Your relation to higher rabbinic authority — those rabbis with greater experience and expertise — largely defines your place in today’s Orthodox community. The far right defers at all times and on all issues to leading rabbis and the far left never defers. In between these two extremes, which exist mainly in caricature, are varying levels of often unself-conscious rules of deference.
I found the following statement by R. Aharon Lichtenstein to accurately reflect my position. While his comments refer to the Sanhedrin, I take them to apply equally to leading rabbis of our day. In a nutshell: Rabbis are fallible and, if they lack adequate information, may rule incorrectly. If after discussion and investigation I honestly believe they have ruled based on wrong information, I will ignore their conclusions.
But if it is an issue of interpretation or judgment, I defer to those with greater experience and expertise, those who have devoted more hours to diligently plumbing the depths of Torah than I have or ever will, those more brilliant and wise than I am or ever will be.
Here is the relevant excerpt from a lecture titled “Individual Rights In Halakha” (link):
The situation is quite different when Halakhic institutions and/or values are involved; and this brings us to the heart of our problem: the individual’s rights vis-à-vis Halakha itself. This question, in turn, resolves itself into two: the right of rejection and the right of interpretation. With respect to the latter, we encounter a seemingly paradoxical situation. When one’s rejection of jurist authority is sharpest, his right to reject it is strongest. If a person regards a given decision as being totally in error – say, because the Sanhedrin has wholly ignored a salient text of lacks proper information – he is empowered and indeed obligated to act in accordance with his own convictions. If however, he challenges its members on a fine point of analysis or interpretation, he is bound to accept their view.
The distinction is not, in reality, paradoxical at all. In the first case, the conflict is over clear right and wrong and its context monistic; hence, the right to act in accordance with one’s own view. The right may be limited to personal behavior; i.e., it exists in God’s eyes and the court, from its perspective, can possibly be empowered to judge the person on the basis of its own position. But it exists. In the latter case, however, the issue is one of honest differences of opinion, with both sides agreeing that rational and fully informed scholars could conceivably arrive at either conclusion. In this pluralistic context, the question is not of error but of interpretation, and the Torah has designated one as definitive: “Thou shalt not turn aside from the sentence which they shall declare unto thee, to the right hand, nor to the left” (Devarim 17:11).
In theory, since today we lack a definitive method of concluding legitimate differences of opinion, perhaps I should follow my own view despite the disagreement of those greater than I. However, that presupposes that I am equally entitled to a view, that I am a “bar plugta,” a sparring partner. I know my place and recognize that I am not a major league player. If a top notch Torah scholar issues an opinion, I may ask questions about it but I will not dispute it.
See also this quote from R. Lichtenstein on “Da’as Torah”: link