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Multipliers: How The Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter

Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter (2010)

Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter (2010)

Liz Wiseman is a Silicon Valley researcher on leadership and alongside her co-author, Greg McKeown, consult and advises senior executives, V.P.’s and leaders of companies in order to grow them in the leadership and provide training in management.  They have written an excellent book about the way to lead and influence people.  Their research during a 2 year-span from 2007-09 was based around the premise that some leaders make the people around them better and others make those around them worse.  IN their study, questioning, and interviews, they discovered 5 areas where a “Multiplier” separated them from a “Diminisher”.  A “multiplier” is a “genius maker” (10) and by Wiseman’s definition “are leaders who look beyond their own genius and focus their energy on extracting and extending the genius of others, they get more from their people.” (11)  They make people better, even better than they thought they could be.  In contrast, Wiseman says a “diminisher” is “absorbed in their own intelligence, stifle others, and deplete the organization of crucial intelligence an capability.” (31)   Around these leaders you feel underutilized, disrespected, and questioning of your own abilities.  Though this book is a secular leadership book,, the merits of the research is in desperate need by Churches today.

In my time I have worked under both types of leaders…some who get the most out of me (even more than I think I can give) and some who have drained all I have out of me.  When Wiseman gives her 5 disciplines of a multiplier, I agree wholeheartedly with her conclusions.  The five things that a “multiplier” are, first, the ability to attract and optimize talent.  People want to work for great leaders and people want to work where others will allow them to do what they are best at.  The first thing that needs to be in place when it comes to talent is the multipliers mindset that they can find anyone’s genius and put it to use. (45) Then comes the finding of people’s ability and utilizing it.  After 6 ½ years of working in a church and talking to others about churches, this is the issue that most churches forget.  People need to discover their talents, and have easy access to utilize them.  It is the job of leadership to appreciate genius.  Once the talent/genius is discovered and enacted to its fullest, the spotlight must be shown.  Specifically and publically, praise must be given to attract talent because, trust me, the alternative leads to bitterness as others are praised in public constantly for things that they had no part of.

The second thing that sets apart a “multiplier” is the ability to “liberate” people to speak, think, and act. (67)  The alternative, the “diminisher”, creates a environment that is either too tense (by never knowing what will set them off or what the punishment will be) or too loose (by possessing a passive indifference to the ideas or work of others).  In each case the environment is not where people can excel.   As Wiseman shows, the best environments are where people have space to work (to think, dream, and discuss), demand the best work from people, and where people are quick to learn.  Multipliers in these environments talk less, listen more, operate with consistency, and admit mistakes.

The third quality of a Multiplier is being a “challenger”.  The multiplier is one who can adequately pose an issue, lead the resolution by questions, and make the organization believe that they can actually achieve the goal.  Multiplier leaders ask big questions and expect them to be answered.  What big questions should the church be asking?  How do we let 99% of a 3 block radius know that we are here and that we care about them?  How do we move our congregation into discipline relationships?  The church aims to small too often, but as leadership, we need to be asking and expecting to answer big questions.

Quality number 4, is about creating debates within the organization.  A multiplier is able to boil the question down, listen and encourage debate, and then find the decision and communicate it well.  The multiplier’s ability to find the core issue of the discussion is vital to this process.  The questions posed many times are not the base issues but like shooting at kites on a windy day.  Multipliers also call cards.  In a debate, the cards are the facts of the debate.  Many leaders are led by opinions, facts are what great decisions are based on.  The goal is to involve everyone in the process.  By creating an environment (where mocking, belittling, and sarcasm is avoided at all cost) where great discussions happen, a Multiplier will make their team become smarter.

The last quality of a multiplier is investing in the team.  By helping people grow, helping them learn, and giving them responsibility the team wins.  To many times, according to Wiseman, leaders are quick to jump in, take the pen, and never give it back.  Leadership is responsible to spend time with their team, help them grow, and to continually challenge them with responsibility.  Under this type of leadership, the leader’s job is to clearly define what the role is and that “they, not you are in charge” (188)  When mistakes happen (and they will at times) the leader needs to talk about it with humility and focus on the next opportunity.  But remember, its their job to fix the problem not yours.

The Multiplier is someone who helps their people grow, learn, and excel.  If these tow authors were believers, the final chapter would have included Ephesians 4.12 as the role of every leader in the church: “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”  The role of every church leader should be to become a multiplier; to lead people, not into financial security, or better jobs, but into a closer relationship to Jesus and his Church.  This book, though not a Christian leadership book, needs to read by church leaders.  Imagine a church where “output” (service) and “personal growth” (discipleship) in the church grew by 20% and people were firing on all cylinders?  These are the type of organizations that Multipliers run…the type of leaders we sold be!



  1. Fabulously interpreted!

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