Have you heard the expression that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to make you an expert?
That's approximately 417 days if you were practicing 24 hours a day. Since that's impossible, calculating about 3-4 hours a day of deliberate practice, it would take around 8-10 years to be considered an expert at something.
Yet, perceived expertise is different. Much of the time we consider people at our company experts in a certain field, even if they haven't been in that field for 10 years yet.
That's because they have expert power.
In this post, we'll discuss what expert power is and how you can develop it as a leader.
Examples of Expert Power
If you work in a corporate setting, those who are at the director level or above often have expert power since they've risen to their position presumably because of their extensive knowledge and experience. Many times those who have expert power are in positions of leadership, however, this doesn't always have to be the case.
Expert power is situational and anyone can have it in different areas. As a millennial, growing up with technology, I'm often perceived as an expert in social media. After talking to me and hearing me discuss my love of reality TV, I'm usually given expert power in pop culture as well.
On the other hand, if I was talking to my uncle, who is in a high leadership position in finance, I would have no expert power in that scenario. Expert power can switch dynamics depending on the subject matter.
When you have expert power at work, you'll stand out in your career, rise the ranks to leadership, and display confidence in your area of expertise because of your high skill level.
With expert power, you'll be trusted with high-pressure decisions and you'll feel more confident in your ability to make those decisions because of your expertise. Now, let's discuss the benefits of having expert power.
Benefits of Expert Power
1. Streamlined business decisions.
With expert power comes the ability to make more informed, streamlined decisions for your company. The longer you do something, and the more you focus on your education in that area, the better decisions you'll make, and the more confident you'll be in those decisions.
For example, when I was first getting started in writing, my process wasn't refined or streamlined. It took me much longer to complete writing tasks. Now that I've been a writer for over 10 years, I can write much quicker, and make better decisions in my writing. I know when I'm researching what to include and what not to include. That confidence and ability come with time, continuously working with my mentors and managers on my skills, and getting consistent feedback.
When you have expert power in a certain area, your decisions are more streamlined, quicker, confident, and efficient.
2. Opportunity for career advancement.
One of the main benefits of expert power in the workplace is the ability to advance your career (hopefully at an accelerated pace). When you're getting started in your career, a great thing to do is spend a lot of time learning and developing your expertise.
Once it becomes clear that you're focused on a certain area and developing certain skills, you'll have perceived expert power and be able to advance your career. Personally, I've been able to achieve promotions and advance my career because of my expert power in writing.
3. Developed leadership skills.
Besides gaining confidence and being able to further your career, you'll also be developing your leadership skills, which will be a huge benefit to your career. While I might not have expert power in something like engineering, I'm confident in my ability to lead a team of writers, because I've worked on enough teams and been doing this for a certain amount of time.
However, it's important to note that just because you're an expert in a certain field doesn't mean you'll necessarily be a good leader. That's why it's important to continue developing expert power and leadership skills. Let's dive into how to do that below.
1. Deliberate practice.
Becoming an expert in your field doesn't mean that you can just show up and achieve expertise through osmosis. You have to be deliberately practicing and studying. This means that the first step to developing expert power is to practice, practice, practice. Whether it's a tactical skill like construction or a conceptual skill like business strategy, you need to immerse yourself in the world. This means you might have to work an entry-level job to gain real-world experience in your industry.
2. Work with mentors and leaders.
The best way to continue developing your expert power is to work with mentors and leaders from who you can learn. Having a mentor means soaking up their knowledge, asking them for tips and advice, discussing what's going well in your career and what isn't going well, and then just listening. Expertise comes from experience and you can benefit from listening to the stories of other people's experiences. Additionally, you'll gain leadership skills by studying how your mentors lead others.
3. Volunteer your expertise.
Whatever level of expertise you have, don't be afraid to share it. If you work in a corporate setting and are a developing business leader, share your experiences and what you've learned when your team is discussing strategy. Don't be afraid to enter those conversations. Not only will people begin to realize that you're an expert in a certain area, but you'll also learn a lot from other people's feedback.
4. Never stop being a student in your industry.
To be an expert in something you also have to be a student in that industry. If you stop being a student, then your expertise will expire. You should read books, stay up to date with the news and trends in your field, and volunteer for projects at your workplace so you can soak up knowledge. That's how you'll truly develop expert power and maintain it.
5. Keep your credibility.
You'll only have expert power if you have credibility in your field. Maintaining your ethics and reliability is of vast importance because expert power only comes to those who can be trusted to make strategic business decisions on an ongoing basis. If your expertise is haphazard you won't have perceived power from those around you.
6. Work in a fast-paced environment.
A great way to develop expert power is to work in a fast-paced environment and learn to make strategic, decisive choices quickly. This means keeping yourself cool, calm, and collected in the face of a critical situation. With this experience, you'll develop excellent expert power and leadership skills.
7. Lead with HEART.
At HubSpot, our culture is defined by having HEART — Humble, Empathetic, Adaptable, Remarkable, Transparent. We have a culture of amazing, growth-minded people whose values include using good judgment and solving for the customer. These traits will help you develop expert power because you'll be remarkable in your industry, but also humble enough to adapt and listen to those who have expert power in areas that you don't.
8. Be solution-oriented.
Something I'm always trying to develop as an aspiring business leader is to be solution-oriented. When you come to your manager with a problem, have a few solutions ready as well. This will help you develop your expert power because you'll get immediate feedback from your manager on your solutions. They'll be able to tell you from their experience if those solutions will work, and then you'll level up your expertise with every problem you face.
Expert power is something that is hugely important for aspiring business leaders because it's this power that gives you the ability to lead with confidence and humility. With those two things, you'll be successful in whatever industry you choose.