Do people think of you as an expert? If so, congratulations, and please feel free to read something that is more relevant for you, the reader.

For example, here is a great article from Inc. on emotional intelligence that you might find valuable. Or, if you are an emotionally intelligent person whom others already consider an expert on every subject, here is a great article from Inc. on leadership.

If you are an emotionally intelligent leader who can speak with expertise on any subject, please consider running for president one day.

We need you.

For the rest of us who might find value in being viewed as an expert, here are some tips on building a brand based on expertise.

Step 1: You should probably have actual experience in something in order to be an expert.

Here is a quick example: I know several people who position themselves as "thought leaders" on entrepreneurship, having never owned a business or even studied entrepreneurship at the level required to be deemed an expert.

If you've never done something, it's almost impossible to be an expert in whatever that thing is.

So just stop pretending.

Step 2: Obtain the type of knowledge that will turn you into an expert.

Like experience, knowledge is an often-overlooked component of people who attempt to build a brand as an expert. You must have actual knowledge of something before others will view you as an expert.

This, of course, requires more than just calling yourself an expert.

Or a thought leader.

Or a ninja.

Fortunately, obtaining the type of information that leads to actual expertise is easier and cheaper than ever before. You can attend college courses for free, get books from your local library, get books on your phone, obtain a degree online, become certified in something, or do any one of a number of things that will lead to other people saying the following:

"Hey, they might know what they are talking about."

Step 3: Once you gain said information, think critically about what you have learned.

Just because you found information in a book, heard it in a podcast, saw it on TV, or had it taught to you in a classroom does not mean that the information is correct. Students in classrooms once learned that maggots came from meat, and viewers once heard former Alabama governor George Wallace espouse the virtues of segregation on national TV.

Here's an exercise in critical thinking: How do you know that maggots don't spontaneously generate from meat?

Because people like George Wallace don't magically generate from spoiled roast beef.

Actively seek out information--but think critically about that information.

Sometimes true expertise is established when you reject the conventional wisdom of a given moment in time.

Step 4: Publicly take a position, and orient your position in a combination of factual information and personal experience.

Take the factual information you've obtained and critically evaluated, and make a public argument that establishes what your personal position is.

For example, suppose you want to be viewed as a marketing expert and decide to write a blog post on whether social media is a useful marketing tool.

Before you start writing, realize that there are roughly 1 trillion blog posts on this subject.

So what will make yours different? Will it be the data you've gathered in your research?

No. That data has already been cited--however, it's still needed in order to provide context to your arguments, even if your argument runs counter to the research you've done.

What will actually separate your argument from the other 1 trillion blog posts is how effectively you communicate your personal experiences with the subject matter.

If you don't have personal experience with the subject matter, see Step 1.

Step 5: Congratulations, you are an expert!

Now don't ever call yourself a ninja.

Or a thought leader.

Published on: Oct 4, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.