Multiply your team’s power

Learn how to get the most out of your employees in a hard-edged, clear and (always) fun manner – just like they do at Disney, Facebook, Google and Microsoft.

Liz Wiseman

is an executive advisor and the author of several self-learning and leadership bestsellers. She is the CEO of the Wiseman Group, a research and development firm headquartered in Silicon Valley. Her clients include Apple, AT&T, Disney, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Nike, Tesla, Twitter and others.


Multiplying the power of your team is not just easy and enjoyable – it is also effective. According to Liz Wiseman, the CEO of research and development firm Wiseman Group who helps senior executives around the world to improve their leadership skills, Multipliers can achieve better results than Tyrants – a view derived fr om studying the leaders at Apple, AT&T, Disney, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Nike, Salesforce, Tesla and Twitter and elaborated in her book Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter Details. The Russian edition is presented by Alpina Publisher. Inc.Russia published an excerpt with omissions.

The Five Disciplines of the Multiplier

In analyzing data on more than 150 leaders, we found a number of areas in which Multipliers and Diminishers do the same things. Both groups are customer driven. Both show strong business acumen and market insight. Both surround themselves with smart people and consider themselves thought leaders.

However, as we searched the data for the active ingredients unique to Multipliers, we found five disciplines in which Multipliers differentiate themselves fr om Diminishers.

1. ATTRACTING AND OPTIMIZING TALENT. Multipliers are Talent Magnets who attract talent and then use it at its fullest, regardless of who owns the resource, and people flock to work with them because they know they will grow and be successful.

In contrast, Diminishers operate as Empire Builders, insisting that they must own and control all resources to be more productive. They tend to divide resources into those they own and those they don’t, and then allow these artificial separations to hamstring effective use of all resources and restrict growth. People may initially be attracted to work with a Diminisher, but it is often the place where people’s careers die.

The Diminisher is an Empire Builder who acquires resources and then wastes them. The Multiplier is a Talent Magnet who utilizes and increases everyone’s genius.

2. CREATING INTENSITY THAT REQUIRES BEST THINKING. Multipliers establish a unique and highly motivating work environment wh ere everyone has permission to think and the space to do their best work. Multipliers operate as Liberators, which produces a climate that is both comfortable and intense. They are able to remove fear and create the safety that invites people to do their best thinking. At the same time, they are creating an intense environment that demands people’s best efforts.

In contrast, Diminishers operate as Tyrants, introducing judgment and a fear of judgment, which have a chilling effect on people’s thinking and work. Diminishers try to demand everyone’s best thinking, yet they don’t get it.

3. EXTENDING CHALLENGES. Multipliers act as Challengers, continually challenging themselves and others to push beyond what they know. How do they do this? They seed opportunities, lay down challenges that stretch the organization, and, in doing so, generate belief that it can be done and enthusiasm about the process.

In contrast, Diminishers operate as Know-It-Alls, personally giving directives to showcase their knowledge. While Diminishers set a direction, Multipliers ensure that a direction gets set.

The Diminisher is a Tyrant who creates a stressful environment. The Multiplier is a Liberator who creates a safe environment that fosters bold thinking.

4. DEBATING DECISIONS. Multipliers operate as Debate Makers, driving sound decisions through rigorous debate. The decision-making process they foster contains all the information the organization needs to be ready to execute those decisions. Multipliers engage people in debating the issues up front, which leads to decisions that people understand and can execute efficiently.

In contrast, Diminishers operate as Decision Makers who seem to make decisions efficiently within a small inner circle, but they leave the broader organization in the dark to debate the soundness of the leader’s decisions, and with none of the satisfaction of helping to fine-tune and execute them.

5. INSTILLING OWNERSHIP AND ACCOUNTABILITY. Multipliers deliver and sustain superior results by inculcating high expectations across the organization. They serve as Investors who provide the necessary resources for success. In addition, they hold people accountable for their commitments. Over time, Multipliers’ high expectations turn into an unrelenting presence, driving people to hold themselves and each other accountable, often to higher standards and without the direct intervention of the Multiplier.

In contrast, Diminishers serve as Micromanagers who drive results by holding on to ownership, jumping into the details, and directly managing for results.

The Diminisher is a Know-It-All who gives directives. The Multiplier is a Challenger who defines opportunities.

Surprising Findings

One of the most critical insights from our study of Multipliers is how hard-edged these managers are. They expect great things from their people and drive them to achieve extraordinary results. They are beyond results-driven; they are tough and exacting. Indeed, Multipliers make people feel smart and capable, but they don’t do it by being “feel-good” managers. They look into people and find capability, and they want to access all of it and utilize people to their fullest. They see a lot, so they expect a lot.

During our research interviews, people oozed appreciation for the Multipliers they had worked with, but the gratitude was rooted in the deep satisfaction found in working with them, not in the pleasantries of a relationship.

One person described working with Deb Lange, a senior vice president of taxation at a large firm: “Working with her was like an intense workout. It was exhausting but totally exhilarating.” Another said of his manager: “He got things from me I didn’t know I had to give. I would do almost anything to not disappoint him.” An executive who reported to Derek Williams, executive vice president of Oracle’s Asia Pacific region, put it this way: “When you left his office you felt so much taller.” The Multiplier approach to management isn’t just an enlightened view of leadership. It is an approach that delivers higher performance because it gets vastly more out of people and returns to them a richly satisfying experience. As one early reader of this book noted, these leaders aren’t about “cupcakes and kisses.”

Diminishers are Decision Makers who try to sell their decisions to others. Multipliers are Debate Makers who generate real buy-in.

People often assume that Multiplier leaders have to step to the side in order to shine a spotlight on others, or that they play small so that others can play big. However, I found that these leaders not only utilize all of the intelligence and talent of the people around them, they use all of their own as well. One of my favorite Multiplier leaders is Magic Johnson. Even back in high school, when he was just Earvin Johnson Jr., he was a phenomenally talented basketball player. His high school coach told him, “Earvin, every time you get the ball, I want you to take the shot.” And so he did – and he scored a lot of points as they won every game. They would score 54 points, and Earvin would have made 52 of them. The coach loved it, and the players loved it, because what boy doesn’t want to be on an undefeated team? But then after one particular game, as the players were leaving the gym and heading out to their cars, Earvin noticed the faces of the parents who had come to watch their sons play basketball but instead ended up watching this superstar. He said, “I made a decision at this very young age that I would use my God-given talent to help everyone on the team be a better player.” And this decision eventually earned him the nickname Magic – for his ability to raise the level of excellence of every team he ever played on and of every person on those teams. It’s not that these Multipliers shrink so that others can be big. It’s that they play in a way that invites others to play big, too.

The Diminisher is a Micromanager who jumps in and out. The Multiplier is an Investor who gives others ownership and full accountability.

Multipliers aren’t necessarily comedians, but they don’t take themselves or situations too seriously. Perhaps because they don’t need to defend their own intelligence, Multipliers can laugh at themselves and see comedy in error and in life’s foibles, and their sense of humor has a liberating effect on others. Multiple workplace studies conclude that humor strengthens relationships, reduces stress, and increases empathy. Those who work in a fun environment have greater productivity, interpersonal effectiveness, and call in sick less often. Leaders who operate with a sense of humor create an environment wh ere people can contribute at their fullest.

As one journalist wrote of Clooney, “After fifteen minutes, he made me feel comfortable in my own house.” A Clooney costar said, “He has a way of daring you... which can be irresistible.” Multipliers use humor to create comfort and to spark the natural energy and intelligence of others.

Perhaps one of our biggest surprises was realizing how few Diminishers understood the restrictive impact they were having on others. Most of them had grown up praised for their personal intelligence and had moved up the management ranks on account of personal – and often intellectual – merit. When they became “the boss,” they assumed it was their job to be the smartest and to manage a set of “subordinates.” Others had once had the mind and even the heart of the Multiplier, but they had been working among Diminishers for so long that they inherited many of their practices and absorbed their worldview. As one executive put it, “When I read your findings, I realized that I have been living in Diminisher land so long that I have gone native.” Many people have worked for Diminishers and, although they may have escaped unscathed, they carry some of the residual effects in their own leadership. The good news for the Accidental Diminisher is that there is a viable path to becoming a Multiplier.

On a whim, we added “Great Sense of Humor” to our leadership survey. Our suspicion proved right. Not only is this trait prominent among Multipliers, it is one of the traits that is most negatively correlated with the mindset held by Diminishers.

My Challenge to You

Although the Multiplier/Diminisher framework might appear binary, I wish to emphasize that there is a continuum between Multipliers and Diminishers, with just a small number of people at either polar extreme. Our research showed that most of us fall along this spectrum and have the ability to move toward the side of the Multiplier. With the right intent, the Multiplier approach to leadership can be developed.

The good news is that 1) Multipliers are out there, 2) we have studied them to uncover their secrets, and 3) you can learn to become one. And not only can you become a Multiplier yourself, you can find and create other Multipliers. That will make you a Multiplier of Multipliers.

In this spirit, I challenge you to read this book on several levels. At the most fundamental level, it might illuminate what you undoubtedly have experienced – that some leaders create genius, while others destroy it. Or you might go beyond this and reflect on the quintessential Multipliers and Diminishers who have been part of your career and life experience. But perhaps the best way to approach the book is to look beyond the idea that you or your colleagues are Multipliers, and instead spot yourself at times in the guise of Diminisher. The greatest power of these ideas might be in realizing that you have the mind of a Multiplier but have been living in a Diminisher world and have lost your way. Perhaps you are an Accidental Diminisher.

Think of George Clooney when you think of the humor of the Multiplier – it’s a self-deprecating wit and an ability to put others at ease, allowing people to be themselves.

As I have journeyed into the world of Multipliers and Diminishers, I have often seen glimpses of myself – either in the present or from years past – and have found ways to better exemplify the Multiplier in my own work teaching and coaching leaders around the world. I’ve come to see that most of us have a Diminisher side, or at least a few vulnerabilities, mostly born of the best intentions. I certainly do. While we may not entirely rid ourselves of our diminishing tendencies, we can certainly work to string together as many Multiplier moments as possible.

Multipliers is a guide to those of you who wish to follow the path of the Multiplier and, like British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, leave those you meet thinking they, rather than you, are the smartest person in the world. It is a book for executives who want to seed their organization with more Multipliers and watch everyone and everything get better.

Let me now introduce you to the fascinating and diverse set of leaders we call the Multipliers. They come from all walks of life – from corporate boardrooms and our schools’ classrooms, from the executive suite to the fields of Africa. And the leaders we’ve selected represent diverse ideologies.

I encourage you to learn from everyone, even those whose political views you do not share. None of these leaders is perfect, but as we look into some of their finest Multiplier moments, we can discover new possibilities. I hope you will find their stories, their practices, and their impact as inspiring as we did when we entered their worlds.


Download PDF

Other publications

Content issue