The Difference Between Power and Authority

  1. Very impressive article. You did justice here Capt. Burke. The Ambassador captured key points I think the TTCF needs to note and share. Most importantly, they must be utilized by the leadership.


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