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?

Elise Foster, one of the keynote speakers at our recent 20th anniversary conference, explored these questions with attendees, and looked at how certain traits we may hold drain group intelligence and unravel business potential.

Elise is a researcher and executive advisor who teaches leadership skills to executives around the world based on principles from a series of books. Together with Liz Wiseman, Elise is the co-author of The Multiplier Effect: Tapping the Genius Inside Our Schools. This follows Liz’s previous New York Times bestseller, Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, which she co-authored with Greg McKeown.

At the ALTO event, Elise explored the leadership qualities that bring out the greatness… not in us, but in others, and as a result, increase business potential twofold.

She explained how important it is 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.

Read on for a recap of the Multipliers concepts, and if you are a member, please login to view the video recordings as well as a copy of the slides.

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.

Elise explains, “Some leaders seem to drain the intelligence and capability out of the people around them. Their focus on their own intelligence and their resolve to be the smartest person in the room has a diminishing effect on everyone else. For them to look smart, other people have to end up looking dumb.”

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.

The Diminisher motto: “They can’t do this without me.”

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. In short, Diminishers are absorbed in their own intelligence, stifle others, and deplete the organisation of crucial intelligence and capability.

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.

Elise’s statistics found that Diminishers received 20-50% of the capability of their people, while Multipliers ranged from 70-100%. This is 2x the results, displaying the multiplier effect.

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,” says Elise.

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

Elise views leadership as a spectrum between Multipliers and Diminishers, with most leaders somewhere in the middle. 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.

Wiseman and McKeown write, “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 path of least resistance for most smart, driven leaders is to become a Tyrant. Policies—established to create order—often unintentionally keep people from thinking. At best, these policies limit intellectual range of motion as they straitjacket the thinking of the followers. At worst, these systems shut down thinking entirely. For example, “It is just easier to hold back and let ‘Kate’ do the thinking.”

It is a small victory to create space for others to contribute. But it is a huge victory to maintain that space and resist the temptation to jump back in and consume it yourself.

This is illustrated through the example of one leader who had a sign on her door: “Ignore me as needed to get your job done.” She told new staff members, “Yes, there will be a few times when I get agitated because I would have done it differently, but I’ll get over it. I’d rather you trust your judgment, keep moving, and get the job done.”

The Five Disciplines of Multipliers

In the first Multipliers book, the authors identify five key behaviours or disciplines that distinguish Multipliers from Diminishers.

The authors have also developed an assessment tool you can use to see where you are. Importantly, the first place to begin is with your assumptions about people. If you don’t have that straight, then the rest is just manipulation.

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.

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. Co-author Liz describes this positive work environment as both comfortable and intense, an area where fear is lifted and creative thinking is encouraged.

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.

Initiate 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. As the book explains, “Multipliers generate a belief – the belief that the impossible is actually possible”.

This lies in stark contrast to Diminishers who separate themselves as experts, taking control of ideas and giving direction to showcase their knowledge.

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.

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.

The Investor – Instill Ownership and Accountability

Multipliers create great results by expecting great results across the line. They invest in their employees knowing the new skills their people learn and utilise will in turn be reinvested into the team. They hold their staff publically accountable for their actions and results, creating ownership for the results.

In contrast, Diminishers act as micromanagers driving results by keeping the ownership and directing every detail.

Investing in our people means not swooping in and solving problems for them. This takes away our time and their ability to solve the problem themselves and to learn from it. It will also become a pattern. Stopping subordinates from learning the consequences of their actions only sets them up to make the same mistake again because you might not always be watching over their shoulder.

Accountability can be achieved by giving people charge of their responsibilities. They own the tasks assigned to them and with that ownership comes responsibility. Inform them they will be accountable for both the positive and negative outcomes, and then be consistent with either the rewards or repercussions.

What Does Being a Multiplier Do For You?

You may have noticed that many of these points are about developing the talents of others. How does this help you?

Enhancing your people’s ability to work on their own not only improves their work and output (remember 2X!), but it will also free up your time. How much of your day is spent solving other people’s problems?

How Do You Become a Multiplier?

The first step to develop is a critical eye of your own actions to find where you are on the Multiplier/Diminisher spectrum. Be honest with yourself. Where do you fall?

How do you move along the spectrum in different situations? Ask your colleagues, family, friends, and subordinates, and be sure to dig deep. Keep in mind that others might not be completely honest with you (especially if you have some Diminisher qualities).

Realise that applying these principles is work, which can be difficult as many of us are already overworked. But remember the statistics – improving output 2X! Despite your business or situation, creating twice the output of those around you is worth the investment.

As your skills improve, using these strategies will become second nature and applying them will be no work at all. The good news is some strategies are less work for you. For instance, by investing in other people, you give them room to do their job; therefore all you need to do is delegate and hang back, which is your job anyway.

The 30-Day Multiplier Challenge

Another reason this book is great is that the authors set out a challenge for their readers, suggesting you focus on a single discipline for thirty days. Don’t try to change everything at once. You could try one of these strategies, for example:

  • Choose your best discipline and become a superstar in this area,
  • Or choose your lowest area to raise your weakness.

After the thirty days, start working on the other option. Then apply a new discipline every thirty days, while still maintaining the last ones.

Keep us posted on your progress, and good luck!

Want To Join Our Next Event?

Mark your calendar for our upcoming events:

View all upcoming events

Not a member?

Complete the application form and e-mail it to Reka Lenart mailbox [at] altonet.org