Manager or expert: what you need to know to be successful in either role

manager or expert?

In career development, two significant trends generally emerge: those who move into a managerial role, whether in terms of team or project management and those who move into an expert position in a particular field. But, of course, becoming a manager requires different skills than becoming an expert. Therefore, as part of a career development plan, it is essential to know the role you want to move into. Whether it’s one or the other, it’s a long way to go, and the earlier you prepare, the better your chances of getting there.

If you are still at the beginning of your career, or wonder if you should seek for a manager or expert role, you are at the right place. This post will look at the different skills required to become a manager or expert. After reading this article, you should be able to know better in which direction you have the most chances of success.

Manager vs. expert: what are their roles?

A manager is a professional in charge of controlling, coordinating, and overseeing different resources, such as people, money, equipment, or software, to optimize the group’s business performance. Depending on the resources the manager is responsible for, he holds a specific title:

  • manager (as a team leader),
  • project manager (responsible for a project),
  • program manager (responsible for a program encompassing multiple projects),
  • business manager (responsible for a business unit),
  • office manager (responsible for administrative assistants)
  • IT manager (responsible for IT), and many more title

On the other hand, an expert is a professional specializing in a specific area of interest for his business to become an authority. Such specialization is done through extensive training (formal or informal), certifications, publications in specialized media, and exchanges with other experts in the same area.

Both roles generally require a long professional experience as a minimal condition. Some are common to both positions in terms of skills, while others are more specific to either manager or expert. Let’s look at them.

Characteristics common to both managers and experts

Problem-solving skills

Because of their responsibilities, managers and experts run into many complex problems. Therefore, they need to find quick, effective, and efficient solutions. Hence, their ability to solve these problems is crucial to the business’s best interest. Such skills are usually obtained through long experience or accreditation in a university. While expert problem-solving involves developing comprehensive solutions based on extensive research, management problem-solving focuses on understanding available resources and using these resources as efficiently as possible to achieve the best-predefined goals.

Organizational skills

Good organizational skills are essential for managers to help keep things running smoothly. They are responsible for supervising people or other resources and keeping track of all tasks assigned to their teams. As for experts, this skill is not as critical. However, it is still important if they plan to build more expertise in your business. Indeed, they will need to rely on a network of other or junior experts. Although there is no direct reporting relationship between them, a clear and precise organization is essential to have full authority in their respective field.

Communication skills

To be successful as a manager or expert, you must have people skills. That means, among other things, the ability to communicate clearly and cooperate with others while staying focused on your goals. If you cannot effectively interact with people and persuade others, no matter how good you are as a manager, you won’t be much use when you need to lead a team and get the best out of them. Likewise, if you are an expert, people skills such as communication and active listening skills are vital to helping explain complex concepts clearly, thus being considered an authority in your area.


Managers and experts have another thing in common; they have passion for their respective fields. The key difference between managers and experts is that managers have business acumen. In contrast, experts are focused on perfecting their craft.

The skills required to be a good manager

Leadership skills

One of the primary main responsibilities of managers is to ensure that the team is working effectively. That includes working with other teams, building consensus over complex problems, and developing creative solutions. In addition, the manager needs to make sure that all the team members understand what is expected of them and how they can do it well.

Time-management skills

Some people are great at multitasking, and some aren’t. If you want to be a good manager, focus on honing your time management skills. Doing so leads to a significant boost in your productivity. There are many ways to improve your ability to manage time effectively; here are just a few: be conscious about how you spend your day (and set aside specific times for tasks); create goals that align with what is most important; learn how to say no when necessary; limit distractions (turn off notifications on social media, etc.).

Budget-management skills

The foundation of every business management, managing a budget, is first on the list of what you need to be a good manager. Identify expenses and income sources and figure out how much money is coming in, how much is going out, and where there might be extra room for growth. When you know where your money goes each month, you can set more appropriate goals for yourself—and better understand how your customers’ spending habits impact your business’s bottom line.

Motivate and inspire others

There is motivation—and managers must show employees how their work matters, why what they do is essential, and how their efforts serve others (or serve the greater good). But motivating people is not enough: managers must also foster an inspiring environment where their teams believe in themselves. That sounds simple, but it is not easy. However, communication skills and mentoring and coaching abilities can help you get through this.

The skills required to be a good expert

Learning skills

As an expert, your main task is to be the authority in your domain. To do so, you need to learn continuously to keep you informed of the latest innovations in your field. While it might seem counterintuitive, sometimes, you may even need to learn skills utterly unrelated to your area of expertise to become a better expert. Conferences and seminars are an excellent way of learning critical skills for your success.

Teaching skills

The second essential characteristic of experts is their ability to teach their colleagues how they learn these practices he knows so much about. As a general rule, if teaching skills make sense in your industry (for instance, if you work with software developers), developing certifications might be one way to demonstrate those abilities.

Connecting skills

Connecting skills are just as necessary as learning and teaching ones. Connecting is all about getting out there and meeting like-minded people who can help you achieve your career goals—whether that means making valuable connections at industry events or networking through social media channels like LinkedIn.

Should you become a manager or an expert?

To some extent, you need management skills to become an expert. If you are good at leading, a good communicator, ready to delegate tasks, and want more responsibilities, then you are cut out for managing others and leading projects, and in that case, you can take on management responsibilities. If not, it is best to find a subject you are passionate about and become an expert in that field.


How are managers and experts complementary?

Managers make most decisions, but they also need to justify their choices with expertise. Without experts, managers would not be able to decide on critical business-related issues such as fund seeking, resource allocation, or even strategy. In comparison, experts develop their knowledge in their area without worrying about management issues.

Can a manager become an expert?

Yes, managers can become experts; it is common. Managers and experts are both professionals with extensive experience. However, while experts have deep knowledge in one area, managers have more general knowledge. Therefore, with the appropriate training, they can quite quickly become experts. In contrast, it is more difficult for an expert to become a manager.

Can an expert become a manager?

Yes, but it is not as common as the opposite. For example, managers focus on metrics to measure the business’ performance: money, employees, equipment, project milestones, and other administrative tasks. While experts solely concentrate on honing their expertise in a particular area. Thus, an expert must learn more to become a manager than a manager to become an expert.