I don’t think I’d ever be comfortable branding myself as an expert, regardless of my depth of knowledge and skill in one area or another – not that I do possess either in any depth, as my colleagues and past supervisors would be swift to point out.
Knowing what I know now, I’d be even less comfortable being branded an expert by someone else. If the ups and downs of the last few years working in what some would call a quango (I’d argue we’re not, but whatever), most of the problems we were briefed to deal with were adaptive challenges – those based on trends in behaviour and attitude: all essentially leadership issues, as identified by Ronald Heifetz. Experts are required to solve technical challenges – those problems requiring specific, in-depth know-how.
Despite that we hired a lot of experts, often self-branded experts, to solve adaptive challenges. It sometimes feels like an expensive way to not solve a problem, but then it’s more attractive than taking on that real challenge: altering the behaviour and attitudes of larger groups of people, or companies, or key decision-makers. You need a hell of a lot of soft power and influence, and be communicating at a national level. I’m not sure we have the influence, and most of the time we’re killing ourselves just to impress at a local, or at best regional level.