6 Things Experts Don’t Have To Be
By Douglas R Kruger
A while back, I had a run-in with a person who felt very strongly that experts shouldn’t have personalities. A saucy but relatively nominal joke on my personal Facebook page had her up in arms and she tore into me, essentially saying, ‘You are supposed to display perfect behavior as a moral role-model.’
Quite aside from the fact that I’ve never purported to be a moral role model (Shades of Rihanna, shaking her head and saying, ‘But I’m a pop star! Why do you think I should even be a role model?), my observation has been that the world’s leading icons can be quite controversial.
Please don’t misunderstand: I’m not advocating biting the heads off chickens as a means to fame. And I have very strong views on many moral issues, alongside a deep repulsion for anything that causes harm to another living being. But that’s got nothing to do with my positioning as an industry expert.
When we start out in building our careers, we think that squeaky clean is important. But it turns out; you do not have to behave like an asexual, issue-neutral, politically correct mannequin with an evergreen, static smile to become an industry icon. In fact, these behaviours are designed to make an individual fade safely into the background, which is the very opposite of expert positioning.
Experts stand out. They become highly noticeable on purpose. They have strong viewpoints, strong personalities and there is simply no ignoring them.
I would contend that there are 6 things that experts don’t have to be:
1. Politically Correct
Experts have strong viewpoints, and are brave enough to speak beyond the diluted niceties of herd mentality, expressing real ideas, rather than replicating popular memes. That’s why people listen to them. There’s something different, something real going on there.
2. Sugary Sweet
Experts are not first-grade schoolteachers. And when they try to be, they will appeal only to entry-level audiences and thus limit their own careers. True icons, who lead industries, have to display personalities sufficiently large in scale and stature that the big names in that industry are willing to follow. As a fairly extreme example, Gordon Ramsay may be harsh, but there is no doubt that he is an industry heavy hitter.
Watch their shows. Attend their talks. Read their work. Experts are people with very low tolerance for hiding behind custom and time-wasting formality. They have a strong desire to get to the ‘real’ very quickly, and formality can get in the way. They are often saucy, controversial, quick-witted, playful, energetic, cheeky and fun, but rarely are they buttoned down suits… with the possible exception of Donald Trump, but his hair makes up for that.
Sometimes ‘effective’ is much more important than ‘perfect.’ Think of it this way: You have one aspiring writer who agonizes over crafting perfect literature, while another aspiring writer just focuses on telling darn good stories. A few years down the line, the ‘perfect’ writer can’t understand why such a ‘hack’ is such a success, while he has yet to be noticed. My writing is clearly superior! But sometimes it’s not about perfection. It’s about results.
Quick Test: Name the most highly qualified doctor you know. Go!
Couldn’t think of a single one? Now name a doctor on television…
Academic qualifications are only a means of entry into an industry. In and of themselves, they do not position you as an expert; they merely make you another practitioner. Many industries don’t even require them and many top experts are self-taught.
I personally love the Biblical verse that says, ‘Seek knowledge and cling to her,’ and I do have a degree, but I would argue that academic-style thinking can actually be a hindrance to expert positioning. It can often be too staid. To be good at business, add knowledge. To be great at business, add theatre.
6. Industry Stereotypes
If you walk, talk and quack like everyone else in your industry, you will be accepted, but you will not be iconic. Trying to copy others is a recipe for incestuous thinking. The thought-pool only gets smaller and smaller as everyone buys into the stereotype. Then along comes a maverick who refuses to conform, and smashes the industry wide open. Ironically, thereafter, everyone starts copying the maverick, who has set the new standard.
Don’t follow the leaders. Be the maverick. Be the true original, who brings difference and distinction. There is great equity and marketing clout in being a true original.
So, what was the Facebook joke that started the storm? Well, my wife and I were watching Nigella Lawson’s cooking show on TV. I posted a photo, along with the caption, ‘My wife is watching a cooking show, and I’m watching porn. And it’s the same show.’
Naughty! You can’t say that… !
Douglas Kruger is a professional speaker and author who encourages people to think. He speaks on Expert Positioning and the misunderstood link between work and wealth. He is a 5x winner of the SA Championships for Public Speaking and the author of three books. See him in action or read more of his articles at http://www.douglaskruger.co.za. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on LinkedIn or Twitter: @douglaskruger.