What Is Legal Rational Authority?

Legal rational authority is a type of leadership that adheres to the idea that there are defined normative rules, and those who have been selected for leadership are able to issue commands under those defined rules, according to Brown University. The idea of legal rational authority comes from the sociologist Max Weber, who also devised the idea of traditional authority and charismatic authority as a way to govern group organizations by authority, reports Babson College.

Traditional authority focuses on the idea that traditions should be valued, so the leadership adheres to customs rather than rules. Charismatic authority follows the excellence found in a single heroic person and creates rules based around the patterns that this exceptional individual creates, says Cardiff University.

Weber wanted to examine why men wanted to be in authority positions and why others were expected and willing to listen to those men. He believed that it was necessary to know and to understand where these three authority types came from in order to create social change, writes Cardiff University.

Weber knew that there were a mixture of types in each organization and government, but he studied what he called "pure types." An example of all three authoritative types can be seen in Adolf Hitler. Hitler used his charisma and charm to captivate his people (charismatic authority), the tradition of the Germanic Volk people to build a national socialist movement (traditional authority) and some of the standard German laws (legal rational authority).