What is Expert Power and How Can You Develop It?

Are you a developing business leader looking to advance your career and increase your influence within your organization? One of the most important types of power you can cultivate is expert power.

In this post, we‘ll dive into exactly what expert power is, why it‘s so crucial for success, and specific strategies you can use to build and wield your expert power to reach your full potential as a leader.

Defining Expert Power

At its core, expert power is a form of influence that comes from possessing deep knowledge, experience, and skill in a particular domain. When you have expert power, people trust your opinions, seek your advice, and look to you for guidance because they respect your credibility and see you as an authority.

Some key traits of expert power include:

  • Subject matter expertise in a specific field or topic
  • Extensive experience and a proven track record of success
  • Specialized skills or capabilities that are in high demand
  • Credentials, certifications, or qualifications that validate your expertise
  • Thought leadership and a reputation for being on the cutting edge

Expert power is distinct from other types of power, like formal authority that comes from your position, or referent power based on relationships and charisma. With expert power, your influence comes directly from your knowledge and competence.

As John Maxwell puts it, "Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less." And one of the purest ways to build influence is by mastering your craft and being able to solve problems that nobody else can.

The Importance of Expert Power in Today‘s Economy

In today‘s fast-paced, knowledge-driven economy, expert power is more important than ever for career success and business performance. Consider these statistics:

  • According to LinkedIn, the top skills companies need most in 2020 are all knowledge-based, including creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability, and emotional intelligence.
  • A study by Gartner found that 27% of key priorities for HR leaders in 2020 involve developing critical skills and competencies, including upskilling and reskilling employees.
  • The World Economic Forum predicts that by 2022, 54% of all employees will require significant re- and upskilling to keep pace with technological change and new job requirements.
  • In a survey by Deloitte, 86% of C-suite executives said that developing new skills and capabilities is one of their top priorities for navigating Industry 4.0.

The data is clear – to stay competitive and relevant in today‘s market, you need to be continuously sharpening your expertise and mastering new domains. Your knowledge is your most valuable asset.

But expert power isn‘t just important for your own career growth – it‘s also essential for driving business results. A Bersin by Deloitte study found that companies with high-impact learning cultures, where employees are constantly developing new skills, are:

  • 92% more likely to innovate
  • 58% more prepared to meet future demand
  • 17% more profitable than their peers

By cultivating expert power across your organization, you can build a future-ready workforce that is agile, innovative, and able to adapt to change. As a leader, your own expert power sets the tone and provides a model for others to follow.

Cultivating Your Expert Power: A Step-by-Step Guide

So how can you go about intentionally building your expert power over time? It‘s not something that happens overnight, but rather requires consistent effort and focus. Here‘s a roadmap you can follow:

Timeframe Key Actions
0-6 months – Assess your current knowledge and skills
– Identify areas for growth and learning
– Seek out mentors and experts to learn from
– Take on stretch projects to build new capabilities
– Share your knowledge with others through teaching or writing
6-12 months – Develop a personal learning plan
– Pursue certifications or credentials in your field
– Lead a major project or initiative showcasing your expertise
– Speak at industry events or conferences
– Build your professional network with other experts
1-3 years – Become a thought leader by publishing content
– Develop a strong personal brand tied to your expertise
– Take on a leadership role where you can shape strategy
– Mentor and develop other rising stars
– Measure and communicate your impact and results
3-5 years – Gain recognition as a leading expert in your industry
– Pursue board seats or advisory roles
– Author a book or create a signature methodology
– Launch your own consulting practice or business
– Invest in the next generation of experts and leaders

The key is to think about developing your expert power as a long-term investment in yourself. It‘s not about achieving a certain title or position, but rather about mastering your craft and making a meaningful impact over time.

Expert Power in Action: Real-World Examples

To bring the concept of expert power to life, let‘s look at a few real-world examples of business leaders who exemplify it:

Laszlo Bock, Former SVP of People Operations at Google

Laszlo Bock is a prime example of someone who built expert power by developing deep expertise in a specialized domain. Over his 10-year career at Google, he grew the company‘s workforce from 6,000 to 76,000 employees and built a world-class HR function that became the gold standard for the tech industry.

Bock‘s expert power came from his mastery of people analytics, using data to inform HR decisions and create an exceptional employee experience. He was able to influence not just his own team, but the entire company‘s culture and people strategy.

As a result of his expert power, Bock became a highly sought-after speaker and thought leader, authoring the bestselling book "Work Rules!" and advising companies around the world on how to build thriving workforces.

Indra Nooyi, Former Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo

Indra Nooyi is another powerful example of expert power in action. Over her 24-year career at PepsiCo, including 12 years as CEO, she used her deep expertise in strategy and innovation to transform the company and deliver strong results.

Nooyi‘s expert power was rooted in her ability to anticipate consumer trends and position PepsiCo for the future. She spearheaded the company‘s transition into healthier food and beverage options, while also investing in sustainability and talent development.

As a result of her vision and expertise, Nooyi was consistently ranked as one of the most powerful women in business, and PepsiCo‘s market capitalization grew from $35 billion to $63.5 billion during her tenure.

Sallie Krawcheck, CEO and Co-Founder of Ellevest

Sallie Krawcheck is a powerful example of someone who has built expert power across multiple domains. After rising through the ranks on Wall Street, including serving as CEO of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management and CFO of Citi, she pivoted to become a leading advocate for women‘s financial empowerment.

Krawcheck‘s expert power comes from her deep understanding of the financial industry, as well as her insights on the unique challenges and opportunities facing women investors. She has used this expertise to build Ellevest, a digital investment platform for women, and to become a sought-after speaker and thought leader on the topic.

By leveraging her expert power, Krawcheck has not only built a successful business, but also helped to drive systemic change and empower a new generation of women leaders.

Cultivating Expert Power as a Leader

As a developing leader, building your own expert power is essential for your career growth and your ability to drive results. But it‘s also important to cultivate a culture of expertise within your team and organization. Some strategies to consider:

  • Encourage continuous learning and development through training programs, mentoring, and stretch assignments
  • Create opportunities for knowledge sharing, such as brown bag lunches or internal blogs
  • Recognize and reward employees who develop new skills and share their expertise with others
  • Foster a growth mindset and encourage risk-taking and experimentation
  • Partner with universities, research institutions, or industry groups to stay on the cutting edge

By making expertise a core part of your culture, you‘ll not only build your own expert power, but also create a team of experts who can drive innovation and adapt to change.

The renowned management consultant Peter Drucker once said, "The only sustainable competitive advantage is an organization‘s ability to learn faster than the competition." By prioritizing expert power, you can create that advantage and set yourself and your organization up for long-term success.

The Future of Expert Power

As we look to the future, it‘s clear that expert power will only become more important in the years ahead. With the rapid pace of technological change and the increasing complexity of business challenges, deep expertise will be a key differentiator.

We‘re also seeing a shift towards more specialized, niche roles and a greater emphasis on lifelong learning and upskilling. According to a report by the McKinsey Global Institute, "The need for manual and physical skills, as well as basic cognitive ones, will decline, but demand for technological, social and emotional, and higher cognitive skills will grow."

In other words, the most valuable experts of the future will be those who can combine deep technical knowledge with strong interpersonal and leadership skills. They‘ll be the ones who can not only solve complex problems, but also communicate their ideas effectively, build strong relationships, and inspire and motivate others.

As Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, puts it, "The most critical skills for the future will be knowing how to work with people, how to collaborate, how to build relationships. That‘s what creates innovation and that‘s what creates value."

So as you work to build your expert power, don‘t neglect the human side of the equation. Focus on developing your emotional intelligence, communication skills, and ability to lead and influence others. By combining technical expertise with strong leadership capabilities, you‘ll be well-positioned to thrive in the workplace of the future.


In today‘s fast-paced, knowledge-driven economy, expert power is an essential tool for career success and business impact. By intentionally developing your expertise and using it to solve problems and drive results, you can become a respected leader and make a lasting impact in your field.

Remember, building expert power is a long-term game. It requires consistent effort, a commitment to lifelong learning, and a willingness to share your knowledge with others. But the payoff is well worth it – not just for your own career growth, but for the success of your team and your organization.

As you work to cultivate your expert power, keep in mind the words of Eleanor Roosevelt: "Learn from the mistakes of others. You can‘t live long enough to make them all yourself." Seek out mentors, collaborators, and fellow experts who can help you grow and challenge you to be your best.

And don‘t forget to pay it forward by sharing your own expertise and investing in the next generation of leaders. By building a culture of expertise and continuous learning, you can create a virtuous cycle that benefits everyone.

So go forth and build your expert power. Your future self – and your future organization – will thank you.