Lauchlan Mackinnon has some good comments on the nature experts via an article in Harvard Business Review. The Making of an Expert: The 3 Key Factors Underlying Individual Elite Performance in any Domain.
The July-August 2007 issue of Harvard Business Review contains an interesting article "The Making of an Expert" by Ericsson, Prietula and Cokely.
I particularly liked the exploration of the idea of what it takes to be an expert: lots of hard work and practice, essentially. Lauchlan provides a nice summary of the characteristics of how to get there
The key characteristics behind the development of "experts" (defined as outstanding leaders in their chosen fields of endeavour") are
- deliberate practice
- outstanding coaching, feedback and mentorship
- A significant investment of effort over time (typically ten years or more)
I like #2 here. Not only must experts be dedicated to their craft in the sense of ongoing practice and extensive effort, but they must also seek to grow their colleagues' capabilities in their area of expertise. This reminds me of the question, "How will they know you are an expert if you don't speak up?" In this case, "community" is your colleagues inside and outside the organization.
Here is the HBR link to an order form for The Making of an Expert. I suggest heading to your local library, if you wish to see the whole thing.