Think Like a Multiplier

Posted by on Jul 16, 2013 in Organizational Leadership

Think Like a Multiplier

One of the first things I learned in my graduate classes for the M.S. in Communication & Leadership is that there is no one way to lead. When I say leadership, the picture that comes into our heads will be a little different for each of us. Our leadership philosophies – whether they’re intentionally developed in a graduate program or are unconscious habits – reflect our experiences leading and being led, and are heavily influenced by our leadership role models.

Often we carry deeply ingrained ways of thinking that – left unrecognized or unchallenged – can threaten our impact as leaders. When I envision the most effective leader, I think of a vision-oriented, selfless Multiplier, as Wiseman and McKeown describe in Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter.

The authors describe a Multiplier as a leader who gets more than people know they have to give. They hire intelligent people, give them challenges, and step back – leaving them freedom to think for themselves. A Multiplier multiplies the intelligence and performance of existing teams and structures through transformational leadership, where his antithesis – a Diminisher – assumes that the way to solve a problem is to add more resources (more employees, more money, more time).

The basic formula for a Multiplier’s logic, as Wiseman and McKeown explain, is this:

  1. Most people in organization are underutilized.
  2. All capability can be leveraged with the right kind of leadership.
  3. Therefore, intelligence and capability can be multiplied without requiring a bigger investment.


Multipliers explained that the way these exponentially more effective leaders are so successful starts with the assumptions they hold – a leadership philosophy that might be revolutionary to some managers, and definitely challenged me!

Some of the simple but essential truths a Multiplier holds include:

  1. In any situation – trust your team. People are smart and will figure it out.
  2. There are smart people everywhere who will figure out these challenges and get even smarter in the process.


In high-pressure situations, even the most selfless and inspiring leader can fall into the task-managing habits of a Diminisher. Sometimes we can catch ourselves thinking “These people will never get it!” and “It would be better if I just did it myself.”

What’s important is that we do catch ourselves acting on bad mindsets. Taking the time to process and reflect, especially with a mentor, can help us identify and rectify our negative leadership attitudes. For me, the continual self-reflection and growth opportunities afforded in graduate classes like “Organizational Change and Leadership” have helped me developed healthy leadership habits.

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