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Grow your business 15 January 2021

6 Principles to increase your influence – today

Axel Rittershaus

Today, in our series of articles on the six principles of influence, we discuss the principle of authority. We look at how much experts influence us, how easy it is to be called an expert and how crucial it is for everyone in the business to be regarded as an authority in their field.


If you’d like to improve your golf swing, would you call a cricket coach, your best friend who’s just started playing golf, or the former five-time national golf champion who is now working as a golf pro and offering coaching sessions?

If you are a runner, like me, and you suffer an injury, would you go to a GP, a sports medicine specialist or the national trail running champion who also happens to be a physiotherapist?

You would likely opt for the person with the highest credibility for your specific need: The authority in the area concerned, called ‘The Expert’.

How does one become an ‘expert’?

The question is, how does one become credible? How would you know if someone is a bona fide authority?

Things have changed over the years when it comes to credibility and legitimacy. In the past, you had to be a professor, practising and studying for 20 years while writing numerous academic papers and speaking at conferences.

Today, you can become regarded as a much bigger expert in a specific topic, if you know how to get media attention and a growing number of people following your statements and posts. A professor with no (social) media exposure can easily be overtaken by a 26-year-old who has read five books and knows how to position himself as the current go-to authority.

Two sides of a coin

This is an opportunity and a threat.

What does being knowledgeable mean? It’s tricky. Anyone can claim that they have knowledge. How can you determine how much they know, if you don’t know much?

You can’t. Not without running a test, which of course needs to be designed and judged by other experts.

To ascertain whether someone is an expert or not is difficult. Or you could rely on what others say, and that’s where social proof comes into play, which is one of the five principles of influence.

How the principle of authority impacts you?

My expert advice (said with a grin), is easy:

Make sure they regard you as an expert in the area they need advice. When you communicate make complicated things sound easy, but don’t forget to add a grain of complexity to avoid the others thinking ‘oh, that’s much easier than I thought, I don’t need this expert’.

If someone gives you advice and tells you, they’re an expert, use your discretion, follow your gut and perhaps ask for a second opinion.

Media and experts

We have tons of experts in media, be it traditional, online, or social.

There may be too many. However, who is a media outlet likely to ask for a comment? An expert of course, and so the circle starts.

If suddenly, a real expert comes on stage, they seem weird, strange, stubborn, old fashioned – because when they speak, it sounds more complicated than what the pseudo-experts say.

Expert fallacy

Trusting experts without question is so common, that behavioural psychology has a name for it: ‘expert fallacy’.

About the author

About the author Axel Rittershaus is an internationally renowned C-Level / Executive Coach & Author ( who started as an entrepreneur in the IT industry in 1993. He knows that success is the result of hard work and determination even more than innate talent. A master of maintaining focus and follow-through, Axel is dedicated and passionate to see clients succeed beyond their expectations. His C-level and top executive clients are located in South Africa, Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria, Romania, Brazil, Hong Kong, China, India and many other countries. Axel is a multiple Two Oceans and Comrades finisher.

This article based on content originally published on BizConnect on 31 August 2016