Enhance Your Influence With Authority

Leaders rise to the top through their influence.  Whether you’re looking to achieve better results with your team or expand into new markets with your innovative products, your ability to influence others will ultimately determine your level of success.  Fortunately, influence can be learned and cultivated; an essential skill for all leaders to develop.


Influence: (verb) to affect or change something or someone without direct interaction.  This should not be mistaken with manipulation, which is often accompanied by tactics looking to mislead and pursued to create an outcome that is self-serving to the schemer.  No!  Influence in our context is intended for the mutual welfare and benefit to all involved.

Scientifically Based

In Robert Cialdini’s classic, Influence: The Psychology or Persuasion, we learn about six principles that naturally have the ability to influence.  This essential text is backed by solid scientific research and should be studied by leaders at all levels.  Each principle has been demonstrated to be effective in establishing influence in a variety of situations, and even more effective when used in combination with the others.  However, in this article we will be focusing on just one: Authority.

Power of Authority

Again, we should reiterate that great leaders equipped with these principles of influence should use them with the best intent.  Selfish and manipulative tactics are easily detected, and any results will be short lived.  However, when authority is established for the greater good of others, the ability to influence is long lived and will continue to grow.  Consider common examples of authority such as the uniform of a police officer, the education of a physician, and the recognition of celebrity status.  These are all examples where when these individual with authority speak, a good number of people listen and are influenced.

Establishing Your Influence

So how do you establish and further develop your own influence?  Begin not with what you are trying to get, but instead with what you can give.  Be selfless and think what value you have to provide to others.  Perhaps you have expertise in your field, or maybe you have an innovative solution to a common problem other people are struggling with.  Either way, you have the ability to positively impact another human being and should focus on establishing your authority to better position yourself to influencing and helping others.

To do so, think about what those who would benefit most will be looking for.  Consider your credentials, the way you dress, the way you speak, the venues you attend, and the media channels for starters.  Do individuals you are trying to reach value formal credentials such as degrees or certifications?  Do they expect you to dress a certain way that conveys your knowledge or expertise?  Are there particular words or methods of communication that makes you more relatable?  Where do they go and what do they read or listen to?

The Man in the Mirror

Michael Jackson sang, “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change.”  Once you’ve determined how to develop your authority, begin with yourself.  Get those degrees or certifications that are expected of you.  Give yourself a makeover and dress the part.  Start using the vocabulary and mannerisms that are aligned with a person of authority in your field.  A word of caution – do not do these things superficially but truly adapt them as your persona.  While people are attracted to and influenced by an authority figure, they will turn away from a phony who gives off the appearance of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

We Trust What We See

We all heard the joke, “If it’s on the internet, it must be true!”  We know that’s not the case.  However, there is a bit of truth in this statement as we are often influenced by what we see rather than what we hear.  Think about that for a moment.  I can tell you that I am an expert in statistical experimentation.  You may or may not believe me, or even consider me for your next project.  However, if you’ve seen me speak in person at a conference or if you’ve read my published chapter on Design of Experiment, you may perceive me as an authoritative figure in this particular area and may even consider me for your next project.

How do others SEE you, and how can you further develop your authority?

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