Expert Power: How To Cultivate It in Your Organization

CoachHub · 18 October 2022 · 4 min read

What is expert power?

Expert power refers to the power acquired by one’s unique skills and abilities. An individual with expert power is assumed to have a higher level of knowledge and experience and so, has greater influence over others.

Having a formal leadership position or managerial title does not guarantee expert power, nor does it mean you are in a leadership position. Any employee that has specialized skills that no other employee possesses has expert power. The key to attaining it is being the only employee offering an organization a particular skill.

APA Dictionary of Psychology defines expert power as “a capacity to influence others that is based on the assumption that the influencer is highly skilled”.

Why is expert power important?

Expert power usually stems from hard work and sacrifice. When this type of power is prominent in the workplace there is an organic culture of respect and cooperation between employees on all levels.

It is a legitimate form of power that is ethically acquired and naturally commands respect. Employees are inspired to work hard by the achievements of the experts rather than being controlled by fear of punishment as seen with other forms of power such as coercive power.

Expert power was first defined in French and Raven’s 1959 paper ‘The Bases of Social Power’. The paper claims that “the more legitimate the coercion the less it will produce resistance and decreased attraction”. Developing experts in your organization fuels a positive power structure that is driven by ethical and highly skilled individuals.

Benefits of expert power

  • Ethical method of power acquisition
  • Employees are more open to direction from experts
  • >​​Opens employees up to better opportunities
  • More efficient decision making 
  • Unique insights into problems
  • The workforce has a competitive advantage
  • Employees learn from the unique skills and experience of experts

Drawbacks of expert power

  • Experts may fear the loss of power should they share their knowledge
  • May result in knowledge hiding
  • Respect and power diminish if other employees upskill 
  • Innovation will suffer over time if knowledge is not shared
  • Experts must constantly develop their skills and ensure they are the only
expert power

How to cultivate expert power within your organization

Attract the right talent

Attracting good talent will contribute to the level of expertise within the organization. The recruitment department must be on board with the company’s intentions to develop expert power. Training recruitment teams to recognize experts or potential experts and offering incentivizing packages will increase the number of experts you attract into your organization.

Develop existing talent

Invest in your employee’s learning and development with training courses and educational grants. Not only will this increase engagement, motivation and retention, but will also develop the talents of existing employees to eventually reach expert status. Offering a digital coaching program is also an excellent way to accelerate the development of experts in your organization. A coach can help employees identify areas to specialize in, set objectives and guide their development toward ethically attaining expert power.

Retain experts

Know who the experts are within the organization and invest in them. It is vital to retain the experts that are already present. Experts are constantly learning so invest in their education and training and offer them coaching programs to increase their company loyalty.

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How to develop expert power personally

Define your practice

What exactly do you want to be an expert in? The first step is to clarify what area or practice you want to specialize in. Evaluate your strengths, have a clear understanding of your industry and know the skill gap in the workforce. Make an informed and well-thought-out decision and devote your focus to this area. Working with an experienced coach can help you highlight your objectives and define a path to becoming an expert.

Improve skills and education

Once you have defined your area of expertise you must begin to acquire the expert-level skills and knowledge necessary to attain expert power. Invest in courses, read the material and work with a coach to keep you on track. The key is gaining the skills that nobody else can offer so focus on developing the skills that nobody within your organization has.

Learn from existing experts

Study your industry and identify existing experts. Understand how they reached their level of expertise and learn from their experience. Finding a coach that specializes in coaching experts in your field can be very beneficial.

Cultivate an expert reputation

Begin to create an image of an expert within your team. Be proactive in problem-solving and decision-making. Offer yourself as a mentor and volunteer for any training opportunities. Remain calm in a crisis and confident in your abilities. Be willing to help others, maintain credibility and give expert advice to your teammates.

Always be learning

Becoming an expert in any field is a continuous commitment and a life-long journey. You must constantly stay informed on industry changes and changes within your organization to ensure you maintain your ‘expert edge’. Develop a continuous practice of learning and upskilling.

In conclusion

Expert power is a valuable asset to any organization. This type of power inspires employees to reach a high level of skill and knowledge while ensuring that power structures are legitimate and ethically earned. Knowledge hiding may become common but this can be eased by providing security and increasing the personal power of your experts. Coaching can play a vital role in nurturing your employees to reach expert-level status. Providing a consistent coaching program retains talented employees and accelerates the growth of their expert power.

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Cathy Stapleton
Cathy is an Irish writer based in Berlin, Germany who is passionate about using words to inspire growth. As a certified mindfulness facilitator and performance coach, Cathy aims to create work that helps people connect with themselves and heighten their awareness. When she is not writing she is usually running in nature, meditating or contemplating an existential crisis.

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