Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter

By    Sep 5, 2011

Don’t think “supervision,” think “talent management.” The talent manager is a multiplier rather than a diminisher. The successful talent manager displays positive regard and makes wise selections of stretch assignments for others. The five principles are: attract and optimize talent, create intensity that requires the best thinking, extend challenges, debate decisions and instill ownership and accountability—invest, don’t micromanage.

The diminisher is a person who gives directions in a way that showcases his or her superior knowledge. Instead of seeding an opportunity and laying out a believable challenge, the diminisher tells and then tests. The diminisher often considers himself or herself a thought leader and readily shares knowledge but in a way that rarely invites others’ contributions. The diminisher sells his or her ideas rather than learning what others already know.

The multiplier amplifies others’ intelligence. He or she creates collective, viral intelligence in organizations. Bono, the musician and humanitarian, is fond of repeating the story of a woman who had dined at one time or another with both Prime Ministers Gladstone and Disraeli. She left Gladstone knowing that he was the smartest person in the Empire. After dining with Disraeli, she felt as if she was the smartest person in the world.

The book is solidly based on the work of a core research team from Stanford, Brigham Young and the University of Michigan. The core research question was, “What are the crucial differences between intelligence diminishers and intelligence multipliers and what impact does each have on organizations?” There was a process of nomination, a research-administered survey and two rounds of structured interviews. This is a best practices text written in a journalistic style.

The bonus is that multiplying others’ intelligence is not only a richly human (i.e., ethical) way to interact but, as the evidence clearly suggests, increases productivity dramatically.

Available online »