I dont mind, you dont seem like the sensitive type like my friend @yogi
To answer your question: It isn't one thing in particular - it isn't about being muscular, or being tall (I'm not tall at 5'9" if that is what you were insinuating), or good looking, intelligent, etc, it is about the "package" as a whole and how you present yourself.
Consider meeting someone for the first time, they are huge like The Mountain, but speak at a 6th grade level. You'd probably think to yourself "Damn this guy is strong but he is an idiot." Now consider someone as intelligent as Stephen Hawking, who is hesitant when they speak and physically frail, you might think "Wow, this guy is a friken genius, but boy is he a wimp". In either case you wouldnt want someone like those two in charge of making decisions for a project. But if you are someone who has a good combination of those two extremes - who is physically in great shape, good looking, speaks intelligently, and knows their stuff, you are more inclined to listen to them and do what they say.
Now to clarify, but intimidation I don't mean being a bully, I mean being someone who can take charge in a given situation. I suppose I used the word "intimidating" because Ive had 2 bosses, a few friends, and one doctor tell me I was. Personally I don't feel very confident around people most of the time. Hell, when I look in the mirror I see myself as small, but when Im in a picture with friends I realize my torso is about twice the average persons size. People call me big, even when I dont feel that way.
When it comes to doing work/business, I am a completely different person: I am very direct, see the big picture quickly (more specifically what needs to be done, how long it will take, etc), and make it a priority to be one of the most knowledgeable people in the room when it comes to my tasks, I find it easy to take charge and delegate, and I am not afraid to speak up. I think that, coupled with being in decent shape (I still need to lose another 20lbs) does project some kind of authority. But when I am not working I am pretty silly goof off a lot.
And you ask about being associated with influential circles. It isn't that complicated, but comes down to doing what other people are afraid or wont do. Ill give you a short example: 3 years ago I was at one of the lowest points in my life - I had no job, my family wasn't doing well, I was out of shape, and I dropped out of school (very long story there). I had no choice and needed to move back home. I needed a job badly. I would go to a local book store, 5 days a week, and look for jobs on the internet. After reviewing the jobs I would then craft my resume and cover letter to these specific applications. But I would carry out one more step which most people cant be bothered to do: I cold called employers, many, probably 30-50. I spoke to them professionally expressed my interest in their organization, offered to forward my credentials, and requested to schedule a phone interview. The overall process was very painful; it is draining getting rejection after rejection. Some nights I would go home feeling like a loser. But there were a few really bright moments. Because I carefully picked who I would call (smaller organizations that had specializations in my field) and had some sample work prepared, I ended up speaking to two CEOs/presidents/founders, and they are both in my contacts. One guy who started his business in his garage now expanded his network to a few thousand people. Another guy was working on developing a 747 refit facility on the east coast. The point I am trying to make is, to be surrounded by high profile people, you have not be afraid to talk to them (not in the business sense, but like fellow human being), and if you really do have some kind of skill they like, you'll probably be welcomed.
And in terms of the food chain remark, note that I said I "feel" like I am sometimes, whether or not I actually am can be debated. But in some respects I think this is true. I wouldn't say it is true in terms of being sensitive and empathetic, or being calm, or being really attractive, but in terms of some other traits, yes.
And one more remark, being intimidating is useful. Using the example I made in my earlier post, if I never had the audacity to walk into the financial office, sit down and basically tell them "If you don't get rid of this fee I am going to walk off your project and cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars", I would still be a regular employee getting screwed by the"system". If I walked in there, hesistating, feeling like I was expendable to the project, theyd have probably told me "sorry there is nothing we can do." But if I tell them, "good luck replacing me!", they think twice. They made an exception for me because I used my leverage to negotiate: highly skilled labor. Most people don't think to do things like that, but that is how this world works: you are either going to be a fighter and take what you want, or you are going to be submissive and work on other peoples terms.