The basic premise of the authority principle is explained in Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Revised Edition by Robert B. Cialdini. People will go to great lengths to follow the command of an authority figure, even when the command is harmful or destructive. While obedience to authority is required and necessary in a highly functioning society, there a countless documented cases of blind obedience with dire consequences. Nurses have administered near fatal doses of medicine to patients because they didn't dare question a mistake on the doctor's orders. Similarly, military personnel have followed commands they knew were wrong, for the same reasons.
In one experiment, volunteers were willing to administer electrical shocks of increasing higher and dangerous voltages, even after the victims were pleading for them to stop. In this experiment, the "victims" were merely actors who were pretending to be shocked, no electrical voltages were delivered. However the professors conducting the experiment were extremely surprised that the volunteers were willing to blindly follow the orders of an authority figure when it clearly was causing harm to the victim.
There are a few points worth noting regarding people's willingness to obey commands from authority figures.
There is one key point to remember when applying the authority principle to your work as a software engineering manager. Your team members have been conditioned to automatically accept commands from authority figures (you - in this case). There may be times when you have poor judgment or make a bad decisions. At these moments, you will be much better served as a team, and as an organization, if your development team members question your judgment, and offer alternative suggestions.
It is extremely important that you've created an environment where is it is acceptable to challenge ideas, and offer alternatives. Not just among team members, but also your ideas, as the leader. You will still have the ultimate decision-making power. However, it's important that you don't create a culture in which your team blindly follows your command and direction, even when it doesn't make sense to do so.
There will be times when your team challenges your decision, and they will be right. By empowering them to make decisions at times when they have the proper information, you will help create a culture in which the best decisions and ideas win out, regardless of where the idea originated.
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