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

I have come to believe that while some leaders are born, most are developed and our current professional marketplace does not place enough emphasis on training effective leaders. This leads to discontent amongst the troops and ultimately low morale and low productivity. There are some enlightened organizations that train from within but I wish it was part of every organization’s professional development curriculum.

Liz Wiseman, 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 the Oracle Corporate University. Her book: Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter teaches valuable lessons for current and aspiring leaders.

During Wiseman’s 17+ year leadership watching and developing experience 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 5 disciplines of Multipliers:

  1. The Talent Magnet: Attract and optimize talent
  2. The Liberator: Require people’s best thinking
  3. The Challenger: Extend challenges
  4. The Debate Maker: Debate decisions
  5. The Investor: Instill accountability

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.

If confronting your diminishing leader is not within your comfort zone or you fear job security, perhaps a mysterious copy of Liz Wiseman’s great book in an office mailbox will plant the seed anonymously. Are you a Multiplier or a Diminisher?