No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit for doing it”.
Andrew Carnegie

This quote says it all. A great leader has to set a good example for his or her employees by giving credit where credit is due. They should also allow their employees to grow by giving them challenging tasks, not just trying to do everything themselves.

Liz Wiseman has written the book: “Multipliers; how the best leaders make everyone smarter”. Throughout the book she focuses mainly on two leadership styles; those who care about their people, and those who don’t.

This book began with a simple observation: There is more intelligence inside our organizations than we are using. It lead to the idea that there was a type of leader, those I came to call Multipliers, who saw, used, and grew the intelligence of others, while other leaders, whom I labeled Diminishers, shut down the smarts of those around them.

We all want safety and growth in our workplace. Learning new skills makes us stronger and more self-confident which is a push in the right direction. Wiseman explains that Multipliers do this by creating a safe space for idea-flow and innovation. It is achieved by removing the fear of failure and eliminating self-doubt as well as other factors that could possibly hold us back. When these are removed you don’t feel limited by perceived expectations or the fear of not measuring up. People are free to find their own paths rather than following someone else’s.

Diminishers are so-called “know-it-alls”. Their leadership style is defined by domination and control. Everything, and everyone within the organization revolves around the leaders ‘all-knowingness’. They believe that they are the only ones with this incredible knowledge and everyone else should listen to them and follow their lead. This essentially places boundaries and limits upon the achievements of the organization, because employees are not ‘allowed’ free thinking, only to follow the commands and thoughts of a single individual.

Wiseman uses an interesting analogy, calling Multipliers genius-makers, and Diminishers simply geniuses. Multipliers are interested in peoples individual development for their own benefit, as well as the good of the company. They want them to convey their best skills and reach their maximum potential. This because they know that once they are at their own personal best, they will also be more valuable to the organization.

On the other hand, Diminishers view themselves as geniuses and are more caught up in showing off their own knowledge, than finding values in the ideas of others. Simply put; they feel a constant need to be the smartest person in the room. For this to be possible, others have to end up looking dumb. Not only will this drain peoples energy and motivation, but it will limit their creativity and willingness to contribute to the greater good.

Multipliers use their intelligence as a tool rather than a weapon. By doing this, they are able to inspire others to be more innovative and eager to solve challenging problems. “When these leaders walked into a room, lightbulbs started switching on over peoples heads. Ideas flew so fast that you had to replay the meeting in slow motion just to see what was going on. Meetings with them were idea mash-up sessions”. Rather than excerting their own intelligence upon others, these leaders are intelligence multipliers and innovation makers. They wish to use peoples capabilities and stretch them to their maximum potential.

If you’re reading this and thinking that you’re a Multiplier, great job! Keep up the good work. However, if you’re sitting here thinking you might be a Diminisher or have Diminisher-tendencies, don’t worry, there is still hope. You can still become a Multiplier. Liz Wiseman explains that there are five steps, or accelerators that can be followed to fast-track your path towards Multiplierness. So, if you are interested, keep on reading to find out what these are.

  1. START WITH THE ASSUMPTIONS
    When entering a room, we all make assumptions about those sitting in it. Awareness of our own assumptions towards others abilities is the first step towards becoming a Multiplier. Wiseman separates assumptions of the Multiplier and Diminisher. Diminisher assumption “People will never figure this out without me”. Assuming that others possess less knowledge or skill than yourself will only put a limit on their contribution. If you only see the need to send employees into meetings to monitor others and then report back, they will spend a lot of time attending meetings and very little contributing to further advancement of the company. Multiplier assumption “People are smart and can figure it out”. By having this mindset, you are telling your employees that you trust their skills and judgments. You acknowledge that they and their opinions are valuable and you hired them because of their ability to contribute to the good of the organization. Then, you will show them trust, but also let them create their own path based on their own skills, not yours.

    With these assumptions we show people who we are, and our own views and practises have a strong impact on the outcome.

  2. WORK WITH THE EXTREMES
    In 2002 Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman published a set of fascinating research findings in their book; “The Extraordinary Leader”. Their research focused on what differentiated an ordinary from an extraordinary leader, and the results were quite interesting. They found that leaders without any specific strengths or with distinguishable weaknesses reduced their overall effectiveness as leader. Having a single great strength doubled their effectiveness, and having two, three or four pushed them towards the eighty-ninth percentile. What these results actually tell us is that there is no need to be good at everything, but mastering a handful of skills will improve your ability to lead others.

    In order to do this, it is important to tackle both extremes; your strengths and your weaknesses. The plan is separated into two parts; starting by neutralizing weakness followed by topping off strength.

    Neutralize your weakness.
    We would all like to be the best at everything, but realistically we know that’s not possible. Instead we should focus on supercharging our existing strengths and neutralizing our weaknesses. Trying to move it from one extreme, to another; that being from a weakness to a strength, may not be impossible but incredibly time and energy-consuming. Instead of spending all time trying to achieve something that is very difficult, use a small chunk of it neutralizing a weakness, and the rest supercharging a pre-existing strength.

    Top off your strength.
    “Having realistic goals frees up capacity to do more development work: turning your modest strengths into towering strengths”. She recommend that you carefully assess your repertoire to decide where to best focus your energy. Once you have found the specific skill you wish to advance, time and efforts should be put into this work in order to move closer to Multiplier leadership.

  3. RUN AN EXPERIMENT
    When we wish to change anything, we need to test out different approaches, review the results and adjust accordingly. If an experiment proves successful, this will fuel further experimentation and development. The European Journal of of Social Psychology states that it takes approximately 60 days to implement a new habit. Wiseman suggests ‘testing’ it out for 30 days because then you are able to review its effectiveness and weed out potential downfalls that may postpone success.

  4. BRACE YOURSELF FOR SETBACKS
    Changing your own habits and assumptions may sound simple enough, but it is actually a highly complex process. It requires changing the neural pathways in your brain, which in itself takes time. Therefore, patience, and awareness of potential hick-ups along the way is key. “Because the Multiplier disciplines are easy to grasp, a common trap is thinking that implementing the idea is as easy as understanding them. Rarely is knowledge alone sufficient to transform into a Multiplier. Much more often, replacing diminishing habits with Multiplier behaviours comes only through persistence and resilience. It is therefore vital to anticipate-and create tools to withstand-possible setbacks along the way”.
  5. ASK A COLLEAGUE
    The fifth and final accelerator is asking the help of others. Find someone that you know and trust professionally; a boss, an employee or a peer, and ask them to help find your diminishing traits. Even if we all like to believe that we are self-aware, there might be some professional habits we don’t even realize have Diminisher tendencies. Through the eyes of others we are able to get insights that we otherwise wouldn’t be privy to. This will then help guide us in the right direction.

    While the ripple effect of a single leader can be felt across an organization, no leader leads in isolation. Each leader is part of a system, and it takes leaders at all levels to build an environment where intelligence is deeply utilized”

I believe Liz Wiseman has highlighted a very important topic in her book, which is why I chose to write about it. I feel that there are too many organiztions with “Diminisher”-type leaders and not enough Multipliers. So let’s all take a look in the mirror and ask ourselves “Do I have diminisher tendencies?”.
If the answer is “Yes”, well, now you know how to change it. Please feel free to leave a comment if you enjoyed the article or wish to express your own opinion on this topic. I will leave you all with this very suitable quote.

“Leadership is practised not so much in words as in attitude and in actions”
Harold S. Geneen

Inger Lise E. Greger, MSc. Change Management

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