Pow! Wham! Zap! Hit them with your expert power!

If you were granted a superpower, what would you hope for?

To be able to fly? To be telekinetic? To be invisible?

What about asking for expert power?

OK, so it's not as sexy as swooping over the fields using glorious wings or being able to move that sofa with your mind, but it's a superpower that shows off your knowledge and strength in a particular subject - and that can be used to great effect in your career.

What is expert power?

Let's begin by confirming exactly what we mean by expert power. Being an expert is having “extensive skill or knowledge in a particular field,” according to Collins English Dictionary. And the same tome describes power as “a position of control, dominion, or authority; a person who exercises control, influence, or authority.”

Combine the two, and it means that expert power is having specialist knowledge or information, and using it within the workplace. Put simply, if two colleagues have different levels of knowledge of a particular subject, the workmate with more knowledge has the expert power. So it would be to that workmate that other employees would go… for advice, for knowledge, for subject matter expertise.

But knowledge can become outdated, or even obsolete, so if you hold expert power you need to make sure you keep it topped up.

How to acquire expert power

Superman was born with his ability to fly, Spiderman got bitten by a spider to gain his super powers, and Captain America lazed about in frozen ice for 70 years before revealing his strengths again.

Spoiler alert: acquiring expert power isn't that easy. It requires time and effort on your part.

But it can reap rewards and build you up into an influential and persuasive figure in the office, informing those colleagues who know less than you do about a particular topic.

Practise, practise, and practise some more!

According to author Malcolm Gladwell, it takes, on average, 10,000 hours of practise to reach expert level. Over a 10-year-period, that means practising between three and four hours a day. It sounds a lot, but no-one ever said it was going to be easy! Setting goals and rewarding yourself every so often should keep you motivated.

Become a lifelong learner

Education is key here. That includes self-directed learning, taking courses, and gaining certifications throughout your career. You can benefit from the experience and knowledge of mentors in your specific field. Reading relevant books, trade magazines, and blogs, as well as listening to podcasts, will help.

Be confident

Project an image of being the expert by speaking confidently about your specialist area whilst remaining self-aware. But don't fall into the trap of becoming arrogant, believing that it's you, and you alone, who knows all the answers. Most sectors are constantly changing, so display true confidence by being willing to ask questions and push the boundaries.

Be credible

Maintain your credibility by being honest about any gaps you might have in your knowledge. You may be of the opinion that revealing any shortcomings will undermine your expert power. Not the case. It would prove to be far more damaging if you ignore those gaps and refuse to learn from others. Don't ever pretend that your knowledge is greater than it really is. Admit it when you don't know something. Far better to be honest, than trying to cover up. Then, make it a priority to find out the answer.

Be cool under pressure

Staying cool, calm, and collected under pressure is vital. If you trust in your expertise, you can make those great decisions that will lead to better outcomes. Your colleagues will view you with admiration.

Be generous with your knowledge

Empowering your team members by sharing your knowledge is going to help the business you're in. You can achieve this, channelling TV's Mastermind here, by presenting on your specialist subject, putting up social media posts, and mentoring a subordinate.

What are the advantages of having expert power in the workplace?

With expert power comes many advantages. Check out a few of them below.

Boosts your leadership capabilities

Within a team, possessing expert power and knowledge can help with all sorts of things, such as having smoother processes or completing projects more efficiently. It's also a bonus for a leader's authority. Employees are more inclined to comply when their leader is viewed as an expert in their area. This leads to improved cooperation and communication, which then culminates in excellent results.

Grants you job security

As an expert, the chances are that you're highly unlikely to be made redundant or replaced when times are tough as you're too valuable to the company. It can also mean you'll be in high demand, which guarantees job security.

Opens up networking opportunities

Being able to network is crucial in this day and age. If you're seen as an authority on a particular topic, people will seek you out, wanting to connect with you to extract that important information, leading to an increase in business opportunities and improved work relationships.

Gives you accolades in any sector

Having expert power often leads to more opportunities and preferential treatment, leading to success in any field, which can then perpetuate the learning of new skills while staying ahead of the competition.

What about the disadvantages?

While having expert power can be… erm… powerful, it can also have its downsides. Check out the four potential pitfalls below. Being forewarned is being forearmed.

It can limit vision

While having expert power can certainly help when it comes to making better decisions, it can also mean you become too reliant on using just your own judgement and forgetting to consult the rest of the team, thus making decisions that don't take all necessary factors into account. As a leader, you need to be open to receiving suggestions and input from team members.

It needs maintenance

Being, and then remaining, an expert, requires continual learning. A nurse who qualified in the 1990s, but then didn't keep up-to-date with knowledge as new medical techniques and breakthroughs were discovered, can still call themselves a nurse - but they're not an expert. On the other hand, a nurse who trained at the same time, but then specialised in the menopause would be considered an expert.

The more you use it, the more you lose it

Sharing any type of knowledge is great, and should be done on a regular basis. However, be aware that the more you do this, the more your expertise will decrease, as the gap between your knowledge and those you've shared it with gets smaller. 

If you're the one person on the team who can write bids, you'd be considered the expert in this area. If you then teach workmates how to perform this task, this reduces the gap between what you know and what they know, while simultaneously diminishing your expert power. To counteract this, you need to acquire more knowledge in order to maintain your expert status.

It can be considered condescending

If a large gap exists between your knowledge and that of your peers, try not to come across as a know-it-all when explaining something. Choose a communication style that avoids this, while accepting that others have different sorts of knowledge, with all being equally valuable.

Why is expert power needed in business?

Why does expert power matter? Let's take a look at five reasons why you'd want to possess expert power.

Contributes towards leadership development

With expert knowledge, you can develop leadership skills in your field because you know what needs to be done to achieve business objectives. Say you've spent 12 years working across different engineering positions. You've been a major player in the tendering team, managed a few key projects, and successfully led a team.

Because of your experience, you've acquired in-depth knowledge across the whole engineering spectrum. When a promotion comes up to spearhead an engineering area, you know you've got the wherewithal to take on this new challenge.

Improves decision-making

Being an expert in a particular field requires combining practical experience with theoretical knowledge. The more you understand your industry, the sector you're in, and your own specific part in that sector, the quicker and easier it is to arrive at the right decisions. And making those good decisions can save time and mean you'll steer clear of making costly mistakes.

Motivates team members

Possessing expert power is also about perception. If leaders have expert power, they're more likely to be trusted, because employees feel they're in safe hands with a leader who knows what they're talking about. Following a trusted expert motivates and inspires team members.

Empowers teams

Modelling best practice by using expert power can motivate a team to improve their own expertise. Showcasing continuous development and learning can spur others to follow suit, empowering them to become experts themselves. Additionally, sharing expert knowledge with the team then strengthens the expert power of the entire team.

Boosts careers

Displaying specialist knowledge or having skills that are in demand has clear advantages if you want to step further up the career ladder. The more you develop these skills and dig deeper into your knowledge, the more likely it is that colleagues will view you as the expert on that subject. When an opening for a promotion comes up in your particular area of expertise, it won't be a huge surprise if your name is at the top of the list.

Examples of expert power

It doesn't matter where you sit in the hierarchy of a company, you can display expert power at any level. Check out the examples below to fully understand how expert power can be a true asset, from entry-level candidates to management.

Example 1

Tania has just graduated from university and is finding her feet in her first role as a Product Designer. While at university, she was a stalwart within the LGBTQ+ community, campaigning for their rights for the last few years. She continues to do this in her spare time.

The company Tania works for is looking to make their products more inclusive. Tania is asked to be part of a workforce to meet that need. Despite the fact that she's only been at the company for a few months and is fresh out of college, Tania can leverage her expert power within the project due to her comprehensive knowledge of the LGBTQ+ community.

Example 2

Colin is a Marketing Manager, and he also speaks Italian, having lived in Rome for two years. No one else in his team does. The marketing team is keen to secure a potential Italian client. Colin is able to use his expert power to converse with the client in their own language, and achieves the aim of getting the client on board. He's also able to translate for his team members.

Example 3

Cecilia has joined a new law firm and possesses specialised knowledge of maritime law, acquired through an advanced course and by building up knowledge of this over previous years. She is the only expert on this within the firm and, hence, can use her expert power to deal competently with maritime law cases. Additionally, she offers consulting services that cover all aspects of maritime law.

Next steps

Keen to jump on the bandwagon and grab some of that expert power for yourself? It takes time and a lot of effort to become an expert in a particular subject. But if you're willing to put the hours in, it could make such a difference to your career and how you progress. Just imagine the awed look on the faces of your colleagues when you reveal your expertise!

One part of being a successful business professional is having a CV that wows. How does yours measure up? To find out, get a free CV review from TopCV and discover if your expert power is visible in your documents.

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