Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. – William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night
Everyone wants to feel important. As a subject matter expert with scarce skills or knowledge, you are certainly important. Your colleagues come to you for information and advice. They need your expertise in order to do their jobs. Yes it’s true, knowledge is power.
Yet we’ve all run into important people who are too busy to share their experience. Or who seem to hoard their knowledge to ensure that they remain special and needed. These people may be highly respected by others. They may be legendary. But despite their importance, they aren’t leaders. Leadership isn’t really about power and certainly isn’t about cultivating power through scarcity.
True leaders work with others to translate their knowledge into initiatives that benefit their organization. They show the way through their actions and behaviour. Rather than becoming a bottleneck for knowledge, they share it freely and proactively. Rather than cultivating reliance on their own scarce skills, they seek to teach others to become more effective and less dependent. If knowledge is power, then leadership is greatness.
When you’ve worked hard to achieve that important position of being respected as an expert, stepping up to be a leader can be scary. Yet some of the most impactful leaders are those who command respect because of their own skills and knowledge. They are our mentors, our technical leaders and our creative directors. They inspire us all to become better at what we do and they often make great things happen (think of the founders/leaders of some of the most successful technology companies in the world, for example).
The price of being good at what you do is that your colleagues and your organization will increasingly call upon you to help them succeed. When that time comes, you can play it safe in your comfort zone as an expert, or you can become a leader. By making others more powerful you’ll be demonstrating greatness. And I bet you’ll feel pretty darn important too!