For some this is an easy topic and for others it can be a bit intimidating. It is the idea that a good leader will know and utilize the strengths found on their team. It is one of those "mom, apple pie and hershey bar" type of statements where everyone nods agreement that this is a given. In practice though it often is missed either intentionally or for other reasons.
You are not Superman
I am tempted to say that new leaders will often avoid this area as they have come into that role under the false impression that as the leader they must know it all. It is a natural and common mistake after all as most people will move into leadership for technical expertise not leadership skill. Validation comes not from what they do as leaders but how they contribute from a technical expertise perspective. Interestingly enough this struggle to let go of ones "expertise" in order to let others use their skills is not new.
Probably the best example I can provide is that of the game of chess. Aside from the pawn the weakest player on the board is the king. Instead what exists on the board are in fact a team (okay army) of players who each have a unique specialization (movement). The king doesn't have to do it all and in fact can't do it all. But an effective chess player knows how to utilize the unique characteristics of each player to further their position in the game. And so it is as well with a good leader in a business unit, or crew or company.
You may have guessed from the previous pieces of this study that this does require the leader get to know the strengths on their team. Some places are already getting pretty good at this and certainly one useful tool is to develop a skills matrix. It will help you identify where there may be gaps in your teams skill sets and will allow to to address those gaps with either training or hiring. However whether the company has something like this or not it is a good idea to get to know what your team members can contribute.
Look for the gems in the mix
Strengths focus is about all your team's strengths which may include hither to unknown skills (Excel wizard comes to mind) or if they have strengths around things like communication, team work, detail vs global thinkers and innovators. Since this series of articles is derived from Gallup's Strengths List suffice it to state that they have an extensive list of strengths to explore and it makes for a good team building exercise. There are other tools out there as well such as Myers-Briggs, Insights and so on. And while I know that some of these items may be viewed as personality traits they are and can be profound strengths as well that in the right circumstances can be used to really help the team meet its goals.
Everyone can contribute
Just a quick example (which is why the Excel wizard sprang to mind) of how that can work. One crew I was working with had developed personal metrics and team metrics but wanted to represent those numbers on something more than hand drawn charts (which are fine by the way). It turns out that one of the crew, and literally the last person you would have thought of, had a real passion for Excel and volunteered to put a spread sheet and graphs together for them. It was amazing and not only did wonders for the team but it really boosted that person's level of engagement as well. It was something that he was uniquely skilled at and he "owned" it.
Find your team's strengths and be their advocate and encourager with regard to developing them further. Train yourself to look for gaps that each individual can fill and let them go for it! Don't know your team's strengths? What are you waiting for? Performance Leadership - Think About It!