What is expert power? (Plus definition, examples and tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 14 November 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Harnessing the knowledge and guidance from an expert is an excellent way to ensure a project succeeds. Expert power is a term used to describe an individual with expertise in a certain specialism who can then use their knowledge and skills to help teams work more efficiently. If you want to harness an expert's knowledge in the workplace, learning about expert power can be beneficial. In this article, we answer 'What is expert power?', outline its benefits and drawbacks, list some expert power examples and provide tips for developing expert power.

What is expert power?

In answer to 'What is expert power?', it refers to the level of expertise and abilities an employee possesses. It looks beyond their level of seniority in an organisation and instead focuses on their understanding of a specific area or subject matter. For example, an employee with intimate knowledge of a specialised piece of software holds expert power if no one else in the company has that knowledge.

Expert power is a useful way for organisations to diversify their employees' skill sets, which helps them overcome workplace challenges and successfully complete projects. Expert power is just one type of power described in the bases of power. The other four types of power include:

  • Legitimate: This is a role-based power that stems from someone's position in the organisation, such as an executive or chief operating officer.

  • Reward: This power stems from an employee's ability to motivate other staff with rewards or incentives.

  • Referent: This is an interpersonal power where a staff member uses their charm, charisma and rapport-building skills to nurture power through work relationships.

  • Coercive: This is the least effective base of power, as it harnesses threats of force to motivate others to do things.

Related: What are areas of expertise? (With definition and examples)

Expert power benefits

Here are the benefits of expert power:

Motivate teams

If you're working in a managerial or team leadership role and you have expert power, you may use this to motivate the team. Teams tend to be much more enthusiastic about a project if they know the person leading the team has expert-level knowledge. The reason for this is that they feel confident that the team leader is making the correct decisions and implementing sound business strategies.

Related: 19 ways to increase staff motivation at work

Advance your career

Having expert power is a useful way to progress your career, as it allows you to provide unique strengths to an organisation. If you find yourself in a position to demonstrate your expertise, then it's likely the organisation's managers or senior leaders may notice. By demonstrating your talents in this way, you can show employers you have useful knowledge and skills, which boosts your reputation and increases the chances of promotion at work.

Related: The best certifications to advance your career

Strengthen teams

If a team has a staff member with expert power working with them, then the team is much more capable of successfully meeting its goals and targets. These individuals help to provide innovation and confidence to the team, which leads to high-quality work. This strengthens teams and gives managers the incentive to assign more projects for teams to complete. Moreover, managers are likely to use employees' expert powers to effectively delegate these tasks, which further strengthens teams.

Expert power drawbacks

Here are the drawbacks of expert power:

Diminishes the more you use it

Although expert power is a great way to improve the overall effectiveness of teams, using it too much may result in it losing its value. If you have expert powers in creating spreadsheets, then team members and other staff may quickly learn about your approach and emulate it. This may lessen your abilities' impact, so it's a good idea to constantly develop new skills to avoid this. It also means you bring new skills and attributes to the team on a semi-regular basis, which helps keep the team agile and innovative.

Requires continuous development

To retain expert power, ensure you perform continuous development. This allows you to develop your skills and make sure your knowledge remains up-to-date. For instance, if you're an expert in a particular application or piece of software, it's crucial to stay up-to-date with any changes in the features or the software's overall functionality.

Related: The differences between career growth vs. development

Limits collaboration

Expert power is useful because it promotes effective decision-making. Holding expert power means it might be necessary for you to make frequent decisions because you have the right level of expertise to make the right choices. This is limiting though, as it hampers collaboration because you rely too heavily on your own judgment over others. Doing this means you may not factor in all issues or considerations. Due to this, try to remain open to input if you have expert power.

Expert power examples

Here are some examples of expert power:

In teams

If a team member is the only one who's fluent in German, they hold expert power in this specialism. This is especially true if the team relies on the ability to speak German to translate documents or work with teams in other countries. If the team benefits from these expert skills, then the employee may consider asking for opportunities to advance in the organisation.

In management

If a manager has expert power in selling products to customers, their skills may help to meet the organisation's goals and successfully complete projects. Managers with these skills are usually better at pitching ideas to senior leaders within an organisation, as they have strong persuasion and rapport-building abilities. Their skills also help in other areas, such as conflict resolution or communication within the team, both of which help guide an organisation's projects to success.

Related: What is a subject matter expert and what do they do?

Tips for developing expert power

To help you develop your own expert power, take a look at the tips below:

Practise consistently

To become an expert in anything, it's crucial to practise to develop the right skills and competencies. One way of doing this is by following a consistent routine that allows you to refine your knowledge and skill set in a particular area. Try to do this at the same time every day and establish milestones for your development. This way, you can track your progress, which may help motivate you to continue developing your skills and knowledge.

Look for learning opportunities

Having expert power means you're constantly honing your skills and developing your expertise further, so look for learning opportunities as much as possible. Self-directed learning is a great way to do this, but there are also more formal frameworks for learning, such as certificate courses, workshops and seminars. You may also find a mentor in your specialism who can offer you their own insight, knowledge and experience from which you can learn. It's also vital to read industry news to stay up-to-date with the latest trends.

Related: What is continuing professional development? (Plus benefits)

Build your confidence

A large part of having expert power involves harnessing the knowledge you have in a way that shows you're confident in your specialism. This doesn't happen instantly, so work on building your confidence until people view you as an expert. To do this, work on your verbal communication skills to allow you to effectively relay information to others. It's also crucial to talk with authority, but without arrogance, so team members find you approachable.

Related: How to build confidence at work

Uphold your credibility

Holding expert power often stems from how people perceive you when you talk about your specialism. Despite this, while you may understand a certain field of study more than others at work, it doesn't mean you know everything. To uphold your credibility as an expert, be mindful of any gaps in your knowledge. Furthermore, focus on what you know and be receptive to what you don't. Experts seek to find a solution or answer, so ensure you take in new information from others who know more about certain topics than you.

Collaborate and share knowledge

If you have expert power, colleagues benefit from using your knowledge and skills as a resource. Due to this, always look for opportunities to collaborate and share your knowledge with your colleagues. You may do this in a few ways, such as by acting as a mentor, providing presentations about your chosen topic or posting information and insights on social media platforms.

Demonstrate your expertise

If you want others to see you as an expert, it's critical to learn how to demonstrate your expertise. There are a few different ways to do this, but the most effective way is through documented attainment. This includes things like degrees, certifications and other forms of qualifications that highlight your abilities and knowledge. To demonstrate these achievements, consider hanging certificates on the wall or including them on your professional social media profile page. When doing this, try not to flaunt them so you appear humble about your achievements.

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