Be A Multiplier To Empower Your People

Jun 04, 2014 1 Min Read
book, knowledge, empower
The Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter

In Multipliers: How The Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, Liz Wiseman and Grey McKeown, after analysing data from more than 150 leaders, juxtapose two quite different types of leaders whom they describe as the Multiplier and the Diminisher.

Multipliers extract full capability, their own as well as others, and demonstrate the five disciplines of a Multiplier, i.e. Talent Magnet, Liberator, Challenger, Debate Maker, and Investor.

Diminishers underutilise talent and resources, their own as well as others, and also demonstrate five but very different disciplines: Empire Builder, Tyrant, Know-It-All, Decision Maker, and Micro Manager.

As Wiseman clearly realises, people combine some of the best and worst traits of both the Multiplier and Diminisher. Strengths can become weaknesses or vice versa if carried to an extreme.

A Talent Magnet, for example, could be especially effective in recognising and attracting high-potentials and then hoard their talents, exploiting them to his or her advantage.

A Micro Manager could be especially alert for significant details that others ignore, but deny other people’s professional development by refusing to delegate tasks to them.

In the healthiest organisations, there are constant efforts to increase (multiply) positive and productive engagement while reducing (diminishing) waste.

We have all had experience with the 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 turn on 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 and management consultant Greg McKeown explore these two leadership styles, persuasively showing how Multipliers can have a resoundingly positive and profitable effect on organisations – getting more done with fewer resources, developing and attracting talent, and cultivating new ideas and energy to drive organisational change and innovation.

Thus, it is an examination of why some leaders (Diminishers) drain capability and intelligence from their teams while others (Multipliers) amplify it to produce better results.

Multipliers VS diminishers

Multipliers: These leaders are genius makers and bring out the best in others. They build collective, viral intelligence in organisations.

Diminishers: These leaders are self-absorbed in their own capabilities, stifle others, and deprive the organisation of crucial intelligence and capability.

The five disciplines of a Multiplier:

1. Talent Magnet: Attracts and deploys talent at its highest point of contribution.

2. Liberator: Creates a climate of safety and ambition that invites and demands people’s best thinking and work.

3. Challenger: Defines an opportunity that causes people to stretch.

4. Debate Maker: Drives sound decisions through rigorous debate.

5. Investor: Delivers extraordinary results again and again without direct management.

The five disciplines of a Multiplier are the opposite from that of a Diminisher

Multipliers are out there. Narayana Murthy, founder and chairman of India-based Infosys Technologies is a great example.

He grew the organisation that generates US$4.6bil in revenue, by hiring people smarter than himself, giving them the space to contribute and build a management team that would succeed him.

Thus, by extracting people’s full capability, Multipliers get twice the capability from people compared to Diminishers.

Becoming an investor

Investors empower by providing others the ownership and the resources to achieve goals independent of the leader. Micromanagers create dependence by handling every detail.

Here are three practices of investors:

1. Define ownership

Investors see and believe in the intelligence and abilities of the people around. They ascertain ownership by putting them in charge.

· Name the lead. For example, John Chambers, CEO of Cisco gives every member of his team 51% of the vote in the decision-making but they are 100% responsible for the result. Clarifying the role that you will play as a leader actually gives people more ownership, not less.

· Give ownership for the end goal. For example, a management team was assembled for an offsite meeting to plan an important acquisition for their business.

They kicked off their work with a simple but powerful management exercise called “The Big Picture”. They were all given a one-inch square of a famous painting. They were told to enlarge the square.

In other words, each team is given a little piece of a bigger picture. The goal is to bring all the enlargements together to form a unified replica of the original painting.

Initially, everyone was focused on the piece given to them. And when the time came for them to put together the whole picture, the painting did not come together so well.

The leader reminded the team that the goal is to optimise whole and not their individual piece. Only then did they start to give heed to the bigger picture. Though it was too late, they learned an important lesson.

When people are given ownership of only a small piece, they tend to focus on that piece. When they are given ownership for the whole, they will optimise and stretch their thinking for the bigger picture.

· Stretch the role. Multipliers get more than 100% of people’s capability because they stretch and get them to do things they have never done before.

When investors stretch the role, the person gets stretched too because the stretched role creates a vacuum that needs to be filled.

2. Invest resources

Multipliers guard their investment by imparting knowledge and by providing resources the person needs to succeed.

Teaching and coaching is a powerful tool that investors use to build intelligence and equip people to solve and avoid problems that might come. When Multipliers have sown into others and establish clear ownership, they earned the right to hold people accountable.

3. Hold people accountable

Investors engage and get involved in other people’s work. However, they also consciously and constantly hand back leadership and accountability to the people.

Investors expect people to complete the work. They insist that people not only identify problems but also stretch and exercise their intellectual muscles to come up with solutions.

As much as investors want their investments to succeed, they also respect and accept that failures are a part of the natural consequences of market forces. They recognise that every success has the seed of some failure. This liberates people to grow and succeed.

People are able to hold themselves accountable when the scoreboard is visible. The core belief is that people are smart enough and are able to figure things out. Multipliers create independence by investing. They build organisations that can maintain success, independent of them.

The Diminisher’s approach to execution

Diminishers operate with an opposite assumption. They don’t think people can deliver or figure it out on their own. They need to get involved with the details and micromanage before other people can deliver.


Let them know who is boss Let people know that they are responsible and accountable and tell them how you will stay engaged and support them, but they remain in charge.

Let nature take its course Nature is the best and most powerful teacher. People learn well, quickly and deeply when we allow nature to take its course and let people experience the natural consequences of their actions, especially through their mistakes.

Ask for the F-I-X When people come to you with a problem and challenge, it is most important not to assume responsibility for fixing the problem. Give the problem back to them.

Prompt them to stretch further, by asking questions such as: How would you like to fix this? What are the possible solutions for this situation? Get them to complete the thought process and come up with the solution.

Hand back the pen Once you see that your team members are stuck, be ready to assist, but have an exit plan. Tell them that you are here to back them up. Ask how you can help as they lead, that you are glad to think through this with them but you are still looking to them to lead.

Unexpected findings

Once people are given ownership, and when Multipliers show confidence and invest resources in them, vast amount of latent intelligence and capability are unearthed.

Multipliers do participate in operations, but they ensure that ownership remains with other people. Multipliers are able to achieve world-class results; 42% better than Diminishers.

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Koh Earn Soo is the Executive Director at SU. He has significant experience in the oil and gas industry and has been the editor of a key business magazine for many years. Koh Earn Soo and his team take the best books and summarise them into shorter, readable content in the hope of inspiring people to read more and learn more. To read the rest of this summary and summaries of other bestsellers, subscribe to

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