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Does Your Leadership Style Multiply or Diminish Talent Around You?

We’ve all had experience with two dramatically different types of leaders. The first type drains intelligence, energy, and capability from the people around them and always needs to be the smartest person in the room. These are the idea killers, the energy sappers, the diminishers of talent and commitment. On the other side of the spectrum are leaders who use their intelligence to amplify the smarts and capabilities of the people around them. When these leaders walk into a room, light bulbs go off over people’s heads; ideas flow and problems get solved. These are the leaders who inspire employees to stretch themselves to deliver results that surpass expectations. These are the Multipliers. And the world needs more of them, especially now when leaders are expected to do more with less.

In this engaging and highly practical book, leadership expert Liz Wiseman explores these two leadership styles, persuasively showing how Multipliers can have a resoundingly positive and profitable effect on organizations—getting more done with fewer resources, developing and attracting talent, and cultivating new ideas and energy to drive organizational change and innovation.
In analyzing data from more than 150 leaders, Wiseman has identified five disciplines that distinguish Multipliers from Diminishers. These five disciplines are not based on innate talent; indeed, they are skills and practices that everyone can learn to use—even lifelong and recalcitrant Diminishers. Lively, real-world case studies and practical tips and techniques bring to life each of these principles, showing you how to become a Multiplier too, whether you are a new or an experienced manager. This revered classic has been updated with new examples of Multipliers, as well as two new chapters one on accidental Diminishers, and one on how to deal with Diminishers.
Just imagine what you could accomplish if you could harness all the energy and intelligence around you. Multipliers will show you how.


What is the backstory behind Multipliers? What was your influence?
Multipliers was born of a simple observation that came from my experience as an executive in the corporate world: There’s a lot of hidden, latent intelligence in our work teams – meaning, the people inside our organizations actually possess more talent and intelligence than most managers see and use. I noticed that some managers see and use this hidden intelligence better than others.

I saw a number of really smart leaders use their own intelligence as a weapon. These leaders were really smart themselves, but they shut down the smarts of others. They were idea killers and energy sappers. People held back and played it safe around these leaders who I came to call Diminishers. I noticed the toxic effect they had on teams and how costly they were to organizations because they wasted the talent and intellect that sat right in front of them.

But I also noticed a different breed of leader whose intelligence was infectious, not stifling – leaders who seem to make others smarter and more capable. When these leaders walk into a room, light bulbs go off over people’s heads, ideas flow, and problems get solved. I came to call these leaders Multipliers. They are leaders who inspire employees to stretch themselves. They are leaders who use their own intelligence and talent to make everyone around them better.

Is there one short story from your book you would like to share?
My favorite story from the book is actually not in the second edition of the book. It’s a story about Gabi, an Israeli tank commander who was bright and capable, but struggled to perform and nearly flamed out under the scrutinizing presence of a know-it-all commander. Before that commander could dismiss him from the tank commander- training program, he would be given a final test, one where he would have to perform the most difficult maneuverer in the presence of the company commander. With this new commander asking, guiding, and challenging rather than telling and yelling, Gabi performed perfectly. The story illustrates that with a change of command, we can experience a change of capability.

I placed this story at the very opening of the book because I think it illustrates the reductive effect of diminishing leaders and the incredible positive impact of leaders who are Multipliers. I removed it from the book because any story about Israeli military action can be offensive in Arab parts of the Middle East, where the ideas of Multipliers have been delightfully resonant.

I replaced the story with a very similar story about a sailor on an Arleigh Burke Class Guided Missile Destroyer in the U.S. Navy. This story was written with a lot of help from a retired naval officer, whom has been a champion of the Multipliers concept across the navy. Both accounts (the Israel tank commander and the U.S. sailor) are absolutely true (but with names change to protect the not-so-innocent).

If you would want people to remember one thing from your book would what would it be?
While it is easy to identify the tyrannical, know-it-all, narcissistic Diminishers around us, the reality is that most diminishing is happening with the best of intentions. Many managers are trying to help, but their help can be a hindrance to others operating at their best. For example, what happens when a manager is too quick with ideas and too swift with action? Or too supportive and helpful? Or just enthusiastic or optimistic? Surely these can be character virtues—the kind taught in business school or Sunday school. Indeed they are, but many popular management practices can lead us, subtly but surely, down the slippery slope to becoming an Accidental Diminisher. While having Accidental Diminisher tendencies does not make you a Diminisher; it does mean that you are highly prone to having a diminishing impact. It creates a significant blind spot that you need to find a way to see into and work around.

Who are the great leaders you look up to most and why?
I’m drawn to leaders who have a hugely positive impact but maintain humility and curiosity. These are leaders like Tim Cook at Apple or Bill Campbell, former CEO of Intuit, who in his retirement years became the behind-the-scenes executive coach to Tim Cook at Apple; Jeffrey Bezos at Amazon; Eric Schmidt, Larry Page and Sergey Brin at Google. Both Tim and Bill are brilliant and strong, but they’re humble enough to know the limits of their own capability and to know when to play big and when to stay small enough that others have room to play big as well.

What is the biggest weakness of leaders that this book can help uncover?
The book is a great tool for leaders who lack a 360-degree self-awareness. I’ve noticed that most leaders aren’t actually power mongers; most actually underestimate their own power. They don’t realize the impact they have on others and often, much like a busy driver on a freeway, they are so consumed with their own intentions and goals, that they don’t see the damage done in their blind spot.

As a leader, having good intentions is necessary, but insufficient. Becoming a great leader requires us to understand how our most noble intentions can have a diminishing effect, sometimes deeply so. When leaders see only their good intentions, they operate with a one-eyed view of the world, often leaving behind a wake of misunderstanding, disengagement, and unfulfilled aspiration. It is only when leaders combine self- knowledge with the perceptions and reactions of others that they can see clearly. As leaders come to realize how their best intentions go awry, their vision becomes sharper and wider and they create space that brings out the best in others.

Do you have any tips for surviving a poor leadership environment?
Too many well-intended mangers are stuck beneath diminishing leaders. They aspire to lead by bringing out the best in others but find themselves being sucked down a Diminisher’s vortex. When one is dealing with a diminishing boss, the natural reaction is to stop listening and pull away from them in an attempt to keep them out of your operation. However, trying to keep a micromanaging boss at bay or trying to wrestle control from an overly controlling boss typically causes them to intervene with greater regularity or force. The Diminisher usually “doubled down” on their diminishing behavior and you too become a Diminisher in the process. Sometimes the best way out of a diminishing situation is to multiply up, meaning serving as a multiplier to our diminishing bosses. Instead of pushing them away, invite them in. Involve them. Ask for their opinion. Use their expertise and “native genius,” but focus them by showing them where you need them most. Remember that you can be a Multiplier while working for a Diminisher. With the right mindset and a set of smart tactics, you can minimize the diminishing effect. For more insights and tactics for dealing with Diminishers, read chapter 8: Dealing with Diminishers. And, be sure to read one of my favorite stories in the book about Captain Sean Heritage of the U.S. Navy on page 211.

Writing a book is tough, were there any surprises as you set out on that journey?
Honestly, I was most surprised at how easy it was. I have no formal training or experience as a writer, so writing didn’t come naturally. But, faced with the challenge of having something important I needed to say, I was forced to learn quickly. Of course, it was still an enormous endeavor that required many thousands of hours, but, when the stakes are high, it’s amazing how fast we can learn how to do something hard.

Can you provide a specific example or story where reading has helped you learn from others experience? Was there a specific challenge where you were able to rely on others experience to make your decision?
There’s a story in Eli Goldratt’s book, The Goal, that has stuck with me and clarified my thinking in numerous situations. In this book about operational excellence, he tells the story of Alex, the book’s protagonist, leading his son’s scout troop on a hike. The pace of the whole group is being slowed by a single slow kid, who is clogging up the middle of the line of scouts. He realizes that the only way for the troop to meet its collective goal is to put the slow scout in the front of the pack and distribute his load to the other kids. I’ve found numerous occasions where putting the lowest or slowest performer in the lead role actually improves performance for everyone – not just because everyone moves in unison, but low performers actually tend to speed up when given the responsibility to lead others. Particularly, every time we’ve hiked as a family, I find that our “slow” kid moves a lot faster when I put him in the front and tell him to set a pace that he thinks the rest of us can maintain.

How did your leadership and ethical philosophy develop? 
I’ve had the privilege of working for a few amazing leaders (and multipliers) and I’ve allowed them to imprint me. I’ve also had mentors who deeply imprinted on me. My own leadership philosophy is both an amalgamation and byproduct of these leaders and mentors I’ve worked for and thrived under. I suppose my principle management ethos is to be the kind of leader I would want to work for.

Do you have any recommendations for aspiring authors?
The more you read, the better you will be prepared to write your book when the time comes. And, when that time comes, don’t just write a book; write a book that you would want to read again and again.

What is next for you and your writing projects?
After writing a book (Multipliers) about what the best leaders do to maximize the contribution of others, I’ve been curiously researching what the best contributors do to maximize their own contribution as well as the effect they have on others. This new book will explain why some people make themselves extraordinarily valuable at work, what they do that differentiates them from their peers, and how everyone can increase their value and impact at work.

Purchase Multipliers Here!


Liz Wiseman is a researcher and executive advisor who teaches leadership to executives around the world. She is the author of New York Times bestseller Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, The Multiplier Effect: Tapping the Genius Inside Our Schools, and Wall Street Journal bestseller Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work.

She is the CEO of the Wiseman Group, a leadership research and development firm headquartered in Silicon Valley, California. Some of her recent clients include: Apple, AT&T, Disney, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Nike, Salesforce, Tesla, and Twitter. Liz has been listed on the Thinkers50 ranking and named one of the top 10 leadership thinkers in the world.
She has conducted significant research in the field of leadership and collective intelligence and writes for Harvard Business Review, Fortune, and a variety of other business and leadership journals. A former executive at Oracle Corporation, she worked over the course of 17 years as the Vice President of Oracle University and as the global leader for Human Resource Development.

She is a frequent guest lecturer at BYU and Stanford University. Liz holds a Bachelors degree in Business Management and a Masters of Organizational Behavior from Brigham Young University.

Liz can be reached Via LinkedIn & Twitter.

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