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  • Writer's pictureTom Kothman

The Seven Qualities of an Expert

Updated: Oct 29, 2021

When you are looking for an expert or expert advice, what do you look for? A dictionary definition of “expert” is “a person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area.” Based on my interactions over time I think experts share, at minimum, these seven qualities (in alphabetical order).


Experience informs intuition, the basis for snap judgements. Malcom Gladwell’s Blink examines snap judgments or the split-second decisions we make unconsciously. These snap judgments are important decision-making tools but can also lead to bad choices and all manner of problems. Deliberative thinking interrupts, slows the process down and replaces snap judgements. (Deliberate thinking means setting aside some time to think with a clearly defined focus.) [1] Medvedev arrived at the stadium for the U.S. Open finals 6 hours early. I believe it was deliberate.

Experts also deliberately push the range and scope of their skill set with deliberate practice (practice that is purposeful and systematic). This is especially true in sports. To get better at tennis play someone better.


Athletes, musicians, and writers best illustrate this quality. Putting in the time to practice correlates directly with expertise and is an expression of “deliberative practice”. The exceptions are geniuses. I’m watching Ken Burns “Muhamad Ali”. In his teens Ali did not possess the attributes that would later make him “The Greatest”. It was through his disciplined hard work early on that enabled him to climb to the pinnacle of his craft.


Time in the saddle yields mastery of a particular and relevant skill set. I’m often reminded of the 90’s IBM mid-range computer Super Bowl ad where a twenty-something salesman tells a much older CEO that he has the skills to build a website with spinning flames. The CEO replies that would be cool but he would be more turned on by a website that showed the right customer the right computer and made the right sale. Draw from this what you will.


My observations suggest experts do not see themselves as expert, although I admit to not being privy to their innermost thoughts. The most accomplished people are those who don’t feel the need to talk about all they’ve done. They are open to new ideas, alternative ways of doing things, and an acceptance that someone else may have a better idea. They are not “me” focused; they are “we” focused.

Lifelong Learner

I think this one is obvious but often overlooked. According to Wikipedia “Lifelong learning is the ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons.”


Experts invest the time for things to develop and is a quality required to be deliberative.Stephen Covey’s time matrix in The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People elegantly illustrates this quality. Experts spend more time in Quadrant II.


Speaking of time in the saddle.

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