It appears to me that Richard would probably be the third most powerful person on the island (Behind Jacob and MIB). However, it appears that he listens to whoever is the leader of the Others or to anyone who has been on the island in a leading position. For instance, Ben said plenty of his own ideas and lied and said Jacob told him it. However, I believe Richard would know that Jacob never said those things, but he never questions him. The only conclusion I can come up with is that Jacob told Richard to pretty much just listen to whoever was in charge.
Am I missing any key points that show why Richard listens to whoever?