Many different kinds of power exist in workplaces. These can be broadly broken into two categories: formal power (power related to the position one holds in the organization) and personal power (power based on the strength and competencies an individual possesses).
Expert power is a type of personal power. This means you’re able to strengthen your expert power without changing your job or position within an organization. In this article, we’ll look at what expert power is and why it’s valuable. We’ll discuss how you can increase your expert power and how to wield it effectively in your career.
What Is Expert Power?
Expert power is the perception that a certain person has an elevated level of knowledge or a specific skill set that others in an organization don’t have. This perception leads to more influence within the expert’s place of work.
For example, the marketing director at your company may have risen to their position because of their knowledge in the field of marketing. They understand content creation and social media. They get advertising and copywriting. Because of their extensive marketing knowledge, they’re perceived within the company as an expert in the field and given the power to lead an entire department.
But what’s really interesting about expert power is, anyone in your organization can have it. It’s not limited to just those in management positions. Also, expert power is often situational. These two facts have the potential to turn power dynamics upside down.
Take, for instance, the young intern at a law firm in New York City. The firm has recently taken on a case involving a celebrity client. Early in the research phase, the firm’s leaders identify the client’s social media proclivity as a core component of their defense.
Unfortunately, the lawyers assigned to the case don’t know the first thing about Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Luckily their intern does. After all, that’s basically where she spends all of her time outside of work. Now, because of her expertise with social media, the intern has assumed a position of power over the leaders at the firm. They’re now relying on her to help them and they’re looking to her for guidance.
Once the case in question concludes, though, the intern will no longer have any power at the firm and return to her humble place until, perhaps, another case involving social media comes the firm’s way. See how that works?
The Power of Expert Power
Why is expert power so valuable? There are multiple reasons why. We’ll focus on the top three:
When you possess specialized knowledge on a relevant topic, you’ll be able to lead more confidently because you’ll have a firm grasp on what’s going on. Your team will also have more confidence in you and naturally look for you to lead them. You are the expert, after all.
If you have ambitious career goals, expert knowledge can help you achieve them. You’ll be able to stand out in certain areas, which could very well lead to promotions. You’ll also be able to use your no-how to further your personal brand and build influence outside your own office too.
3. Better Business
When you possess expert power, you’ll be able to run your department much better. More often than not, you’ll have the right answers and be able to successfully make crucial decisions. Your employees will naturally fall in line and follow your lead. When both of these things happen, your organization will run like a well-oiled machine.
5 Tips to Increase Your Expert Power
As we’ve just seen, expert power is valuable and can help get you where you want to go in your career. But how do you get it? Or, if you already have it to some degree, how do you increase it? Here are five tips that will assist you in your quest.
1. Study Up
First things first, to increase your expert power, study up on your specific areas of expertise. The more knowledge you glean, the more power you can assume. For many industries, especially those involving technology, this is an absolute must because things are constantly changing. What was true a year ago, might not be true today. By constantly studying, you’ll be able to stay on top of new trends and information and retain your edge.
2. Seek Help
There’s no shame in asking for help when you need it. In fact, this tactic could be one of the most effective ways for you to gain expert power. By approaching and learning from those who already possess the knowledge you need, you’ll be able to learn quicker.
Or, if you already have the expert power you need, a management consultant can help you better wield it. We’ll talk more about how to effectively use your expert power later in this article. But you may find that you require outside assistance to really reach your full potential and use your position to the fullest. If this is the case, a consultant who specializes in the area may be beneficial to you.
3. Tactfully Promote Your Expertise
You can have all the high-level knowledge in the world, but if no one knows you possess it, you won’t wield any power. Additionally, if you use your expertise incorrectly, belittling others or acting arrogantly, you’ll push people away rather than draw them towards you.
The key to assuming expert power is to tactfully promote your expertise.
This can be done in many inconspicuous ways. For example, if you’ve earned a college degree from a noteworthy institution or been recognized for past achievements, display the rewards on the wall in your office. Your co-workers will see your diploma and awards on the wall and automatically begin recognizing you as an expert — without you needing to say anything at all!
You could also offer to mentor new employees, write content for your company’s email newsletter or blog, and speak at industry events. Each of these tactics will prove your expertise without you appearing conceited or narcissistic.
4. Act With Confidence
Confidence is a sign of expert power. And it makes sense. If you have above-average knowledge or skills in a specific area, you’ll be expected to handle situations more easily and confidently than others. When you do, your employees will put more faith in you, elevating your status even further in their eyes.
It’s important to note that confidence must be shown, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be felt. Meaning, you must project an aura of calm and confidence to your team, even if you feel confused and doubtful on the inside.
This is a fine line to walk because you can’t put your company at risk. If you’re honestly out of ideas, seek guidance. Ask your team for help. It’s better than everything going down in flames. But in general, don’t let small feelings of doubt steal your expert power away. Project confidence and reassure your employees that they can trust in you.
5. Understand Where Your Industry is Headed
This tip is similar to our first one, “Study Up”, but still deserves its own section. Like we mentioned before, things are constantly changing. You need to have a firm understanding of your specific industry and where it’s headed. That way you can make wise decisions that increase your expert power.
Here’s an example: YouTube started as a kind of video dating site. Users would upload a video of themselves describing exactly what they wanted in a mate. Then they’d shuffle through potential matches. But YouTube’s founders noticed the upcoming rise in online video and the true potential their site had. So they eventually pivoted and sold their business to Google for billions.
Because YouTube understood where their industry was headed, they were able to adjust their course and make history. The same is true for your career. By having your “finger on the pulse” of your field, you’ll be able to make the right decisions and increase your expert power.
You can easily do this by reading books and blog posts in your niche, attending industry conferences, and networking with other knowledgeable folks.
With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
It’s true for Spiderman and it’s true for you too. Now that you know how to increase your expert power, we’d like to share a few tips to help you wield it effectively.
1. Don’t Put Others Down
You may be the expert on the topic but if you want to be a good leader and increase your expert power, you can’t lord your knowledge over others and make them feel inferior for not knowing as much as you do. This is a surefire way to loose respect and gain detractors.
Guard against this possibility by staying humble, not acting narcissistically, and demonstrating your expertise (like we mentioned earlier) in a tactful way.
2. Recognize the Contributions of Others
Being an expert does NOT mean that you alone have all the answers or that your employees are worthless. If you’ve hired correctly, your team is hopefully full of great ideas too. Recognizing them for their amazing contributions won’t lower your expert power. In fact, it will allow you to become a leader that’s truly loved by your team.
We all want to be recognized for our hard work and good ideas. When you allow your team a taste of the glory, you’ll empower them to work harder, enjoy their job more, and become a better employee. And who knows? You might just learn something yourself, thereby increasing your knowledge and boosting your capacity for expert power!
3. Develop Additional Leadership Skills
Finally, we recommend that you develop other leadership skills beyond just your expert power. While your expertise may get you far in life, it’s not the only skill worth having. Eventually, you’ll meet someone who knows more or that can do your job better. But if you have other leadership qualities, you’ll still be able to advance your career and accomplish your goals.
So, yes, work hard to achieve a high level of expert power. But don’t neglect other important leadership skills like communication, delegation, decision making, and being able to effectively motivate those under you.
Wrapping Up: Become the Leader You Need to Be
Expert power is important. It can help you achieve your goals and become a great leader, adored by your employees. Fortunately, if you apply the five tips we outlined in this article, you can begin increasing your expert power immediately. Simply:
- Study Up: Make sure you’re continually working to increase your knowledge and skill in your unique niche.
- Seek Help: Asking for guidance isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it may help you achieve more expert power quicker.
- Tactfully Promote Your Expertise: To possess expert power, others must realize what you bring to the table. Promote yourself is a tasteful way.
- Act With Confidence: Confidence breeds more expert power. And your team will naturally follow you if they believe you have the answers.
- Understand Where Your Industry is Headed: If you have your finger on the pulse of your field, you can make better decisions, lead your team effectively, and increase your expert power.
As you apply these five tips to your career, remember to NOT put others down in order to better display your expertise, always recognize the contributions of others, and develop additional leadership qualities. Do all this and you’ll increase your expert power.