Article: Are you a Multiplier or a Diminisher?


Are you a Multiplier or a Diminisher?

Why are we smarter and more capable around some leaders but not others?
Are you a Multiplier or a Diminisher?

According to the book, Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown, various forms of leadership can either help or hinder the people they are managing. Leaders are divided into two categories known as the Multipliers and Diminishers. Few traits will help you identify the group in which you fall as a leader:


• Empire Builder: Hoard and underutilize talent 

• Tyrant: Create stress that stops thinking 

• Know-it-all: Tell people what to do 

• Decision Maker: Decide (then debate)

• Micromanager: Manage every detail 


• Talent Magnet: Attract and optimize talent

• Liberator: Create space for the best thinking 

• Debate Maker: Debate (then decide)

• Investor: Instil ownership and accountability 

While both talent magnets and Empire Builders attract ‘A’ talent, what differentiates them is what they do with the talent once it’s in the door. Talent magnets don’t run out of fashion by moving their people on to bigger, better opportunities, as there is always a pool of talent wanting to get into their organizations. 

As per a research study conducted by BTS on the impact of multiplying and diminishing leaders, multiplying leader behaviors believe that people are smart and can get things done. Diminishing leader behaviors express an opinion that the team cannot succeed without strong oversight from the leader. Under multiplying leaders, employees accessed about 45% of their potential intelligence, and under multiplying leaders, they obtained 96%. 

Diminishing leaders harness less than half of their team’s potential intelligence and reinforce the belief that the team has limited abilities. The team picks up on their leaders' belief, and the outcome is a vicious cycle of low expectations breeding low performance. Both the diminishing leader and the team contribute far less than the potential intelligence to the business. 

There are a vast majority of accidental diminishers as well. These are leaders with the best of intentions, good people who think they are doing a good job leading. Often they are the ones who have been promoted into management, for their intellectual merit and are assumed to have all the right solutions. Such a hierarchy is inherently diminishing and causes people to shut down and comply; thus, many well-intended leaders accidentally decrease the smarts of their people. Here are the popular types of accidental diminishers: 

  1. Visionaries:  These are leaders who have drafted down a futuristic vision for the company and encouraged people to work towards it. The problem with this type of picture is, it leaves little or no space for the team to come up with fresh ideas. A too prescriptive vision is provided to the groups, and people become apathetic instead of enthusiastic. 
  2. Idea Guys: Idea Guys are always bubbling with creative ideas and coming up with new projects to grow the business. They often consider themselves as the people in the organization who spark innovation but don't realize they are the ones causing whiplash as people hasten to keep up with each new idea, making minor progress in many directions. A great idea it may seem at first, but over a period it causes a lot of chaos. 
  3. Rescuers: Well-intending managers often jump in to rescue their team or a project so nobody in the team has to face failure and everyone is on the path of success. He/she wants to make sure that people are successful and protect their reputation by not letting them fail. The outcome of this is, their people become dependent on them, which weakens their reputation. 

Wiseman’s research has shown that diminishing leaders can master the art of becoming highly effective Multipliers as well. Start with these three simple steps: 

  1. If you are a visionary diminisher, begin by making the shift from answers to questions. Don’t just give our team all the answers but instead use your business knowledge to insightful and challenging problems that cause people to stop, think, and rethink.
  2. As an Idea guy diminisher you are always coming up with fresh ideas, but it need not be spoken out loudly. Learn to dispense your thoughts in small doses and see how they work over an extended period before introducing the next bunch of ideas. 
  3. Rescuers make sure to let people take full accountability of their work. Give people the space to fail and learn through their falling. It is through experiencing the consequences of their work that they will know what needs to be improved or completed. 

Multiplying leaders, along with those who were former diminishers, experience the cycle of high expectations and empowerment. This leads to team growth, and it reinforces both the leader’s and the team’s belief that the team members are smart and capable. Organizations under multiplying leaders have reported higher levels of innovation and experimentation, agility within teams, confidence and empowerment and small teams outperforming larger teams across a variety of metrics. 

(The article is based on a masterclass by Siddharth Yereddi, Director, BTS, on Unlocking the intelligence within your teams from People Matters L&D Conference 2018)

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Topics: Leadership, #PMLnD

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