Be A Multiplier!


Full disclosure: the ideas in this column are based on a book on leadership by Liz Wiseman titled Multipliers: How Great Leaders Make Everyone Smarter. It’s a brand new update from the version that was published over ten years ago, so it’s been totally validated for our times.

To be honest, I casually picked up this book thinking, “oh well another book on leadership…ho hum.” But then once I started going through it I realized that this book was important in a way that other leadership books were not.

First let’s talk about what a “Multiplier” is. They are leaders that use their skills to make people work to their potential. They actually stimulate and encourage and revitalize the intelligence of the people around them, the people they are leading and their peers as well.

These multipliers find ways to make people better by giving them the freedom to hold nothing back. To say what is on their mind. They allow their teams to feel liberated. To feel free to offer the best of their thinking, the best of their ideas and their creativity.

Multipliers are what the author calls Talent Magnets. They attract the most talented people to their teams and then use them to their full potential. All the while making their team members feel fully empowered and free to dream, create and innovate and most importantly implement.

The opposite of Multipliers are “Diminishers” and we have all worked for these guys. They are the ones who have to be the smartest person in the room, whether or not they really are. They are hoarders of credit, and they specialize in not only underutilizing talent but yes, diminishing it as well.

I have worked for a couple of these people in my life and have personally felt that bitter sting of being diminished, of being made to feel that I am less than what I really am. One person in particular surrounded himself with sycophants and what they used to call forelock tuggers who did his bidding. Whose main pass at creativity was to come up with new and innovative ways to flatter the boss. 

In the end he hired another fellow egomaniac and together they managed to drive a perfectly good company into the ground.

Okay enough of that, let’s go more positive. Back to the multipliers. They are not only great leaders, but they are great fun to work for and to work with. And they create teams that are fun and rewarding to be a part of.

What are you? Be honest now. Are you a multiplier or a diminisher?

Here are some of the traits of a great leader, a true multiplier, a talent magnet.

  1. They look for talent everywhere. They want to find people who are smarter and more creative than them. They look everywhere for talented people. And besides looking outside of their company all the time, they also will look for gems in their own company. They will make themselves available to their own employees by walking around the company and talking to them. There might be a person in the shipping department who is fantastic at social media. Or a person hiding in accounting who is a fantastic prognosticator. They look for these people and they talk to them with an open mind trying to find what makes their heart sing with enough passion that they are great at it.
  2. They find people’s native genius. They know how to uncover and access the genius of others. They do this by talking to people – from people they meet on the street and in organizations to as I mentioned above those in their own company. They are always looking for the right people to make their organization better and take it to another level.
  3. They utilize people to the fullest. They look for ways to encourage these talented people to work and think and create to their fullest potential. Sometimes they change the business plan to add these persons’ talents. As Ms. Wiseman says, “Once they’ve engaged the persons’ true genius, they shine a spotlight on them so others can see their genius in action.”
  4. They remove blockers. They make sure that the right people have a clear path to fulfill their potential. They make sure that no other people are blocking their path either. They look out for people, and as there are some in every organization who tend to suck the air out of the room, they make sure that they are not allowed to do that to the most creative ones on the team.

And one more in the spirit of under promising and over delivering, they do whatever they can to give their people the freedom to be great. They allow them to work to their full potential. And most importantly they make them feel their intelligence goes like this. After an hour in discussion with British prime minister William Ewart Gladstone, you left feeling he was the smartest man in the world. But after an hour conversation with his rival Benjamin Disraeli, you left thinking that you were the smartest person in the world. And that is exactly what a great leader…a Multiplier does. It’s only common sense.