Posted on August 17, 2015

Book Study Feature: Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter

We often hold book discussion among teams at Paycor and one that we delved into recently was Multipliers by Liz Wiseman with Greg McKeown.

Upon meeting someone, you can usually tell right away if they are a great leader. With so much advice out there on what leadership should be, who can tell what differentiates the terrible leaders from the average ones from the great one? Multipliers attempts to show what pushes those great leaders over the tipping point.

In Multipliers, Wiseman and McKeown identify two types of leaders: the Multiplier and the Diminisher. The Multiplier “creates collective, viral intelligence in organizations;” they’re electric and everyone wants to work on their team, because they demand rigor but create the safety to innovate making everyone into their best self. On the other hand, Diminishers “deplete the organization of crucial intelligence and capability.” We’ve all probably worked under one of these people who just suck the life out of any project they touch and create stress at every turn. Multipliers sets out a model of what makes a Multiplier-type leader, why Multipliers are so important, and how anyone can move toward that style of leadership in their own everyday life.

Some big ideas from *Multipliers*

An Atmosphere of Genius

Multipliers can see the genius that each person brings to the table and they know how to tap into it. They understand that people love to contribute using their own genius, and in placing their team members where they can succeed, they get more than 100% effort. Wiseman and McKeown suggest taking the time to ask yourself what each person is good at, and then ask why. What is the reason they excel at that task? What are their underlying strengths and how can I leverage them? This type of culture is magnetic. When your team thrives, you will create and attract the best talent.

Asking Questions and Sparking Debate

Leaders are promoted in organizations because they are recognized for their smarts, their know-how, and their innovative ideas (among many other reasons). Sometimes, however, leaders become overzealous and their ideas become the only ideas. In order to avoid groupthink and generate new ideas, Multipliers learn to ask the right questions, listen to their team’s insight, challenge ideas, and push beyond what anyone could have come up alone. Not all decisions need to be collective, but culture and productivity suffer when it seems like only the manager matters.

Giving the Pen Back

Multipliers strive to make themselves as obsolete as possible. Sure, they still contribute, but a big part of this contribution is demanding the best work from their team and giving them accountability for their projects. Multipliers step up to the drawing board when needed but always “give the pen back” to the team when they’re back on track. Diminishers micromanage, while Multipliers invest and trust in the talents they see in others and make new leaders everywhere they go.

Anyone Can Be a Multiplier

Most Diminishers don’t realize that they’re being Diminishers. Once they see the effects of their leadership style, however, they are typically willing to change. Most people don’t perfectly embody Multiplier or Diminisher leadership but have traits of both; however, the only things needed to move toward being a Multiplier are being smart enough to change and committed enough to follow through. Wiseman and McKeown recommend starting with your extremes, bringing your worst practice up to par and pushing your best to new heights.

Paycor has nine guiding principles that dictate how we do business; all of the guiding principles—which include improving personally and professionally, taking care of each other, and fostering teamwork—are a part of being a Multiplier. The big ideas in Multipliers help create great leaders who care about their employees, because it’s more productive, it’s the right thing to do, and it’s actually easier than floundering as a Diminisher.

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Did you enjoy this article? Click here to read about The Alliance: Managing Talent in a Networked Age, our last book study by Paycor’s Executive Vice President Stacey Browning.