Have you ever been in a meeting and not said something that was burning inside you because you felt like you weren’t “qualified” enough?

It happens to us all. We can devalue our “expertise” simply because we have a skewed definition of expertise.

Most folks interchange the words specialist and expert. That’s because we tend to think that all experts have advanced degrees and decades of in-the- trenches experience on a specific issue or topic.

Now I love me a specialist. But that’s only one piece of the equation. You don’t have to be a specialist to bring creative expertise to bear on a problem or solution.

Many creative breakthroughs and advances happen beyond the specialist — at the intersection of disciplines, personal experience and passion.

In an insightful post, Tara Sophia Mohr, describes three other types of experts, the benefits they bring and the pitfalls they should avoid:

(1) The Survivor – The survivor has been through an intense experience and has learned a lot along the way. The survivor’s strength as an expert lies in his or her powerful story and the lessons learned personally from first-hand experience. However, the survivor should  avoid making claims that he or she has the solution for everyone.

(2) The Cross Trainer – the cross trainer works at the intersections of disciplines and has deep expertise in field X that he or she brings to bear in field Y. The cross trainer see blind spots of convetional thinking, but should avoid the trap that all insights from the area of expertise are applicable to the new area of interest.

(3) The Called – this type of expert jumps into a project because he or she is called to it by duty or passion. The called is dissatisfied with the status quo and has a sustainable enthusiasm. The primary challenge for the called is filling in their knowledge gaps by bringing in mentors and advisors.

So while in many settings the specialist brings the authority that is most easily embraced, we mustn’t fall prey to thinking that it’s the only legitimate kind of authority.

For projects you are working on, what type or types of expertise are you bringing to the table? Are you the specialist, the survivor, the cross trainer, the called or a mix of these? How can you leverage that expertise? And how can that expertise get you speaking out proud and clear at your next meeting?