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chain of command
the line of command flowing down from the top of an ORGANIZATION to the bottom. In theory, the chief executive issues commands to his or her subordinates which are then relayed down to those they have AUTHORITY over. In practice, those in the chain of command often do not follow such commands, either because they do not have the resources to meet them or because they believe them to be incorrect or otherwise inappropriate. See UNITY OF COMMAND, LINE AND STAFF, HIERARCHY.