The Multiplier Effect: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter

What kind of leader are you? Are you a person others line up to follow, or a leader people avoid? Are you a genius, or a genius maker?

It is important for leaders to develop Multiplier qualities and simultaneously eliminate the triggers of Diminisher qualities, which can help tap into the collective intelligence of our teams to produce better results and better employees.

What is a Diminisher?

Before we examine the qualities of a Multiplier, we need to understand another type of leader, the Diminisher. The latter are often intelligent leaders, but believe their genius is rare, giving them the illusion that they are the only ones capable of creating good ideas and successfully running a business.

Some leaders seem to drain the intelligence and capability out of the people around them. They focus on their own intelligence and their resolve to be the smartest person in the room has a diminishing effect on everyone else. This mindset stops them from allowing others to share ideas, think or contribute to a project. They are constant micromanagers because they like to keep all the control to themselves and feel that if they don’t do it, the job won’t be done correctly.

When people do take initiative without the permission of a Diminisher, their efforts and even positive results are scorned. As the pattern continues, effort by others declines and people become submissive waiting for direction at every turn because it is easier and less risky than making decisions for themselves.

It’s not that Diminishers don’t get things done. They do. It’s just that the people around them feel drained, overworked and underutilised.

What are Multipliers?

At the other end of the scale we have genius makers, or Multipliers. They earn this title by making everyone around them smarter. They help people in the room to grow by identifying their strengths and applying these strengths to a task. The value of Multipliers is that it shows what these assumptions about people look like in practice and how they are reflected in your behaviour. How would you approach your job differently if you believed that people are smart and can figure it out?

With a Multiplier mindset, people will surprise you. They will give more. You will learn more.

What kind of solutions could we generate if you could access the underutilised brainpower in the world? How much more could you accomplish?

Multipliers get more done by leveraging (using more) of the intelligence and capabilities of the people around them. They respect others. Multipliers are leaders who look beyond their own genius and focus their energy on extracting and extending the genius of others.

These are not “feel good” leaders. “They are tough and exacting managers who see a lot of capacity in others and want to utilise that potential to the fullest.”

Behavioural Tendencies

Everyone possesses some of the qualities of each style and moves up and down this line depending on the situation. The key to a balanced leader is the willingness to take a chance and invest in other people.

It’s easy for us to jump in where we shouldn’t, or feel the need to come to someone’s rescue. We see this in ourselves, in others and in organisations of all types. Leaders are especially prone to run over people, because after all, they have the vision, the know-how and the desire to get it done.

But we have to slow down and remember that we are not there just to get the job done, but to develop others to get the job done. They can (and need to be able to) do it without us. It’s our job to show them how.

In many ways, as leaders, we can become accidental Diminishers. The skills that got us into a position of leadership are not the same skills we need to lead. Leadership requires a shift in our thinking.

Most of the Diminishers had grown up praised for their personal intelligence and had moved up the management ranks on account of personal—and often intellectual—merit. When they became ‘the boss,’ they assumed it was their job to be the smartest and to manage a set of ‘subordinates.

The Five Disciplines of Multipliers

  1. The Talent Magnet

Multipliers are magnets attracting high quality talent because people want to work for a boss who gives them space to learn and grow. Whereas Diminishers build empires of talent that they control with the intention of being productive, but squander these resources by micromanaging.

The first key to being a talent magnet is to look for talent everywhere. Understand there are many different types of genius and talents – make one of yours noticing these qualities in other people.

This includes finding people’s natural strengths. A natural strength is an ability people do with ease, with skill, and without any effort. These can be as simple as the ability to run a meeting effectively to as specialised as blueprint drawing. Discover their natural genius and then task accordingly to these strengths. Utilise people to their full potential, by offering them challenging assignments and tasks.

Everyone has unique skills – learn how to identify them, test them, and apply them.

There is no reason to find the smartest, hardest working people only to restrain them with mundane and simple work.

Finally, remove the blockers. Blockers are like a virus, they bring others down through bad attitude, low effort, and by planting the seeds of discontent.

  1. The Liberator – Create Intensity That Requires Best Thinking

Multipliers create a highly motivating work environment where people are required and allowed to think for themselves. On the other hand, Diminishers act as Tyrants, inducing a fear of judgement on their subjects that inhibits people’s ability to think and function. This pressure creates a negative environment stopping subordinates from taking any risks or even contributing ideas. People will hold back around Diminishers because they are afraid of the repercussions of suggesting ideas that may disagree with the Tyrant’s thinking.

To become a Liberator, free the restraints on your staff by allowing them the room and opportunity to think, speak, and act. Create space for your workforce to step up and find the balance between comfort and pressure, while still insisting on their best work.

Multipliers allow people the permission to make mistakes. Mistakes are part of learning and allow the opportunity for improvement.

Provide praise, encouragement, and feedback that can be applied and worked on. Include positive and negative points so subordinates know what to keep doing and where to develop.

  1. Challenges

Multipliers challenge their workforce by giving them opportunities to rise to the occasion. Set huge goals with short timelines, but encourage others with enthusiasm that despite the odds, they are achievable. Set forth toward these goals with conviction, daring your team to strive for the impossible. This lies in stark contrast to Diminishers who separate themselves as experts, taking control of ideas and giving direction to showcase their knowledge.

  1. How do you become a Challenger?

Start with your own curiosity and imagination of what is possible.

Ask lots of questions! You cannot find answers without reflective questions.

Take action now. The best plan has no chance of coming to fruition if the first step is never taken.

  1. Become a Master of Debate

Multipliers use collective knowledge to debate ideas and come up with the best solutions. Ideas are not based on the rank of those that made them; instead they are based on creativity and best outcomes. By incorporating teams into the idea process, they get to see the issue from a variety of perspectives, understand the issue and solution, and can see the big picture. This understanding creates a plan and an action that people will be more invested in.

On the contrary, Diminishers make decisions alone or with their small inner circle. They leave the remainder of the organisation in the dark as to why a decision was made and instead of an explanation, they give direct instructions of how to accomplish something.

To become a Debate Maker, start with defining the right questions and selecting the proper team. Great debate is a skill. Practice this skill with your team by keeping the experience engaging, comprehensive, and educational. Have people argue a point and then switch positions to debate what they were just arguing. Turn it into a game.

Finally, always be sure to find a sound solution. People want to know what they are doing has purpose. Debating a valuable solution that is then applied provides workers with a feeling of purpose and contribution.


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