By Aoife Gorey
You do not have to be a genius to become an expert. You just need to work a little harder than anyone else at doing so.
As you can read in Leadership Charisma, our research demonstrated that employees found leaders who were focused on their own personal development charismatic. Those leaders who displayed a clear commitment to their own ongoing development, who continually sought to improve themselves and their knowledge, were more charismatic than those who did not.
That research also showed that leaders who appeared creative – approaching their jobs with imagination and originality, taking bold, calculated risks, or inspiring innovation – were also highly charismatic. There is undoubtedly a certain creative spark that some people have and others don’t, but knowledge and a high level of expertise can go a long way to enabling any leader to be much more creative – and therefore charismatic – in the eyes of his or her people.
This was pretty much as we had expected. All of the existing charisma research we reviewed before we started our own study indicated that a very common attribute of charismatic people is an expert reputation. Those with a charismatic persona are generally viewed as having above-average expertise or ability in some key area that is of interest to those who find them charismatic. It’s easy to see why others would find expertise attractive. We would all like to perform at above-average levels and the opportunity either to learn from people who do, or even just to be associated with them and the results they achieve, makes them attractive. Expertise is a common component of charisma.
Before we look at how you can build a reputation as an expert, let’s first define an expert – in what some might think are somewhat cynical terms. For our purposes, an expert is simply someone who is seen to know more than the majority of people on any topic. So to be an expert you do not have to know everything about your chosen topic, just more than the majority of people around you.
So how do you become an expert? Two basic steps:
1. Develop your expertise continually
How do you achieve this? Read. It’s that simple. Almost everyone around you tells themselves that they no longer have the time to read as much as they’d like (though the reality is that they’ve just made something else a higher priority). If you wish to build expert power you need to read much more than anyone else on your topic. Stay on top of your industry, read widely, and educate yourself so that you are as up to date as anyone else on developments in your industry or profession.
“Read books. Read websites. Read other people. Circle the pitfalls and highlight the opportunities. Then build a vision of how it all could be better and work like hell to make it happen”– Michael Dell, founder, Dell Inc.
If yours is a broad-ranging profession, then select a strategically important slice of industry to focus on. Pick the topic that is of most critical importance to whomever it is you would like to find you charismatic. Remember, charisma is about others’ perceptions. Make it a goal to become the authority on that segment – first in your immediate group, then in your organization, afterward in your region, then in your country – and, ultimately, in the world.
Focus on those books that specifically address the newest developments in your field, the most innovative new approaches to addressing the key challenges in the target segment of your profession or business. The more you study the latest trends and developments in your field, the greater the distance you put between yourself and your peers. Most people learn about new developments third or fourth hand. By reading the latest works in your field before your peers, you steal a march on most people you’ll encounter.
Set a goal of reading one of these books per week. That’s 50 books per year. Your reading rate will increase with practice, but it takes 30-60 minutes per day, six to seven days per week to read a typical book.
Buy your books monthly and take the time to select the four or five each month that are the freshest and most relevant available at that point in time.
We strongly recommend e-book readers (e.g., the Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, or the Sony Reader) as an aid to this objective. With these excellent devices you get instant online access to just about any decent new book that hits the market. Not only do you have instant access, but the books also tend to be less expensive than their paper counter parts (especially when you factor in the cost of shipping or the time to go book shopping). Most e-book readers also have a very nifty feature that allows you to highlight passages in the books you read, and even add your own notes – with a view to later exporting those passages for use in your word processor, for example. A great investment!
How do you stay ahead of the curve in your business and/or industry? Do you have any expert advice to share with us?