If you are a leader, you have power. If you are an aspiring leader, or informal leader, you will need it. Power is about influence. It is about achieving results.
Expert power is a lifelong commitment to knowledge or subject matter expertise. Gaining power thru knowledge is not as easy as it once was…years ago a person could focus on one deep area of knowledge and be influential.
Today it’s also about serial learning. It’s not just about being deep in one area. (Example of an "M" versus a "T".)
Beyond the knowledge of your expertise, there is the building of your brand. Because if you aren’t in a position to leverage your knowledge, where is the return on your investment?
And my disclaimer in the use of this power is it can be used for good or evil. I’ve seen people, teams and organizations held hostage by the abuse of expert power. Meaning that an individual created damaging consequences because of their action or inaction…whether this was the hoarding of knowledge or a refusal to mentor, either way the power wasn’t used effectively.
Here are 5 ways to use expert power constructively:
1. Establish your unique combination of knowledge and skills. Consider what makes you valuable to your role, team and organization. Who are the experts in your field? What is their combination of genius? Write down 10 areas of strength, and then consider the combination of factors that allow you to contribute to your team or organization in a way that is powerful and impactful.
2. Never stop learning, focus on continuous knowledge. Always find something to learn. Then own your growth. Do your research, don’t just ask, tell them the value that will be gained based on the learning experience. Help others to understand how the learning will be relevant and applicable. Help them to see the contributions you will make based on the investment. This is your job.
3. Be an excellent trouble shooter. Use your knowledge and expertise to solve problems. Be at the ready when called on to use your unique set of skills, to leverage your knowledge. Make sure you know the problem clearly before weighing in on a solution. Meaning, understand the gap between what is and what your stakeholder needs, then provide sound, logical and meaningful input towards a solution. Which ties to #4.
4. Be aware of your biases, be transparent with your opinions and assumptions. Example: leadership classes, biases about learning design, facilitation and content. I have to check my experience at the door. I need to open myself up to exploring new options, alternative practices, and many opinions about leadership or management that may not align with mine. It’s important that I revisit my beliefs and knowledge. To discover openly and honestly what I have yet to learn. And I will always find something.
5. Actively mentor and coach, while staying humble and kind. Is it a little scary to share your expertise, putting you in the position of irrelevance? Absolutely not. Because this is about your collective brand, something that you bring to the table beyond the knowledge, the way you share it, encourage others to learn and grow. It’s about having the patience to mentor, which not everyone has. It’s about coaching with kindness and humility building the confidence and competence of those around you.
Leadership is about results. And to get results you have to influence others. Using expert power is a fantastic platform for leadership when executed thoughtfully and intentionally. Keep these 5 tips in mind to be the one that everyone not only turns to, but actually wants to seek out for guidance, wisdom and support.
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