Influence Without Authority – Featured on The Straits Times (22 March 2016)



It’s true that you can get away with just about anything if you have enough authority. People have a natural tendency to be influenced by authority and research has proven this point countless times. In fact, through psychological research, the term authority is redefined. It does not simply refer to just a title or position, but the expertise you possess. Let’s take a little close look on authority.

For People with Authority

If you are a manager, you naturally command authority. You may not have to do much to apply this principle of influence. However, since the underlying objective of applying the science of influence is to positively influence people, applying this principle becomes quite interesting for a manager. This is because as a supervisor, you should not overemphasize your authority.

If you take the “It’s my way or the high way” approach or make a habit of saying “Because I’m the boss” you will create resentment within your team. Everyone already knows you have authority. For mangers the trick to applying this principle is to avoid throwing their authority in their subordinates’ faces every chance they get, because this makes them appear heavy-handed.

Authority is not free. You do pay a price if you utilize it too frequently and inappropriately, and the price is – you lose your credibility. Aong the way, your authority diminishes as well.

For People without Authority

Perhaps the real accomplishment with regard to this principle is learning how to apply it when you don’t actually have authority. You want to influence people over whom you don’t have authority in the workplace such as colleagues, clients and superiors. How do you go about it? By presenting yourself as an authority.

This doesn’t mean you impersonate your company’s chief executive. Rather, you make your expertise in a specific skill, subject or discipline known. In short, what are you well known for in your industry? What is your expert domain?

While there may be other people who may have similar expertise in your office, you have to distinguish yourself in the best way possible. You may reflect on your capabilities and discover a specialty. Since most people do not do this, you can establish yourself as someone of authority in a certain subject. This will work wonders for you at the workplace because people will be much more willing to accept your expert ideas.

Marketers do this all the time. You will have to dial it down a bit to avoid coming off as someone who is too fond of himself or herself.

Looking Out For Opportunities

Be on the lookout for opportune moments when you can communicate your authority. Meetings and lunches are both good places to do this.

Just be mindful of the way you do it in different settings. For instance, telling a funny story about how you solved a problem with your expertise will be better for a work lunch, while casually referencing a previous relevant exploit in a meeting will be more suitable.

The great thing is that you probably already have a basic idea of applying this principle. With a little reflection and practice, you can perfect the craft of influencing people at your workplace by using the authority principle.