What Is the Authority Advantage?

Adam Witty, Rusty Shelton

May 23, 2023


As a thought leader, industry expert or business professional, you are driven to make the biggest possible impact in your field. But before you can reach an audience, you must earn their trust.

AuthorityAdvantage.jpegForbes Books CEO Adam Witty and bestselling thought leadership author and speaker Rusty Shelton have teamed up to create a book that brings you proven, cutting-edge methodologies that will empower you to create a compelling, authentic brand and showcase it effectively to the world. You’ll also hear from other prominent thought leaders as they share their secrets of crafting a successful media presence.

If you’re looking to attract talent, drive lead flow, and make a bigger impact in your space, The Authority Advantage contains the road map to accomplish all that and much more—one crafted by two successful authors and entrepreneurs who have helped build brands for some of the most respected and visible leaders in the world.

The following excerpt comes from the book's first chapter.


What Is the Authority Advantage?

There are plenty of examples of attempted “brand building” gone wrong. These examples, which can litter your LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram feeds, often give leaders the wrong impression that to build thought leadership, you have to do it that way—by proclaiming your “greatness” in an obvious and even obnoxious way. 

You don’t have to do it that way—and you shouldn’t if you want to build trust. 

Let’s make this clear at the start of this book: when we encourage you to create your Authority Advantage, we’re not interested in stroking your ego.  

Many leaders have the mistaken impression that building their brand in a more public-facing way runs counter to the servant leadership model they have been successful with and take pride in. If we had a dollar for every time we’ve heard a well-meaning leader say, “I’m worried my colleagues will think I’m doing this for the wrong reasons,” we’d be competing for a top spot on the coveted Forbes 400 list.  

Good leaders remove friction from their teams. They address anything getting in their way and empower them to be successful in their roles in the most fulfilling and impactful way possible. 

Good leaders who are winning today understand that their best and highest service isn’t limited to those who are already a part of the business—it includes building trust and rapport with potential customers, partners, and team members at scale. If a leader isn’t providing value in a public-facing way, they limit the impact they have on the business they lead. As a result, they do their existing team a disservice.  

Building your Authority Advantage is the complete opposite of building a brand about you. We want you to be the messenger, not the message! 

Consider servant leadership, something many of us aspire to embody as much as possible. Being a servant leader is about serving others in the same way that being a mission-driven authority is about serving others. The difference is that mission-driven thought leadership expands your reach and impact to those who aren’t fortunate enough to have a chance to interact directly with you, allowing you to reach and build trust with far more people. 

Consider Patti Brennan, one of the most respected financial advisors in the country, ranking near the top of Barron’s annual list of top advisors year after year. She originally shied away from the spotlight but is now regularly featured in national media. This is how came to see the wisdom of the Authority Advantage: 

I realized that if people in our community, or even in our nation, don’t know that we exist, or they don’t know who to call, they may call someone who does not have the depth of knowledge or experience, or they may be calling a salesperson who does not have their best interest at heart. Then everyone loses—especially the client and their family. 

In other words, building mission-driven authority is an important foundation of modern servant leadership because you extend your impact at scale. […] In addition to making a bigger impact, you position yourself to build your business by creating influence and leverage at a scale you can’t imagine. 

Whatever you may think about building visibility or a personal brand, the reality is, leaders who build authority give themselves a distinct advantage over all others in the marketplace and make a far bigger impact than those who don’t. Those who continue to try to build trust in the marketplace through their corporate brand are going to fall further and further behind as their audience moves further away from institutions. 

Unfortunately, this is the default for most leaders: to try to build visibility by leading with their organization’s brand. This limits the reach of any message because their audience has a distrusting mindset with entities. This reluctance to elevate their visibility keeps them from making the impact they desire—and limits their understanding of how important their personal brand is to their ability to grow their business and build trust with an increasingly skeptical marketplace. 

If you share this reluctance, our guess is that it’s prevented you from going down this road—until now.  

Finally, let’s address the other elephant in the room—time.  

We know. 

Your plate is already full, and the thought of adding additional items to your to-do list is probably something that generates pangs of anxiety and dread. You may have even felt a jolt of that as you picked this book up—one more thing to do. 

This is a fair point and one we understand very well. The mere thought of creating more content or wading into the management of social media can be overwhelming for even the most experienced content marketer—and that’s before you think about authoring a book, hosting a podcast, writing a column for your industry’s top trade publication, or pursuing some of the other avenues that we’ll talk about in this book to expand the impact of your message and build trust at scale.  

Through the Master Authority Plan (MAP) we’re going to help you build, the process will be customized to your time and goals and will show you the difference between unproductive activity and results-driven strategies as we focus on the best and highest use of your time. We want you to find the quickest route between point A and point B and to have as much fun as possible along the way.  

This book is not about getting famous. In fact, it’s not even about personal branding. This book is about a mindset shift that will give you, your team, and your company a competitive advantage in a crowded, noisy business environment—simply by building trust. 

We believe the greatest force for good in the world is entrepreneurship, and we wrote this book to help founders and leaders cut through the clutter and build a focused, proven plan to grow thought leadership, create leverage, and make a bigger impact in a new landscape.  

We’re going to zoom out before zooming in. We will start by describing the big shifts underway in the global landscape and setting out why there is an urgency for you to plant a flag for your message as soon as possible. From there we’ll transition into a deep dive on building your brand in a way that is authentic to you and your message. We’ll focus on building trust with those who don’t yet know you—before you have had any engagement with them whatsoever. We’ll wrap up in our final section with a “lay of the land” by examining the postmedia landscape; unpacking rented, earned, and owned media; and showing you why each must be integrated with an emphasis on “owning” the relationship with your audience.  

But most importantly, this book is meant to empower you. 

We want you to control your own destiny and provide outsized value to those around you, such as customers, partners, team members, or those who should be working with you. Our goal is to demystify the topic of thought leadership that for so long has been opaque and overwhelming. When done correctly, it creates a shift that changes everything—and that defines the Authority Advantage. 


Excerpted from The Authority Advantage: Building Thought Leadership Focused on Impact Not Ego by Rusty Shelton and Adam Whitty


About the Authors

Adam Witty is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Advantage Media Group, an international publisher of business, self-improvement, and professional development books.

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Rusty Shelton is a bestselling author, dynamic keynote speaker, and successful entrepreneur. He has focused his career on helping leaders build thought leadership, writing three acclaimed books and speaking around the world to a variety of audiences, from YPO to Forbes

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