Leap Year Lesson #321: Be a Multiplier, Not a Diminisher

Posted: November 18, 2012 in Book Reviews
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Yesterday I finished reading the book Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman.  The book discusses leadership styles and practices along the continuum of being a multiplier versus a diminisher.  In short, multipliers are “genius makers and bring out the intelligence in others.  They build collective, viral intelligence in organizations,” whereas diminishers “are absorbed in their own intelligence, stifle others, and deplete the organization of crucial intelligence and capability” (p. 31).

The book contrasts five assumptions made by each style.  These are key to what drives the leader’s behavior.  In the list below, the multiplier’s assumptions are listed first with the diminisher’s assumptions in parentheses:

  • Multiplier: If I can find someone’s genius, I can put them to work.  (Diminisher: People need to report to me in order to get them to do anything.)
  • People’s best thinking must be given, not taken.  (Pressure increases performance.)
  • People get smarter by being challenged.  (I need to have all the answers.)
  • With enough minds, we can figure it out.  (There are only a few people worth listening to.)
  • People are smart and will figure things out.  (People will never be able to figure it out without me.)

Like me, you probably have no problem thinking of some current or past leaders you have known and worked for that fall clearly into either the multiplier or diminisher category.  The lines aren’t always distinct with leaders demonstrating all five characteristics of one or the other.  It is a continuum.  Still, it isn’t difficult to quickly categorize managers and other leaders as predominantly one or the other.

The finding of the research that went into the book is that multipliers get about twice the performance out of workers than diminishers would get from those same workers.  Because of the way multipliers lead, the people under them are challenged in an environment and in a way that actually does grow their intelligence, their willingness and their eagerness to perform at their highest level.

I recommend the book not only as a way to help you understand your leaders, but to help make sure you are the right kind of leader, yourself.

Leap year lesson #321 is Be a multiplier, not a diminisher.

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