How To Command Authority

By Min Liu | Non-Verbal Communication

How To Command Authority

My girlfriend recently got promoted at work, which is pretty awesome. One of the things that’s not so awesome however, is that she feels like her new coworkers don’t take her as seriously as she would like because she’s young, young-looking, and pretty. So, in this article, I will share some of my ideas on how to command authority.

When I was a junior lawyer, I dealt with the same thing as my girlfriend (well…not the part about being pretty).

It’s a big deal for a lawyer to have credibility and authority, right?

Not just a big deal, but it is absolutely essential.

But, I had no solutions to this problem.

I felt like many of the people I had to deal with did not treat me as an authority or as someone whose advice they should listen to even though I had the best of intentions for them.

Yes, there was the element of being new to the job.

Yes, there was the element of inexperience and not knowing my stuff very well yet.

Yes, there was the element of being young and/or young looking.

Those things all contribute to the overall impression that you give off to others and the perception they have of you.

What is “Authority”?

However, what I didn’t know at the time was that there were a lot of things I could have done to give off a more authoritative aura and mitigate these other detractors that I had no control over (such as my age and inexperience)

Before I go any further, let me define what I mean by “authority”.

When I say authority, I don’t mean formal authority.

The truth is, job titles or power don’t really confer you real and authentic authority.

How many times have you had a boss or dealt with people who had a title, but whom you didn’t respect and whom if not for the very fact they could fire you or at least cause you a lot of trouble, you would definitely never listen to?

Or, how about coming across a police officer who handled his job unprofessionally or even worse, in an abusive, masochistic fashion?

The “officer of the law” might have “authority” over you because he carries a badge and a gun, but he certainly would never gain your respect and he certainly would never be considered likable or worthy of that badge by any reasonable person.

There are too many examples of people who have “authority”, but don’t deserve it.

When I say “authority”, I simply mean the fundamental collection of traits in people who you admire, respect, and would follow without question.

People who have credibility and influence in your eyes.

That is what I mean by commanding authority.

The irony is that authority can rarely be “commanded”. Authority is given, but not by you, but by others who are willing to follow.

Why Is “Authority” Important?

Now, before we go any further, why should you want to have “authority”?

I hope you don’t think it’s about having or wielding power over people. I simply think that giving off the perception of authority and credibility is important because it is essential to daily life.

I could have used more of it as a young lawyer.

My girlfriend needs more of it now in her new job.

It’s not only essential to your career and/or professional life, it’s essential in all aspects of life, such as your social, family, and personal life.

True Authority

People with true “authority” don’t need to or try to exercise their power over others, especially in a way that’s abusive or counterproductive.

They don’t get into power struggles with other people.

They’re not loud and boisterous (as if they’re compensating for something).

They don’t need to remind people over and over of their authority and power.

They’re often not who you think they might be.

They’re humble (but assured of themselves).

And, they’re not arrogant and drunk on power.

When I think of authority, I think of my former mentor and the managing partner at a law firm I used to work at.

He had authority and influence over others not because he was the managing partner, but because of his passion for his job, his strong sense of purpose, and because he never tried to impress other people or throw around his weight for no reason.

People like this command authority even when they are not wielding it like a hammer.

When you have “authority”, the people around you don’t need to be FORCED to follow you. They WANT to follow you. Do you see the vital difference?

“Signals of Non-Authority”

Commanding authority is not so much about giving off signals of authority, but much more about removing “signals of non-authority” that you may be giving off and not know that you’re giving off.

Having an authoritative vibe isn’t so much about impressing or throwing your weight around to create an impression (usually false) of authority like so many people think.

Let me introduce a contrarian view about authority:

Commanding authority is not so much about giving off signals of authority, but much more about removing “signals of non-authority” that you may be giving off and not know that you’re giving off.

You don’t need to puff your chest out.

Instead, you just need to remove any of these things that hold your natural authority back. This is what I mean by “signals of non-authority”.

Metaphorically speaking, you don’t need to puff your chest out, but more importantly, you don’t want to walk around all slumped over.

Authority is created by congruence between your words and non-verbal communications.

Authority is created by congruence between your words and non-verbal communications.

Once you minimize or elimiate these signals of non-authority, the perception you give off to others will be totally different.

So, let’s talk about the signals of non-authority that you need to work to eliminate. With each of these signals, I will give you a small action item to implement as a stepping stone.

Eliminate These Signals of Non-Authority = Authority

1.  Trying Too Hard

One of the biggest tells that someone lacks genuine authority is that they try too hard to assert whatever authority they do have.

Often the most insecure people are the ones who puff out their chests the most. They obsess about who else might have power or who might threaten their power and authority.

They’re always talking about how much power and authority they have (or maybe they always talk about how smart they are).

Usually, they have less “authority” than they think.

You might think that you are showing authority by doing this. Not true.

What you’re really showing is your insecurity.

When you want someone to know something, there is this saying: “Show, not tell“.

So, coming back to authority, if you want people to know you have authority, you don’t tell them, i.e. you don’t puff your chest and proclaim your authority.

You just SHOW them what you’re made of.

Credibility is so key to having authority. When you need to proclaim so loudly and frequently about your supposed authority, you are in a sense lying. And someone who lies loses all credibility.

Get it?

Shut up about how smart and intelligent you are.

Now, let’s talk more about how to SHOW people what you’re made of.

2.  Lack of Presence

Often, people lack “presence” without realizing that they do.

They’re simply too low energy. In every aspect of life, they merely show up, but they don’t show out.

They’re simply too low energy. In every aspect of life, they merely show up, but they don’t show out.

What does “showing out” mean? It means “showing up like no one else”, a phrase I learned from one of my favorite TV shows “Suits”. The main character, Harvey Specter, always makes sure he shows up like no one else.

People are drawn to and respond to the physical energy we display.

It’s impossible for others to know much about you when they first meet you (or even in subsequent meetings), but they sure can FEEL your presence (or lack of presence).

In the police and military world, there is this idea of “command presence”. Police officers and military leaders must emanate “command presence” at all times while on-duty. This is to SHOW their authority.

“Command presence” is literally the idea of presenting yourself as someone with authority.

Some examples of someone with great command presence are the current Secretary of Defense and former General James Mattis or former Secretary of State and General Colin Powell.

I’m certain Mr. Powell and Mr. Mattis had command presence even before they were generals or high ranking officers. It’s not the officer, uniform, or title that gives you the presence, but it is most certainly the other way around.

So, assess honestly whether you “show up” as much as you can in the various arenas of life. Are you bringing as much presence and energy as you can? People will judge you based on how well and how much you “show up”.

If you want to emanate authority, you must bring as much presence and energy to your interactions with people as possible. As a first step to doing this, focus on your physical energy. If you are normally low energy, improve your physical health through diet and exercise, and conserve your energy for the times you need it.

3.  Lack of Emotional Control

Lack of emotional control is also a tell of non-authority.

Somebody who gets thrown off by circumstances or other people easily give off an undeniable stench of non-authority.  They get upset by the smallest thing and/or upset at the smallest personal slight.

If you want to be seen as a boss, then you must project an aura of cool and calm under pressure.

This is a muscle you must train. I call it the “unaffected” muscle.

To radiate a sense of authority, you have to train your physical body and your mind to be unaffected by things external to it.

As a first step towards building your “unaffected “muscle, try a cold shower once a day for at least two minutes. Do this daily to build your ability to be affected by physical discomfort.

4.  Uncertain Voice Tonalities and Voice Usage

The voice is a window to someone’s emotional state and is an undeniable, massive signal of authority (or non-authority).

If your voice or articulation is weak or your voice tonality is uncertain, do you think its possible that people will see you as an authority?

For example, people who are uncertain (and therefore, non-authoritative), tend to end every sentence with an uptone. When this happens, it is a clear sign that the person does not know what they’re talking about.

There are many other aspects to your voice and delivery that you will need to focus on if you want to appear more authoritative.

As a first step toward training your voice to become more authoritative, monitor your use of “uptones” in your normal speech and eliminate them. End every sentence with a neutral tone or a downward tone.

Wrapping Up: Commanding Authority

Just implementing these four fixes, i.e. removing these signals of non-authority, will go a long way towards fixing your authority perception problem.

However, there’s so much more to learn about commanding authority though, such as body language, eye contact, and even the words you speak.

And, so much more…

All of these things go into the perception you create in others about your “authority”.

If you want to learn more about how to command authority, get more respect, be more influential, and have more personal power in every arena in life, get a free preview of my forthcoming course, Authority by clicking the button below.





About the Author

Min Liu is a corporate lawyer, Amazon #1 bestselling author, the founder of The Art of Verbal War, where people learn to EXCEL in verbal skills, and in the words of his readers, he's the "big brother you never had".

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