Are you suffering from the curse of expertise? - Michelle Gibbings

We need experts.  People who are knowledgeable in their field of speciality, and able to solve complex problems.  They’ve spent years honing their craft, studying ideas and stretching their mind.

Research shows that experts solve problems differently to people who aren’t experts.  They are able to quickly recognise relevant information, analyse the problem, and develop solutions.

As with all expertise there is a limit to a person’s knowledge and it’s helpful to know where it starts and stops.

Leaders in organisations face this conundrum.  They are often hired because of their expertise, and yet as they move through different roles that expertise may become less relevant or dated.

It’s also likely a time will come in their career when they are no longer the expert.

This isn’t easy.  If you are used to being seen as the expert and feeling like you know more than others, it can be hard to say “I don’t know”.  It can be hard to admit that you are not the expert anymore.

As a leader you can feel as though you should have the answers, and worry that if you don’t you’ll lose credibility and respect with peers, colleagues and your team.

Whether that happens or not, depends on how you view this situation – because there is an upside.

When you realise and accept that you don’t have all the answers and get comfortable with that fact you can take a more open approach to decision making.

You’ll seek out the people who are experts in the required field – ask questions, be curious and learn from them.

You’ll also be open to hearing ideas from a range of people – not just the people you usually talk to or listen to.

These are traits that build engagement and connection with colleagues and team members.  They’ll see that you are genuinely interested in their opinion and ideas.

Rather than being seen as closed to new ideas and learning, you’ll be seen as a forward thinker and someone who is willing to constantly learn and to have their opinions tested.

As you do this reflect on the quote from Marcus Aurelius, one of Rome’s greatest Emperors who said:  “Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”

Change happens.  Make it work for you.


Michelle Gibbings is a change leadership and career expert and founder of Change Meridian.  Michelle works with global leaders and teams to help them accelerate progress. She is the Author of ‘Step Up: How to Build Your Influence at Work’.  For more information: or contact .