Thinking Out Loud

Multiplier or Diminisher?

At first glance, Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman and Greg Mckeown, seems straightforward and common sense. It’s one of those books that makes you say, “Yeah, I knew that.”  Although it is common sense, the value is in how it gets under your skin and the subtleties begin to work on you.

The book is well backed with research but its content is accessible with interesting stories to illustrate the concepts. The authors show how multiplier leadership allows talent to flourish and brings out the best in everyone, not just the leader. In fact the leader knows how to ask the right questions at the right time and believes in the power of the collective to produce excellent results. It’s not about trying to make everyone feel good about themselves by simply being kind and gentle. It is about rigor, understanding the capability of others, sharing responsibility, establishing trust, and insisting on excellent results . . . with the results belonging to everyone.

The research demonstrates how more productive this model is than the diminisher model, where the leader believes he/she knows best and therefore directs everyone else. The diminisher model, though perhaps having good intentions, limits initiative and the power of the collective, while gobbling up resources. Workers tend not to produce their best work because they fear not getting the “right” answer. With the diminisher model, the results belong to the leader.

Although the examples the authors use are mostly taken from the business world, the concept can be applied virtually anywhere: parenting, teaching, counseling, etc., where believing in others, establishing trust, asking the right questions, knowing when and how to encourage and give direction, along with having high standards are essential for growth and development.

I’m watching myself more carefully these days, observing my own potentially multiplier and diminisher behaviors . . . and honestly, it is making me a little self conscious but my awareness is growing. Because the goal is not about intentions but about impact, it’s not easy to tell if your actions truly do encourage the best in others. But it’s an important consideration: Is what I’m doing or saying likely to bring out the best in others?

Back to the blog