Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter

At the beginning of this year, I challenged myself and my Facebook friends to read 50 books by December 31st and to share their progress using the hashtag #50books2015. That amounts to roughly 4 books per month. Needless to say, I’m way behind schedule. I’m trudging along, though. Periodically, I will review books from my challenge on this blog. I’m starting today with a leadership development book that I finished over the weekend.

Multipliers, by Liz Wiseman, is written for leaders as a strategy for maximizing the performance potential and leadership capabilities of the people in one’s sphere of influence, whether subordinates, team members, colleagues, or groups and individuals throughout the organization. Wiseman and her research partner, Greg McKeown, suggest that a leader will either multiply or diminish the intelligence of others based on his or her own leadership style. A diminishing leader is dictatorial and self-serving, causing others to offer reduced efforts. He or she believes that they are the smartest person in the room and that they must drive all action and decisions in order for anything to be accomplished. On the other hand, a multiplying leader believes in the inherent intelligence of everyone on the team and seeks opportunities to help others grow and shine. Because the multiplier creates an environment where others can grow, people respond with increased effort, thereby multiplying the capacity of the entire organization. The premise is that diminishers drain intelligence from an organization while multipliers make everyone smarter and increase organizational intelligence.

Wiseman lists 5 behavioral characteristics that appear to be common to all multipliers.

  • A multiplier is a talent magnet. Talented people are attracted to the multiplier because they know that their skills will be used and valued and that they will grow with this leader. They also know that this leader attracts talented people, so there is the increased probability that working with them will also mean working with a team of the best and brightest.
  • A multiplier is a liberator. The multiplier gives people permission to think and explore. They are free to approach each scenario from multiple angles and to apply creative solutions without preconceived ideas being shoved down their throats.
  • A multiplier is a challenger. A multiplier creates an environment where everyone believes that their contribution is needed for the organization to be successful. So they have a vested interest in problem solving and identifying solutions. This collective energy is then used to stretch the organization by taking on more complex tasks, ultimately increasing organizational capacity.
  • A multiplier is a debate maker. Because the multiplier believes that everyone is smart and has something to offer, he or she is not afraid to engage others in candid, thoughtful conversation about the issues. The multiplying leader fully discloses the information needed to discuss an issue, invites others to think critically about it, and listens carefully to the contributions of everyone in the room.
  • A multiplier is an investor. A multiplying leader intentionally equips other people with the necessary tools for successful development. They hold others accountable and help them learn from their mistakes while maintaining the authority of their position and confidence in their ability to perform well.

I like that Wiseman causes the leader to take the focus off of themselves and to devote time to understanding the people around them. This angle is unique, as most leadership development books are essentially self-help books. Perhaps the reader is not ready to acknowledge or confront their weaknesses. By evaluating the environment they produce and the behavior of their subordinates and colleagues, they may see their own reflection without feeling singled out. Wiseman uses a peripheral approach to engage leaders in self-evaluation.

I also like that this book rejects the rampant narcissism of today and calls good leaders to focus on building other good leaders. Wiseman doesn’t just encourage leaders to duplicate themselves and their methods. Leaders are challenged to tailor their leadership style to maximize the potential that is organic to the individuals and organizations they serve. The goal is not to make mini-me’s but to help people become the best versions of themselves that they can be at this moment.

I would recommend Multipliers to anyone who wants to be more effective at growing the people around them whether you are in a leadership position or not. The principles can apply to any discipline or industry. I know that one of my personal weaknesses is working in groups. I have already begun to apply suggestions from this book to my team assignments and am reaping the benefits of improved communication and cooperation. I will caution you that some chapters get a little repetitive but the examples break up the monotony.

Have you read Multipliers? What other leadership development books would you recommend to leaders looking to grow the people around them?

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