Creating an Authoritative Look
9:45:7 2024-04-04 215

1- Know and accept your actual authority. While there can be benefits to appearing authoritative in excess of your actual authority, the focus in this article is on enhancing the appearance to match the reality of your authority. To do so, especially in a business setting, it is important that you are clear on exactly what authority you do possess.

  • If your powers and responsibilities have not been clearly defined, discuss the particulars of your authority with your boss. Having things specifically laid out for you may make it easier for you to accept and represent this authority.
  • Another benefit of conferring regularly with your boss is making sure that you are on the same page. Making a decision, only to be quickly contradicted or overruled by your supervisor, tends to diminish your appearance of authority.

2- Focus on the goal, not popularity. While Machiavelli's advice that it is better to be feared than loved may be a bit extreme for a workplace setting, it is true that strong leaders tend not to worry too much about the popularity of their decisions. Having authority is not easy or fun; it is often hard work, but work that needs to be done — by you.

  • Nobody wants to be hated, of course, but you’ll probably find that being direct, making the tough decisions, and doing what must be done will earn the respect of others. If you focus too much on trying to please everyone, you’re likely to sacrifice respect for the sake of some superficial likeability.
  • Deep down, most people would probably rather follow someone they respect than someone they like.

3- Stop undermining yourself. Some of the things you do to demonstrate your authority may actually be making you appear weaker. If you seem to be trying too hard to “show who’s boss,” you’re more likely to be mocked than respected.

  • Unless you’re a drill sergeant, getting angry and shouting are not usually the best ways to demonstrate your authority. Likewise, appearing defensive when questioned or challenged tends to indicate weakness, not strength.
  • Some people think being authoritative means making snap decisions and sticking with them no matter what. In reality, taking the time (whenever possible) to think through a problem and making a calm, reasoned decision — and then sticking to it — demonstrates secure authority.
  • To convince others of your authority, you have to convince yourself first. Once you embrace the authority you know you have, you won’t feel the need to try so hard to prove it to other people. Your confidence will speak for you.

4- Dress with authority. You may assume that donning a “power suit” or otherwise over-dressing for an occasion is the best way to appear authoritative. Quite often, however, this will be taken by others as another case of trying too hard.

  • To appear authoritative, you want to act like you “have it all together,” and by the same token you should look “put together.” Choose a style of dress that generally approximates what those around you will be wearing, but with extra emphasis on a crisp, clean look. If “dress casual” is the norm, emphasize the “dress” part without abandoning the “casual.”
  • Your wardrobe need not be bland, but a more subdued color palette and styling may give you a bit more gravitas.

5- Get on your feet. To appear authoritative, you have to be noticed, and standing almost always makes you more noticeable. Standing makes it easier for you to command the spotlight, the stage, and the attention of those under your leadership.

  • If you are looking for a way to gain more authority by appearing more authoritative at work, you may want to try standing at a meeting while others are sitting. This makes you more noticeable and commanding in appearance. See if you can arrive at the perfect time so that you aren’t late but there are no seats left.
  • Stand even while you’re talking on the phone. When you sit, you tend to talk in a more reserved, less enthusiastic (and commanding) voice. Standing tends to make you speak with more energy and urgency.


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