If we look back on our lives (the older we are the farther we may look), I would venture to say that at some point in our life we were influenced by an individual in ways that have marked us today. Maybe that individual challenged you, maybe they taught you, or maybe they simply encouraged you in your own personal growth.
As leaders in our firms, we have the distinct opportunity of shaping a leadership culture with those in our areas of influence. Leadership, to me, is something that is shaped in the context of relationships. We don’t lead a faceless team; we lead a collection of individuals with unique ideas, insights and perspectives. How we choose to lead often leaves a mark on the individuals in much the same way that we were marked by others before us. Multipliers, by Liz Wiseman, came out of this former Oracle executive’s experience as a key leader in a major software company. She worked for a successful corporation that recruited the best talent and she was intrigued by the intelligence of those around her. Through that experience she was a genius watcher. She experienced a clear dichotomy in how she saw leaders use their “genius.” Her theory led her on a path to see what leadership looked like from these geniuses:
The key to leaders in organizations is the ability to move from genius (where they may try to be the smartest person in the room) to genius maker (where they use their intelligence to access and multiply the genius in others).
The author was able to name the contrasts she saw in leaders.
Multipliers – create collective intelligence in organizations
- Extract intelligence to generate 2x more from others around them
- Extending intelligence to stretch people beyond what they think they could give
Diminishers – deplete the organization of crucial intelligence and capabilities
Wiseman created 5 contrasting characteristics of Multipliers and Diminishers centered on each one’s perspective of intelligence.
(adapted from Multipliers, p. 23)
I needed to read through these contrasting characteristics slowly and thoughtfully to assess my natural tendencies. From here, Wiseman developed 5 disciplines of a Multiplier. Without sounding too simplistic or cliché, we have a roadmap to organize ourselves toward being more like a Multiplier than a Diminisher.
- Attract and optimize talent
- Create intensity that requires best thinking
- Extend challenges
- Debate decisions
- Instill ownership and accountability
We all like to believe that we are Multipliers, but if we are honest with ourselves we will see ways in which we demonstrate the traits of a Diminisher.
As I read this book, my mind regularly recalled the times that I acted as a Multiplier (insert ‘pat on the back’ here). I might have thought of instances where I acted as a Diminisher, but I quickly passed those off as isolated and unusual instances… of course, “I am a Multiplier” I told myself. At the book’s website, www.multipliersbook.com, there is an Accidental Diminisher survey that you can take to assess your starting point. Doing this survey of 10 common management scenarios gave me immediate feedback on my place along the Diminisher to Multiplier continuum. The good news was that the research of Multipliers revealed that most Multipliers exhibited strength in three of the five disciplines. In fact, it was common to see as few as two that were strong and the others to be good enough.
One challenge toward sustaining momentum toward being a Multiplier is the practice of asking and holding a single question for a long period of time. This type of question is something you ask yourself over and over and pushes you to deep learning and mastery. Ask yourself questions like:
- What would cause other people to become smarter and more capable around me?
- What could other people figure out on their own if I just gave them more space?
- How can I help develop the full brainpower of those on my team?
- How can I multiply the intelligence of others?
This book will lay out in very logical formats the different ways to see leadership traits exhibited and succinct causes and effects. As I seek to lead others and encourage their growth, my mind was challenged to think of the ways that I lead and influence others. The ideas in Multipliers gave me tangible actions and thoughtful places to start as I think about being the kind of leader that leaves a positive mark in others lives.
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