Are You a Multiplier or a Diminisher?

Ellevate Network
4 min readFeb 1, 2022

By: Caroline Dowd-Higgins

From academia to the non-profit arena and the corporate world-of-work, I have had many clients who complained about bosses who were ineffective leaders. Were these leaders intelligent and talented people? Yes. But were they able to lead a team, motivate others, and empower professional development and success in their colleagues? In many cases, no.

I have come to believe that while some leaders are born, most are developed, and many organizations and career sectors do not place enough emphasis on training impactful leaders. This leads to discontent amongst the ranks and ultimately poor morale and low productivity. There are some enlightened organizations that train and develop leaders, and I am a believer in this transformational talent development.

I have long been a fan of Liz Wiseman, CEO of the Wiseman Group and best-selling author on leadership and talent development. I’m reading Wiseman’s new book, Impact Players: How to Take The Lead, Play Bigger and Multiply Your Impact, and it’s a must-read for all leaders from entry-level to the seasoned c-suite. (More on Impact Players in a future piece.)

Before launching the Wiseman Group, Liz worked at Oracle for 17+ years and considers herself a genius watcher. She was the VP responsible for the company’s global talent development strategy and ran Oracle Corporate University. Her book, Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, teaches valuable lessons for current and aspiring leaders interested in amplifying the capabilities of those with whom they work.

The world needs more multipliers.

During Wiseman’s 17+ year leadership watching and developing talent at Oracle, she discovered that some leaders drain intelligence and the capabilities of the people around them. Their focus on their own intelligence and their narcissistic need to be the smartest person in the room had a diminishing effect on everyone else around them.

For them to look smart, other people had to look dumb or incompetent, and in turn, the diminishers created a vacuum suck of all the creative energy in a room. Meeting times were doubled and other people’s ideas suffocated and died in their presence. From these so-called leaders, intelligence only flowed one way — from them to others.

The multipliers, on the other hand, used their leadership intelligence in a much different way. They used their intelligence to amplify the capabilities of others on their team. People got smarter and better in their presence and ideas flowed freely and challenges were overcome. When these leaders walked into a room, the energy level went up on the team and difficult problems were solved because every team member had a say and was involved.

So why do some leaders boost the mental IQ in a room and others suck the mental life out of their employees? The multipliers bring out the intelligence in others by building collective and viral genius in an organization.

Wiseman identified five disciplines of multipliers:

  • The talent magnet: Attract and optimize talent.
  • The liberator: Require people’s best thinking.
  • The challenger: Extend challenges.
  • The debate maker: Debate decisions.
  • The investor: Instill accountability.

[Related: Executive Presence Isn’t Just for Executives]

Empowering others to amplify their capabilities.

By extracting people’s full capability, multipliers get twice the resources from people than do the diminishers. Wiseman shared a success story about Bill Campbell, former CEO of Intuit, who fully admits that he is a recovered diminisher.

A courageous team member called him on his micro-managing, intelligence-draining leadership style and pleaded for him to give the team space to create ideas and solve problems. It was a hard lesson for Campbell to learn, but in the long run it gave him the insight he needed to become a more effective leader.

He now subscribes to the philosophy of creating brilliance in others on his team by empowering them to succeed. This is a difficult lesson for many of today’s unsuccessful leaders who don’t have the professional development resources to learn to become multipliers. Others don’t have courageous team members call them out on being ineffective leaders, so they continue to diminish, and dysfunctional teams plod along.

[Related: An Entrepreneurial Mindset is Essential for Leaders]

Are you an accidental diminisher?

According to Wiseman:

While the narcissistic leaders grab the headlines, the vast majority of diminishing happening inside our workplaces is done by the accidental diminisher — managers with the best of intentions, good people who think they are doing a good job leading. Accidental or not, the impact on their team is the same — diminishers only get ½ of the true brainpower of their people.

Wiseman created a free online quiz to help you find out how you might unintentionally diminish the people you lead. The starting point for every leader should be self-awareness and a commitment to continuous self-actualization. This quiz will give you a safe space to discover if you are a multiplier or a diminisher and provide action steps to enhance your leadership so others can thrive working with you.

[Related: Company Values are the Foundation of an Inclusive Company Culture]

Caroline Dowd-Higgins authored the book “This Is Not the Career I Ordered” and maintains the career reinvention blog of the same name. She is Vice President of Career Coaching and Employer Connections for the Ivy Tech Community College system and contributes to Thrive Global, Ellevate Network, Medium, and The Chronicle newspaper in Indiana. Her online video series about career and life empowerment for women is on YouTube. She hosts the three-time award winning podcast, Your Working Life, on iTunes, Spotify, and SoundCloud. Follow her on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter. Her TEDxWOMEN talk about reframing failure and defining success on your own terms is available on YouTube.

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