Why Good Leaders aren’t Experts

by Wayne Sharer

International speaker, author, and entrepreneur. Retired navy officer, former commanding officer. Over 35 years of leading, coaching, mentoring, and speaking.

August 1, 2018

What do you think of when you hear or use the word expert?

Most might think of an expert as a person who is exceptionally good at what they do. Experts are much better at their expertise than you can ever imagine. Am I close?

When a person is an expert in something that you need help with, you likely are very willing to pay them to help you.

Such grandiose terms do raise suspicions with me. Not that I hate experts, but there is a tendency for a person calling themselves an expert to have limited their growth and openness in their field of expertise. True experts would never do this, but I think you have met many “experts” who won’t take input from anyone.

A leader never does this. A leader seeks ever growing knowledge about the areas where they lead. Leadership requires that you never believe you are that good. Your growth as a leader dictates you never except having ever reached such a pinnacle of knowledge.

A good leader is always looking to move up to the next level, whatever that level may be. No leader must be an expert. To understand more, let’s look at the definition of expert as seen in the Oxford Dictionary:

A person who is very knowledgeable about or skillful in a particular area.

‘an expert in health care’

‘a financial expert’

For an example, the leader of a hospital is typically a skilled and experienced hospital administrator, not a medical doctor. Yet most would say they are an expert in health care. But when you think about it, are they really the true expert?

A hospital administrator has broad knowledge, unlike the neurosurgeon. Neurosurgeons have a very specific knowledge base and expertise. And let’s face it, the neurosurgeon is rarely a leader for you and me.

So, what is a leader an expert in?

Most likely a good leader is not an expert in anything in the sense of the neurosurgeon. The good leader is always seeking the knowledge needed to make the next step and achieve the goal.

A good leader tries to ensure, in developing courses of action, that most present in meetings have much more expertise on various subject matters than themselves. This ensures the best ideas get chosen for the best course of action selection.

Good leaders aren’t experts, they are mavens.

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