I used to think I needed to be the best scholar in my field. I could be the leading scholar of Spanish poetry, or the leading specialist in Lorca. The one flaw in that logic is that all it takes is a single person who is better, and you won't achieve that goal. At most, you can be the world's greatest authority on a very minor subset of a subfield, but then what is the point of that? At that point you are best of a group of 1.
A better strategy is to be one of a group of good scholars that everyone recognizes, more or less. You can compete good-naturedly with others in the group, but once you are in you are part of it and don't have to worry about whether you are number 4 or number 15.