Growing up in the Canadian school system, I remember how much emphasis was put on doing your own work, not getting help from others and focusing your time and energy on your weaknesses and shortcomings. If you weren't good in math, you couldn't ask your math savvy friend to do the test for you, and you had to spend a lot of your extra time struggling through a subject you probably had no interest in. This was the same song from elementary school all the way through university. As much as I understand the need for the school system to develop its students in all subjects so that as a population we are smarter, expose the students to different subjects, and also to fairly assess the individual, I will say, to be an effective leader, you need to toss that mentality out.
The problem with this individually focused way to get results is that it, frankly, sets you up to lose. Leadership is an art of leveraging the collective team's strengths and mitigating the collective weaknesses to achieve the aim. If you, as the leader, go at solving problems by yourself and only focusing on the group's weaknesses, the most likely outcome will be failure. Leveraging the entire team for it's strengths is how you will change that likely outcome to winning. If you need an example of this, watch every 80's movie about a rag tag sports team turned champion.
So how do you leverage your team's strengths for the win? Here are a few ways:
1) Know you people, that means their strengths, weaknesses, experience, aptitudes and hobbies. Leverage the strengths of your team by delegating appropriately. Mitigate weakness by the appropriate pairing of complementary skills. Understand your collective Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT). Similar to the first part of this point, but the crux here is to identify how these strengths and weaknesses present opportunities and threats, and how to exploit both.
2) Communicate your intent and end state clearly, including the constraints and limitations. Use the SMESC formula if you need a good template, you can read about this in older blog posts. SMESC stands for Situation, Mission, Execution, Service and Support, Command and Signals. This is the formula used by the Canadian Armed Forces and many other nations around the world. It is the same communication formula used by generals when communicating major, strategic, operations, all the way to the front line commander delivering orders to move a team from one point to another.
3) Ask the team for ideas on how to solve the problem at hand, give all the information you have, especially the context and desired effects. Allow the collective brain power to come up with ideas. Just remember not every idea is a good one, but every idea should be given due consideration. Many a time I've dismissed a great idea because I didn't "get it".
Leveraging your team to bring all their effects to bear is an amazing thing to experience. It's basically like when all the 'Planeteers' combined all their powers to make Captain Planet. Trust me, that's what its like.
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