Table of Contents
- Expert Power Definition
- Expert Power Example
- Expert Power: Advantages and Disadvantages
- Tips to Build Expert Power in Leadership Positions
- Lesson Summary
When a person holds power, they possess control or authority over others and have the ability to influence. The concept of power can exist in myriad forms and environments and can range from something as simple as telling a child when to go to bed to deciding a national law. The expert power definition encompasses the same authority but exists within organizations.
An expert is defined as someone with a special skill or superior knowledge. Expert power is perceived power held by a leader or authority figure based on a specific topic with information or a skill that no one else possesses. Those without the skill or knowledge are beholden to this expert to guide them in various ways. This perception is based on the expert's perceived and or actual level of knowledge and unique skill sets.
The expert power definition is not limited to organizational leaders, as power structures exist in many different forms and places. Anyone within an organization that has expert knowledge or a skill set others don't possess can hold this form of power. From team captains in sports to the directors of Homeland Security in the White House, expert power exists to maintain order, inform, inspire, and create efficiency.
Expert power is important because it does the following:
Expert power can manifest in myriad ways and there are various intersections of expert knowledge that people can hold. Here is one expert power example to showcase the definition and intersections of power.
Lawyers are highly skilled professionals who possess knowledge bases that vary. They can be experts in different fields including intellectual property, real estate law, and criminal law to name a few. A lawyer will most likely be an expert in one field as opposed to many because of the knowledge needed for each type of practice.
Take criminal law for example. Criminal lawyers are experts in this field, but within this group, there will be those who are deemed expert powers. If someone has tried and won more cases, or they work for a big-name firm that many know to be successful, these few may be looked at as superior to those who also practice the same kind of law. Here, the perception of power is just as important as the actual skill sets and knowledge when defining and perceiving expert power.
However, computer processing and spreadsheets might not be a lawyer's forte. Therefore, in a situation where data is needed, they may turn to an administrative assistant or intern who understands a database system such as Microsoft Access. In this case, the assistant or intern holds the expert power as the lawyer cannot complete their job without the data. While we may have a perceived bias that lawyers are more knowledgeable or powerful than administrative assistants or interns, in this situation, the lawyer's assistant holds expert power and the dynamic is flipped.
If the intern or assistant takes the time to teach the lawyer how to use the database, the lawyer will be less reliant on the assistant for that task, removing the expert power structure from the assistant. In this case, it puts the lawyer and the assistant on a level playing field for this particular function because the assistant's power has been diminished or removed. However, if the lawyer and the assistant both share their knowledge and push each other to learn and grow, they can create an efficient team that can help them both succeed at their respective duties and boost their confidence based on shared knowledge and trust.
A lawyer who is an expert in their field might also turn to an expert witness in a case, such as a medical professional, to help prove their argument. The lawyer uses their expert power to find another which will ultimately help their overall authority look good.
Like most things, expert power can have its advantages and disadvantages. When it comes to expert power in management styles, there are various ways in which experts in their respective fields can help and hurt an organization. Check out the lists below to learn how expert power can help and hinder.
Whether someone is an expert power in leadership or they are looking to become an expert power in a leadership role, there are various ways to acquire knowledge, new skill sets, and new organizational opportunities.
1. Education: Whether it's through an online class, night school, or full-time degree program, furthering a person's education can build their expert knowledge base. Reading books, subscribing to daily email chains, and taking classes of any kind will help build expert power.
2. Mentorships: While educational materials are important when it comes to expert knowledge, life experience is just as valuable. Working under an expert in the field and learning from their experiences can strengthen both a person's skill sets and knowledge base. Asking to interview a known expert, shadowing a knowledgeable employee, and interning at a well-known organization are all ways to gain expert power.
3. Various Learning Opportunities: Consistently attending training seminars, workshops, think tanks, and job opportunities can all grow a person's expert knowledge, especially when it comes to keeping up to date with new information. It's one thing to go to school and learn a trade; it's another when it comes to keeping up to date on the latest information and tools which is crucial to harnessing and maintaining expert power.
While these opportunities are great for both those looking to gain expert power and for those who have it and want to maintain the power dynamic, there are other ways to learn on the job, too. Reaching out to current expert powers in leadership and seeking new opportunities to grow and learn, such as taking on a new project or working under someone with more knowledge, are great ways to boost your exposure and perceived power. Asking for professional development opportunities is another solid way to gain exposure with leaders and learn on the job about how to better your knowledge base to propel your career forward.
Whether it's a leader of an organization or someone on the team, anyone can use their unique knowledge to create expert power. Leaders can share what they know with others to help productivity and create a highly efficient and knowledgeable staff. This can shift the balance of power, diminish the power of the expert, and ultimately benefit the staff and the organization. The more the staff knows, the more productive they can be.
Employees can also work with leaders within the organization to show off their talents and create new spaces for their unique skill sets. Don't be afraid to ask for a new opportunity or present one to management. Those perceived as subordinates can also hold expert power and have a right to share and add their own levels of expertise.
When both leaders and employees with expert knowledge come together, organizations can grow, run more efficiently, become more organized, and create a positive work environment for all.
While power is the control or authority someone has over others, expert power is based on the perceived notion that a person in an organization has knowledge or skill sets that are superior to others. Expert power is typically seen in leaders within an organization, but anyone with knowledge or a skill set that others don't possess can hold a position of expert power.
Expert power can have advantages, such as providing support, increasing productivity and efficiency, and sparking inspiration. Expert power can also have its disadvantages, such as misuse, false perceptions, and toxic workplaces.
To cultivate expert power, a person can do the following:
When both leaders and employees with unique knowledge and skill sets work together, an organization can run more efficiently and effectively by creating a team-centered workplace.
To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account
Already a member? Log InBack
I would definitely recommend Study.com to my colleagues. It’s like a teacher waved a magic wand and did the work for me. I feel like it’s a lifeline.