Insights- Multipliers: Notes from the Book

27th November 2022

Posted in: Insights

In Multipliers Liz Wiseman explains how some leaders drain the intelligence and capability out of people around them, while other leaders use their intelligence as a tool to amplify the talents of those around them.


The problem with genius is that some leaders drain the intelligence and capability out of people around them. Their focus on their own intelligence and resolve to be the smartest person in the room, diminishes the ability of everyone around them.

Other leaders use their intelligence as a tool rather than a weapon to amplify the capabilities of those around them.  It isn’t how much you know that matters- it’s how much access you have to what other people know.

Multipliers are genius makers- they make others around them smarter and more capable.

Not only get more effort from employees but grow their intelligence


To grow a business we have two choices- add more people OR use multiplication to enhance the performance of the existing team:

  • Most people in organisations are underutilised
  • All capability can be leveraged with the right type of leadership
  • Intelligence and capability can be multiplied without requiring a bigger investment


The mindset of the diminisher:

  • Others will never figure things out without them
  • Intelligence as something that can’t change much – fixed mindset
  • Blame others for mistakes


The mindset of a multiplier:

  • Growth mindset – intelligence is continually growing
  • Many people have the ability to make decisions
  • Assume people are smart and can figure it out
  • What could be done to develop and growth existing capabilities



  • Have a hard edge – expect great thing but they are not always nice
  • Don’t play small- ie they work hard and invite others to do the same
  • They have great sense of humour – has a liberating effect on others- don’t take life too seriously

Five disciplines of multipliers

Talent Magnet- attract and deploy talent to their fullest.

  • Attract talented team members – the cycle of attraction starts with confidence and magnetism to surround yourself with a players/ top talent
  • Being stretched they will become smarter and more capable
  • Get kudos and recognition for their work
  • Reputation grows and attracts more A players

In contrast diminishers are empire builders will acquire resources and then waste them

  • Hoard resources and underutilise talent.
  • Collect people like Knick jacks to improve their own status
  • Team become disengaged and stale, lose intellectual confidence
  • Lose opportunities and so they stay
  • The place people go to die

To become a Talent Magnet:

  • Look for talent everywhere.
  • Find peoples native genius. Name the genius- find specific strengths in everyone and tell others about it.
  • Utilise people to their fullest
  • Remove the blockers. Let go of a superstar- if someone needs to go to grow- let them
  • Supersize it- build someone’s role with room to grow into it


Liberators  – Create intensity that requires best thinking and provide a motivating environment where everyone has permission and space to think and do their best work.

  • Create both comfort and pressure – I’ll give you space if you give me your best work.
  • Permission to make mistakes but the obligation to learn from them and not repeat them

In contrast Tyrants use judgement and fear and stress to demand everyone’s best thinking but don’t get it.

  • Insistence on their own ideas
  • Indifference to ideas of other
  • Pounce on others mistakes and judge others
  • Dominate the space and air time for ideas in meetings
  • Create anxiety and stress ( rather than motivating pressure )

To become a liberator:

  • Play fewer chips yourself to give others room
  • Label your opinions – soft opinions are just thoughts for others to consider, hard opinions are a clear point of view.
  • Talk up your mistakes- share with others
  • Create learning cycle- admit and share mistakes, insist on learning from mistakes,
  • Create space – listen more than you talk and let others play their role, allow space for discovery and failure, level the playing field
  • Demand best work – defend the standard- is this their best work, separate this from expected outcome


Challengers – push everyone beyond what they know, to stretch the organisation and generate belief and enthusiasm.

  • Seed the opportunity – show the needs, challenge assumptions, reframe problems, create a starting point
  • Lay down a challenge, extend a concrete challenge, ask the hard questions, let others fill the blanks
  • Generate belief- show the path at their level, cocreate the plan, create early wins

In contract diminishers are Know it all’s that give directives.

  • Tell you what they know
  • Test what you know
  • Tell people how to do their jobs
  • Create idle cycles

To become a Challenger

  • Intellectual curiosity
  • Take the extreme questions challenge- only ask questions
  • Create a stretch challenge
  • Take a bus trip with team to help the learn something new


Debate makers- involve their team in decision making process that leads to decision that can be understood and implemented. 

  • Frame the issue – right questions, right team
  • Spark the debate, create safety, demand rigor,
  • Drive a sound debate- reclarify process, make decisions, communicate decision

In contrast Decision makers try to sell their decisions to others.

  • Closed circle
  • Raise issues
  • Dominate the discussion
  • Force the decision

To become a Debate maker

  • lead discussion by asking questions
  • Frame the issue
  • Ask for evidence
  • Ask everyone for input
  • Ask people to switch positions or argue other side


Investors – have high expectations but instill ownership, provide the resources needed and hold people accountable.

  • Define ownership – name the lead, give ownership for the end goal (full picture nor just one square), stretch the role,
  • Investing resources – teach and coach, provide backup
  • Hold people accountable= give it back, expect complete work, respect natural consequences,


Diminishers such as Micromanagers drive results by holding onto ownership, jumping into details and directly managing for results,

  • People will never figure it out without me
  • Maintain ownership
  • Jump in and out
  • Take it back


To become an investor

  • Give 51% of the vote away
  • Let nature take its course- let it happen, talk about it, focus on next time
  • Ask for the fix
  • Give it back



The Accidental Diminishers-

Some people who generally display traits of a multiplier may still display some actions that are diminishing.

Managers with the best of intentions, who think they are doing a good job of leading but don’t know the restrictive impact they are having on others


Idea guy – someone who always coming up with a fountain of ideas.

  • This means no one else need to come up with ideas of their own so it is easy to become lazy.
  • No one has time implement anything as always back at square one.

Always on– manage with big personality and always with something to say

  • Draining for others and saps energy- while they are on, others are turned off.

Rescuer– the person who doesn’t like to see people struggle, make mistakes or fail.

  • Starves people of vital learning they need to build experience, people become dependent and it can deplete confidence,

Pacesetter– achievement oriented manager leads by example, expects that others behind will notice, follow, and catch up.

  • Instead they become spectators, or just give up. The faster we run, the slower others walk as they become demotivated or dont see the need to try.

Rapid responder- the person who is always quick to respond, trouble shoot, and make fast decisions.

  • Others around will react slow as they know the boss is already on it – no need to do anything as it is always under control.

Optimist – always sees possibilities and believe that all problems can be solved with hard work, and the right mindset.

  • You may undervalue the struggle and the hard fought wins they achieve or make them feel you don’t appreciate how hard things can be.

Protector– keeps people from seeing problems before they arise. They feel that they are creating a safe haven where people can flourish.

  • They never learn resilience or how to fend for themselves as never experience the struggle.

Strategist– big thinker with compelling vision of what the business should be.

  • People spend time second guessing what the boss wants without thinking themselves.

Perfectionist– appreciates excellence and sets high standards.

  • Someone who always offers helpful critiques and points out flaws (without being asked) can lead to others becoming disheartened or losing confidence.


Decrease these habits

  • Seek feedback from your team
  • Lead with intention
  • Practice workarounds
  • Do less and challenge more


When Dealing with diminishers, the fiive most common reactions are below – most of which are not effective.

  1. Confront them
  2. Avoid them
  3. Quit
  4. Comply and lie low
  5. Convince them you are right
  6. Take HR action


When chosing how to respond remember:

  • It’s not necessarily about you – your actions are not the root case but your reaction may inflame the situation
  • Diminishing isn’t inevitable – we chose our response ie to lower our standards or try be a multiplier, Apply curiosity rather than judgement
  • You can lead your leader – guide them in what you need and advocate for yourself.


Things to try:

  • Turn down the volume – learn what to ignore and what to react to.
  • Strengthen other connections – find a supportive career network outside of your diminishing manager.
  • Retreat and regroup – don’t go head to head, give time to think
  • Send the right signals – deliver and build trust as different personality types lead to diminishing behaviour,
  • Assert your capability- ask for space to be able to perform.
  • Ask for performance intel- ask for feedback on performance including context and direction.
  • Shop for a new boss – pay attention to the talk to listen ratio,

If you find yourself constantly surrounded by diminishers, is it you and what you are putting out?


Multiplying up % how to help your manager or boss improve

  • When diminishers feel smart, valued, heard, included, and trusted they will extend more trust in return
  • Exploit your bosses strengths – don’t try to change them but focus on what they are good at and learn those things.
  • Give them a users guide – ie tell people what you are good at and how you like to work.
  • Listen to learn – look for common ground and ask questions so they know you are actually listening.
  • Admit your mistakes – sharing what you have learned you earn the space to get it right next time
  • Sign up for a stretch – take on a bigger challenge to prove your worth
  • Invite them to the party – you indicate the contribution you would like from them to focus their concentration


Inspiring multiplier leadership in others

  • Assume positive intent – ie I know you are trying to make sure we are not overloaded but…
  • Address one issue at a time – unloading all will make them feel attacked.
  • Celebrate progress – recognise and appreciate all efforts in the right direction
  • Supply your own light – become a better leader than your boss.


How to become a multiplier

  • Resonance
  • Realisation
  • Resolve

Focus on Multiplier assuptions- people are smart and can figure it out!

Work the extremes – only need to be strong on three of the multiplier disciplines and aim not have strong diminisher traits in any area

  • Neutralise a weakness – don’t need to fab at everything – just don’t be bad at it.
  • Top off a strength – invest wisely to become better at those areas you are already good at.

Author: Donna Bruce