What Kind of Leader Are You? Multipliers by Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown—a Book Summary

Multipliers is a great book for people who are in leadership positions. It helps people become more aware of their leadership styles and how they are either fostering a productive workforce or slowly eating away at each employee’s energy level.

The book opens with the experience level of Wiseman and her executive position at Oracle. She was the global leader of Human Resources Development where she spent 17 years of her career. She then left to consult with major companies such as:

  • Disney
  • Google
  • Apple
  • Facebook
  • Microsoft
  • Nike
  • Twitter
  • eBay and PayPal
  • Salesforce

Wiseman and Mckeown researched and studied leadership types for two years before producing the text. They focused on the concepts of defining characteristics and behaviors of effective leaders over those who were seeing a lot of turnover and unsuccessful business practices.

Multipliers identifies two types of leaders in the world: Multipliers and Diminishers. The authors describe personality and behavior characteristics of both types of leaders.

Multipliers will empower employees and foster their ability to become more intelligent. The way they lead organizations has a lot to do with how they give their workforce the chance to challenge themselves and solve problems with higher critical thinking skills. This type of leadership supports the employee’s ability to increase their capacity and productivity. They believe that:

  • People are capable of becoming more intelligent as they are given opportunities to challenge their overall thinking.
  • Reorganizing people in areas where they can be most advantageous is a good way of increasing company productivity.
  • Utilizing every person on staff in a variety of ways will help with business growth and successful results.
  • Empowering people to develop and challenge themselves is a supportive way to increase employee retention and success.

Diminishers negatively drain the energy and abilities of others. They may be in the presence of high-quality workers, but never give them the chance to meet goals or expectations. Instead, they are left feeling unappreciated and powerless, thus performing at a low rate that affects a company’s productivity. They tend to believe that:

  • People are dumb and “good work” is hard to find.
  • Increasing the number of people who work in the company will increase the workflow.
  • Blaming, dictating and controlling are conducive methods of leadership.

Employees who work for Diminishers:

  • Feel like they are flying by the seat of the pants. They are always presented with new but never implemented ideas.
  • Will attempt to work hard, but will do so at a slower rate.
  • Feel tired and overworked and feel as if they’re not given the chance to shine where they can.

Multipliers are the people who will set high expectations, and they believe that their employees will reach them. They create a positive work environment that fosters creative and productive thought. Multipliers will identify people’s strengths and place them in areas where those people can shine. They do not believe in hiring more people when the current people they have can do the job just as well. On average, the studies from the text reveal that Multipliers have the ability to get two times more productivity from their employees. They are the genius makers who help their people get smarter.

The 5 Disciplines of a Multiplier

The authors present the 5 disciplines that separate a Multiplier from a Diminisher. Those disciplines are:

  1. They attract skilled and talented people.

People will hear about multipliers and want to work for them. They consider these people to be the genius makers that will foster a great work environment. Then, the talent will follow.

They will try to find talent everywhere and appreciate all levels of intelligence. Multipliers also pull the genius out of people by giving them opportunities to do more than what they think they are capable of. By doing this, they are able to utilize people’s talents to the fullest capacity. They truly believe that every person in their workforce has an innate genius inside that can contribute to the organization’s success. They identify native genius through the following ways:

  • Verbal reasoning
  • Critical thinking
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Analytical skills
  • Ability and willingness to learn

In order to find talent, multipliers must become genius watchers. They will need to identify the talent, put it to test and then delegate.

They should be cautious about weeding out the blockers or inhibitors of productivity. The longer a multiplier waits to remove someone who is negatively impacting the company, the more it will affect the entire energy of the space.

  1. They foster environments of creative thinking and challenging concepts.

Multipliers know how important it is to provide people the chance to think creatively and put that creativity to the test. If employees constantly have a dictator shooting down ideas all the time, employees begin to feel powerless and unwanted. Great leaders will set the stage for people instead of taking on the limelight.

Multipliers are able to provide this type of environment due to their ability to:

  • Giving people chances to speak and keeping themselves from always participating in the conversations. Instead, they facilitate a conversation and allow the people to work through the problem with each other.
  • Set high expectations for employees to produce high-quality work that will end in successful results. They hold their people accountable for their processes.
  • Reflect on pros and cons consistently for quality assurance.

In order to foster creative environments, Multipliers should listen more than speak and be more of a facilitator rather than a presenter. Multipliers set high expectations for their teams because they entrust their teams with the tasks. If things do not always turn out the way they should, they reflect on it with the team and provide a means for moving forward.

  1. They challenge their people to achieve higher results.

There is a difference between someone who is a know-it-all and someone who is a challenger. Those who claim to know it all will always believe that their expertise matters more than anyone else’s, thus everyone should follow them. Challengers provide opportunities for people to step outside the box and find creative solutions.

Multipliers do not simply provide people with answers. They give their workforce the chance to think deeply about concepts and attempt to find solutions through discovery. In order to do this, Multipliers must follow these steps:

1. Evoke thought and opportunity.

  • Present the problem and challenge people to find solutions. They might provide a starting point so that it can help their teams work in a particular direction.

2. Extend a challenge

  • Present a challenge to draw interest and ask employees to find answers to common problems. They ask them to find the missing pieces to the puzzle.

3. Create a sense of hope.

  • They provide the initial steps to help their teams find the right paths. They also show support for the team’s efforts along the way.

To be successful in this discipline, Multipliers must present the leading question and then let the rest of the employees work to solve the problem. They may already have a clear sense of what the outcome might be, but they choose to take a backseat and let the people work towards increasing their intelligence levels and productivity.

  1. They raise questions for debate and offer employees chances to participate in decision-making.

Diminishers tend to make decisions on their own without any input from others. They will leave everyone around them out of the vital conversations in making these important decisions. They do not care to get the input of others and rather patronize them by requesting their opinions, only to disregard them. 

Multipliers, on the other hand, present these questions to evoke conversation from their employees. They want to hear input from others and do so by:

  • Honing in on different perspectives.
  • Encouraging people to challenge one another in a constructive manner.
  • Empower people to be part of the conversation and decision-making process.
  • Foster and facilitate healthy debates whether they  end in a decision or not.

The purpose of a debate is that it will be an engaging experience as long as it is facilitated properly. It also will give people a chance to see other perspectives and allow people to remain focused on the facts. People will be able to leave the debate more knowledgeable and informed regardless of the outcome.

In order to facilitate an effective debate, a Multiplier should be sure to address and frame the issue so that people know what the problem is. From there, people can ponder solutions and offer reasonable explanations. You can then watch as people begin to evoke their analytical skills and debate over constructive solutions. Then, drive a decision based on the result of the debate. Be sure to keep the space safe and offer chances for every person to speak.

  1. They delegate responsibilities and hold people accountable.

It can be tempting for a leader of high intelligence to want to take on every single responsibility and task. The problem is that these people end up being micro-managers who only create dependence on one person rather than the entire organization. Instead, Multipliers work as investors where they invest in their workforce and delegate responsibilities knowing that those people are capable of doing it.

Diminishers tend to take on everything because they do not believe their employees are smart or able enough to do it. Nor do they believe that people will ever rise up to the challenge. Multipliers truly believe that even if their employees cannot figure it out initially, they will eventually because they are smart enough to do so.

These investors are able to delegate responsibilities through the following:

  • Identifying leaders in the organization and giving them the chance to take the lead on projects and tasks.
  • Facilitating the conversations and processes by providing insight, but not stepping in to take over the process.
  • Holding people accountable for their work and results.

Being someone who can step back and watch employees use the tools the leaders give them is definitely a great trait. 

How to Become a Multiplier

There are a multitude of leadership styles that people tend to fall into and those are usually the traits of a Multiplier and a Diminisher. Some people will have more traits than others on both ends of this spectrum. What is important to note is that behaviors and traits can be changed towards achieving the characteristics and disciplines of a Multiplier.

  1. Identify your leadership strengths and weaknesses.

Being more aware of your strong areas and those that need improvement will help you become more aware of your leadership style and behavior.

  1. Eliminate assumptions about people.

Once you begin having the mindset that everyone is capable of doing great things, then you will become closer to becoming a Multiplier. People become more intelligent when you give them chances to be smarter with everyday challenges.

You have to change your behavior and your thinking before you can truly see yourself as a Multiplier. Believe that people all have the capacity to do a great job as long as you are giving them opportunities to do so.

This text was, overall, a great book. It helps leaders and aspiring leaders to recognize effective management strategies that foster positive organizations. It brings up a lot of different and common concepts and issues that organizations tend to deal with in terms of leadership teams. The book evokes a conversation and suggests meaningful tips on putting these behaviors into practice.

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