As part of our continuing series where I share highlights of some of my favorite books that have shaped the way I approach business and leadership, I’d like to introduce you to Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman.
If we look back on our lives, most of us have been influenced by someone who left their mark on us and shaped who we have become. Maybe that individual challenged us. Maybe they taught us. Or maybe they simply encouraged us in our personal growth.
As leaders in our firms, we have the distinct opportunity of shaping a leadership culture with the people we influence. To me, leadership is shaped in the context of relationships. We don’t lead a faceless team; we lead a collection of individuals who have unique ideas, insights, and perspectives. How we choose to lead often leaves a mark on people in much the same way that we were marked by others before us.
Multipliers by Liz Wiseman came out of this former executive’s experience as a key leader at Oracle. She worked for a successful corporation that recruited the best talent, and she was intrigued by the intelligence of those around her. Through that experience, she observed a clear dichotomy in how people use their “genius.” The best leaders were able to move from “genius” (where they may try to be the smartest person in the room) to “genius maker” (where they use their intelligence to access and multiply the genius in others).
ARE YOU A MULTIPLIER OR DIMINISHER?
Wiseman distinguished the two types of people she saw:
- Multipliers: create collective intelligence in organizations, extract intelligence to generate 2x more from others around them, and extend intelligence to stretch people beyond what they think they can give
- Diminishers: deplete the organization of crucial intelligence and capabilities
Wiseman also developed the five contrasting characteristics of Multipliers and Diminishers, centered on each one’s perspective of intelligence.
“People are smart and will figure this out.”
|Attracts talented people and uses them at their highest point of contribution
|Creates an intense environment that requires people’s best thinking and work
|Defines an opportunity that causes people to stretch
|Drives sound decisions through rigorous debate
|Gives other people the ownership for results and invests in their success
“They will never figure this out without me.”
|Hoards resources and underutilizes talent
|Creates a tense environment that suppresses people’s thinking and capability
|Gives directions that showcase how much they know
|Makes centralized, abrupt decisions that confuse the organization
|Drives results through personal involvement
Adapted from Multipliers, p. 23
FROM HERE, WISEMAN DEVELOPED FIVE DISCIPLINES OF A MULTIPLIER:
- Attract and optimize talent
- Create intensity that requires best thinking
- Extend challenges
- Debate decisions
- Instill ownership and accountability
Without sounding too simplistic or cliché, this book provides a roadmap to organize ourselves toward being more like a Multiplier than a Diminisher. We all like to believe that we are Multipliers, but if we are honest with ourselves, we will see ways in which we demonstrate the traits of a Diminisher.
How to Lead Like a Multiplier
As I read this book, my mind regularly recalled the times that I acted as a Multiplier. (Insert “pat on the back” here.) I also thought of instances where I acted as a Diminisher, but I quickly passed those off as isolated and unusual instances. “Of course I’m a Multiplier!” I told myself. However, the book’s website has an Accidental Diminisher Survey that gave me real, immediate feedback to consider.
The survey walks you through 10 common management scenarios and shows your current place on the Diminisher to Multiplier continuum. This is really helpful if you’re looking to evaluate your leadership style and take steps toward becoming more of a Multiplier.
Fortunately, Wiseman’s research revealed that few people are strong in all five disciplines. It’s most common to exhibit strength in three of the five. Many even rank well in only two.
One core way to move toward being a Multiplier is the practice of asking and holding a single question for a long period of time. This type of question is something you ask yourself over and over. It pushes you toward deep learning and mastery.
ASK YOURSELF QUESTIONS LIKE:
- What would cause other people to become smarter and more capable around me?
- What could other people figure out on their own if I just gave them more space?
- How can I help develop the full brainpower of those on my team?
- How can I multiply the intelligence of others?
Let’s Influence the Intelligence of Those Around Us
Multipliers logically spells out the different ways we see leadership exhibited, along with straightforward causes and effects. As I seek to encourage my own team’s growth, I’m challenging myself to ask these types of questions and think about how I lead and influence others. Multipliers gave me food for thought and tangible action items to become the kind of leader who leaves a positive mark in others’ lives. I hope it can do the same for you!