What is Expert Power? | The Center for Leadership Studies

What is Expert Power?

Consider Expert power as the relative extent to which you have “been there … and done that!” Think normal distribution curve. If the area under the curve is populated by all the people that do the same thing you do, your position on that curve is dictated by your comparative knowledge and documented skill (as determined by some sort of objective analysis other than your own!).

In the medical community, physicians that have earned that distinction are commonly referred to as “thought leaders.” In trial law, prosecutors and defense attorneys routinely call expert witnesses to add credibility to their case. Other industries use the term “subject matter expert” or “SME.” It simply means that, for the topic under discussion, they are a qualified specialist with a reliable track record.

Developing Expert power is a function of:

  1. Pinpointing Your Passion: It stands to reason that no one can become an expert in everything (although we have all met people we could not wait to get away from who were convinced they were!). Acquiring expertise requires a special level of enthusiasm, desire and zeal (not to mention discipline, sacrifice and goal-centered direction). That journey should be reserved for the aspects of career development that satisfy those criteria.
  2. Planning Your Progression: Developing recognized expertise is both a strategic and tactical endeavor. Regardless of your field of endeavor you will be presented with several options (e.g., formal education, self-paced study, apprenticeship, on-the-job training, etc.). Each option has merit. Each option introduces obstacles. A recommended first step is to develop a long-term plan that accounts for the contingencies of your unique circumstances.
  3. Experience Augmenting Education: If you or a member of your family needed surgery and you were fortunate enough to select the surgeon, how would you make that decision? Without question the formal education of the candidates would play some role in your decision. But, in all likelihood, the track record of each surgeon, under pressure, over time, with similar patients would be all you cared about. When it comes to establishing Expert power, learning is one thing—doing is another!