How experts gain influence

Anette Mikes, Matthew Hall, Yuval Millo

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticleOther


In theory, the risk management groups of two British banks-Saxon and Anglo-had the same influence in their organizations. But in practice, they did not: Saxon's was engaged in critical work throughout the bank, while Anglo's had little visibility outside its areas of expertise. In their study of these two financial institutions, the authors identified four competencies-trailblazing, toolmaking, teamwork, and translation--that help functional leaders or groups compete for top management's limited attention and increase their impact. Anglo's risk managers were strong in only some of the competencies, but Saxon's were strong in all four. They consistently scanned the internal and external environment for important issues to which they could apply a risk management perspective (trailblazing) and then developed tools--such as quarterly risk reports--that spread their expertise (toolmaking). While controlling the tools' design and implementation, the risk managers incorporated business managers' insights (teamwork) and made sure everyone could understand the findings (translation). Ultimately, experts' roles must fit the organization's strategy and structural needs. In some situations, functional experts can raise their profile by cultivating just two of the competencies. But those who are strong in all four are likely to be the most influential.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages4
Specialist publicationHarvard Business Review
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes

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