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  • Writer's pictureLars Christensen

Multipliers by Liz Wiseman

I finished this book in June 2024. I recommend this book 10/10.

Why you should read this book:

You should read this book, especially if you have been a people manager for a while. The book highlights the untapped potential that gets wasted within current teams today, and how it is your job as a leader to find and cultivate it. I suggest you focus on one of the five different areas for a week or a month, and then reflect of the change you will see on your team.

Get your copy here.

🚀 The book in three sentences

  1. Don't just add people; instead, find and cultivate your current talents as a superpower.

  2. It is easy to become an accidental diminisher as a leader.

  3. Work on improving one area at a time.

✍️ My favorite quotes

  • Bono said, "It has been said that after meeting with the great British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone, you left feeling he was the smartest person in the world, but after meeting with his rival Benjamin Disraeli, you left thinking you were the smartest person."

  • Woodrow Wilson said, "I not only use all the brains that I have, but all that I can borrow."

📝 My notes and thoughts

  • P1. Bono said, "It has been said that after meeting with the great British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone, you left feeling he was the smartest person in the world, but after meeting with his rival Benjamin Disraeli, you left thinking you were the smartest person."

  • P8. George grew people's intelligence by engaging it. He wasn't the center of attention, and he didn't worry about how smart he looked. What George worried about was extracting the smarts and maximum effort from each member of his team. In a typical meeting, he spoke only about 10 percent of the time, mostly just to "crisp up" the problem statement. He would then back away and give his team space to figure out an answer. Often, the ideas his team would generate were worth millions. George's team drove the business to achieve outstanding revenue growth and to deliver the profit bridge that allowed Intel to enter the microprocessor business.

  • P16. Better leverage and utilization of resources at the organizational level require adopting a new corporate logic based on multiplication. Instead of achieving linear growth by adding new resources, leaders rooted in the logic of multiplication believe that you can more efficiently extract the capability of your people and watch growth skyrocket by multiplying the power of the resources you have. Here is the logic behind multiplication:

  • Most people in organizations are underutilized

  • All capabilities can be leveraged with the right kind of leadership

  • Therefore, intelligence and capability can be multiplied without requiring a bigger investment.

  • P20. Five disciplines in which Multipliers differentiate themselves from Diminishers:

  • Attracting and optimizing talent

  • Creates intensity that requires the best thinking

  • Extending challenges

  • Debating decisions

  • Instilling ownership and accountability

  • P33. Woodrow Wilson said, "I not only use all the brains that I have, but all that I can borrow."

  • P34. On Mitt's team, people were engaged. He took the time to get to know each person and to understand the capabilities they brought to the team. This went well beyond reviewing their resumes. Mitt would determine what people were naturally good at and find a way to use those talents with client engagement. In assigning people to roles, Mitt asked questions like "What is the next challenge for you? What would be a stretch assignment?" It wasn't unusual for someone on Mitt's team to be loaned to another group if their skills could help rescue a troubled project. In one-on-one meetings, Mitt not only asked about the status of project deliverables, he asked about the blockers. A favorite question was, "What is getting in the way of your being successful?"

  • P47. Finding someone's native genius is a key that unlocks discretionary effort. It propels people to go beyond what is required and to offer their full intelligence. Finding people's genius begins by carefully observing them in action, looking for spikes of authentic enthusiasm and a natural flow of energy. As you watch someone in action, ask these questions:

  • What do they do better than anything else they do?

  • What do they do better than the people around them?

  • What do they do without effort?

  • What do they do without being asked?

  • What do they do readily without being paid?

  • P50. When leaders connect people's natural passions and native genius to big opportunities, those people are used at their highest point of contribution. For Alyssa, this wasn't a lucky discovery; it was a deliberate management approach. She studied Courtney, as well as each of the other team members, noticing what each of them did naturally and freely. She then put them to work at their fullest, tackling the district's aspiration to revolutionize learning for all students. Are there people on your team who could lead a revolution if they were unleashed on the right opportunity? Are there people on your team who aren't being used at their highest?

  • P72. The Liberator creates an environment where good things happen. They create the condition where intelligence is engaged, grown, and transformed into concrete success. What are the conditions for this cycle of learning and success? They might include:

  • Ideas are generated with ease

  • People learn rapidly and adapt to new environments

  • People work collaboratively

  • Complex problems get solved

  • Difficult tasks get accomplished

  • P77. Among the multipliers we studied in our research, we found three common practices: Liberators create space, 2) demand people's best work, and 3) generate rapid learning cycles.

  • P79. Liberators are more than just good listeners; they are ferocious listeners. They listen to feed their hunger for knowledge, to learn what other people know, and add it to their own reservoir of knowledge. As the late management guru C. K. Prahalad once said to me, "How smart you are is defined by how clearly you can see the intellect of others." They listen intently because they are trying to learn and understand what other people know.

  • P91. I gave him five poker chips, each worth a number of seconds of talk time. One was worth 120 seconds, the next three were worth 90 seconds, and one was worth just 30. I suggested he limit his contribution in the meeting to five comments, represented by each of the chips. He could spend them whenever he wished, but he only had five. After the initial shock and bemusement (wondering how he could possibly convey all his ideas in five comments), he accepted the challenge. I watched as he carefully restrained himself, filtering his thoughts for only the most essential and looking for the right moment to insert his ideas. He played his poker chips deftly and achieved two important outcomes: 1) He created abundant space for others. Instead of being Matthew's strategy session, it became a forum for a diverse group of people to voice ideas and co-create the strategy. 2) Matthew increased his own credibility and presence as a leader. By exercising some leadership restraint, everyone was heard more, including Matthew as a leader.

  • P94. Multipliers don't tell people what to think; they tell them what to think about. They define a challenge that invites each person's best thinking and generates collective will. They co-create an environment where every brain is utilized, and every voice is heard. Instead of rebellion, they create a movement.

  • P95. The three practices of a Liberator:

  • Create Space:

  • Release others by restraining yourself

  • Shift the ratio of listening to talking

  • Define a space for discovery

  • Level the playing field

  • Demand Best Work

  • Defend the standard

  • Distinguish best work from outcomes

  • Generate Rapid Learning Cycles

  • Admit and share mistakes

  • Insist on learning from mistakes

  • P107. How does the Challenger engage the full brainpower of the organization? Among the Multipliers we studied in our research, we found three common practices. Multipliers: 1) seed the opportunity, 2) lay down a challenge, and 3) generate belief.

  • P127. Becoming a Challenger:

  • Take the extreme question challenge

  • Create a stretch challenge

  • Take a bus trip

  • Take a massive baby step

  • P138. Our research has shown that the secret to a great decision is what the leader does before the debate starts. They prepare the organization for discussion and debate by forming the right questions and the right team. Then, they frame the issues and process them in a way that everyone can contribute. In framing an issue, there are four parts to a well-crafted frame:

  • The question: what is the discussion to be made? What are we choosing between?

  • The why: Why is this an important question to answer? Why does the decision warrant collective input and debate? What happens if it is not addressed?

  • The who: Who will be involved in making the decision? Who will give input?

  • The how: How will the final decision be made? Will it be made by majority rule? Consensus? Or will you (or someone else) make the final decision after others provide input and recommendations?

  • P151. Our research and experience coaching executives reveal that leaders can move along the Diminisher-Multiplier continuum. But it requires more than just adding some new leadership practices. It often requires a fundamental shift in the assumptions of the leader. Often, this shift happens when a leader begins to view his or her role differently. It can happen when leaders see that their greatest contribution lies in asking the questions that produce the most rigorous thinking and answers.

  • P151. Despite my protesting that I knew how to facilitate discussion, I was sent to a one-day training workshop to learn a technique called "shared inquiry." What I found was a simple but powerful technique for leading debate: There are three rules in shared inquiry:

  • The discussion leader only asks questions

  • The students must supply evidence to support their theories

  • Everyone participates

  • P167. If your boss had told you that you owned 51 percent of the vote, how would you operate? Would you second-guess yourself and run all decisions by him? Or would you swing in the opposite direction and make decisions without consulting him? You probably would do neither. Most likely, you would consult your boss on important decisions to get a second opinion, while for the smaller stuff, you might be wise to ignore him or her as needed to get your job done. Giving someone 51 percent of the vote and full ownership creates certainty and builds confidence. It enables them to stop second-guessing and start getting second opinions. Clarifying the role that you will play as a leader actually gives people more ownership, not less.

  • P171. When the team is wrestling with a technical setback, K. R. engages not with a solution but with a thought-provoking question. He'll ask, "What do we know about what doesn't work?" and "What assumptions led us to these outcomes?" and "What risks do we face now that need to be mitigated?" His team pursues these questions in turn, unearthing their individual knowledge and building a collective body of intelligence. K. R. says, "You are teaching by helping your team solve real problems. Even if you know the solution, you don't offer it. If you do, you've lost the teaching moment. It has to be Socratic. You ask the question and tease out the answer." Although K. R. focuses on immediate problems, his investment in these teaching moments returns for more than just solutions to these problems. When leaders teach, they invest in their people's ability to solve and avoid problems in the future. This is one of the most powerful ways that Multipliers build intelligence around them.

  • P175. Michael Clarke, the president of infrastructure at Flextronics, has a clever little two-step process for giving accountability back to people in a way that encourages their continued intellectual contribution. He listens to a presentation or an idea with interest and then, with a wry smile and a thick Yorkshire accent, says, "Hey, that is good thinking." so he begins by praising the edge of great thinking. Then, he affirms their ownership of the business problem at hand by saying, "I'd love to know whether we should invest in X or Y. I mean, you're smart. You can figure this out." These words are heard again and again by his team: "You're smart. You figure it out." Their ideas are validated, and the onus for solving the issue is back with them.

  • P187. Here are some statements that signal that you are handling back the pen:

  • I'm happy to help think this through, but I'm still looking to you to lead this going forward.

  • You are still the lead on this.

  • I'm here to back you up. What do you need from me as you lead this?

  • P193. Idea Guy: This type of leader is a creative, innovative thinker who loves an idea-rich environment. He is a variable fountain of ideas. Ideas bubble up for him 24/7, so he burst into the office brimming with new ideas to share with colleagues. This leader doesn't necessarily think his ideas are superior. He simply believes that the more he tosses around his ideas, the more he will spark ideas in others. But what actually happens around the Idea Guy? The ideas he tosses out seem compelling, so his team begins to chase them. But as soon as they begin to make progress on yesterday's idea, the next day brings a new idea du jour. The team makes ephemeral progress on multiple fronts. The great chase becomes a standstill as they realize that they always end up back at square one—so why not just stay there?

  • P194. Always On: This dynamic, charismatic leader exudes energy; he or she is always engaged, always present, and always has something to say. These are the leaders with a big personality that can fill the room. They assume that their energy is contagious, like a virus, to be caught by anyone in their presence. But, like the common cold, this leader can be draining—she enervates rather than energizes the people around her. As she expands, like a gas consuming all the available oxygen, others suffocate; most find her just plain exhausting. Soon, people avoid making eye contact or having encounters with her, thinking, I just don't have the energy right now. And all too often around this leader, thinking introverts are suppressed while action-oriented extroverts dominate.

  • P195. He is a good manager and a decent person, the type of leader who doesn't like to see people struggle, make avoidable mistakes, or fall. At the first sign of distress, he jumps in and helps. Occasionally, he swoops in with a big, heroic rescue. More often than not, he simply lends a hand, resolves a problem, and helps people across the finish line. Incidentally, we find that this is the most common way leaders accidentally diminish. The intention of the Rescuer is noble. He wants to see other people be successful; he desires to protect the reputation of the people who work for him, but because he interrupts a natural performance cycle, he starves people of the vital learning they need to be successful. When a manager helps too soon and too often, people around him become dependent and helpless. Instead of feeling successful, employees experience frustration and depleted confidence when they fail to cross the finish line.

  • P195. Pacesetter: This is the achievement-oriented leader who leads by example. To build momentum, she personally sets the standard for performance and for exemplifying the values of the organization (such as quality, customer service, innovation, etc.) She takes the lead, sets the pace, and expects that the people around her will notice, follow, and, of course, catch up. For example, a manager might wish to send a strong message that customer service is a top priority, so she increases the time she spends in the field, traveling to customer sites, meeting with key clients, and writing up and distributing trip reports. Her intention is to send a signal that her organization should be actively listening for the voice of the customer. What actually happens when the leader speeds out ahead? Do others pick up the pace, or do they fall behind? The effect is subtle. The leader is half right: people do take notice. They catch on, but they rarely catch up. Instead of increasing their own pace, they most often assume the role of spectator, watching the Pacesetter do her thing. While she is expecting her staff to speed up, they are actually slowing down or sitting down.

  • P197. Rapid Responder: What about the leader who is quick to take action? This is the leader who prizes agility and fast turnaround. He takes responsibility and is "on it"—he is quick to respond, troubleshoot problems, and make fast micro-decisions. Most of us work with some sort of rapid responder. He sees a problem; he solves it. He sees a bear; he shoots it. Emails don't last long in his inbox. He opens, reads, and resolves immediately. His intent is noble, of course. He wants an agile organization that pounces on problems and responds rapidly to stakeholders. But instead of agility, the Rapid Responder tends to generate low-grade apathy. Even the best employees are slow to respond when they know that someone else is already "on it."

  • P198. Optimist: This positive, can-do manager always sees possibilities and believes that most problems can be tackled with hard work and the right mindset. She has read the research on the power of positive thinking and the incredible mental and physical benefits of optimism. She is a "glass half full" kind of person. The Optimist isn't necessarily a cheerleader; she just focuses on what is possible and believes that the people around her (herself included) are smart and can figure it out. People will not argue that it is doable; they just want to be acknowledged the challenge and recognized that work can be a struggle.

  • P200. Protector: It's easy for a well-intended manager to fall into the "mama bear" trap and become the Protector who shields his or her staff, buffering people from the hazards of corporate life, the way the grizzly female protects her offspring from predators. Whereas the Rescuer saves the day after problems arise, the aim of the Protector is simply to keep his people safe and unscathed—not even seeing the problems. He worries that if team members get entangled in ugly politics, they might be eaten alive, so he fights off bullies and shields his staff from nasty internal politics. Often, managers have a better understanding of the darker forces that exist inside the organization, and they assume that this is their burden to bear. The Protector worries that if his people are exposed to the harsh reality, they might become tainted or disillusioned and decide to leave for greener pastures.

  • P201. Strategist: The Strategist is the big thinker who casts a compelling vision of the future. She shows the team a better place, a destination worth striving for, and she sells it with evangelical zeal. The strategist thinks she is generating energy and the momentum needed to escape the gravitational pull of the status quo. Certainly, a wise leader knows how crucial it is to provide the big picture, the context, the "why" behind what the team is doing. And it is. But sometimes, a strategic, visionary leader can go too far and be too prescriptive. She might not be leaving enough space for others to think through the challenges themselves and generate the intellectual muscle needed to make a vision a reality. People can spend their time second-guessing what the boss wants rather than finding answers themselves. Instead of running with it, people climb up the mountain top to seek guidance from the guru. This leader would generate more movement by seeding a challenge rather than selling a big vision. If you've built a reputation as a big thinker, don't be surprised if people save the big thinking for you.

  • P201. Perfectionist: We all know the leader with perfectionist tendencies: he appreciates excellence and loves the feeling of getting something perfect. He goes beyond setting a high standard for others to follow (as does the Pacesetter) and wants everyone around him to have the satisfaction of getting it just exactly right. So he offers helpful critiques and points out little mistakes and flaws, the way a homeowner might use blue construction tape to mark the slightest imperfections in a home improvement project—a drip of paint here, a stray of exposed nailhead there—so the builder can fix the mistakes, work down the punch list, and enjoy pride of craftsmanship. While he is offering these suggestions for improvement, he is envisioning a masterpiece in the making, an A+ grade on the important assignment. He knows that excellence doesn't come in one fell swoop but in back-and-forth iterations. But, while he sees an A+ in progress, others see nothing but red marks and blue tape all over their work. They see blood and loss and can easily become disengaged and disheartened. "How do you discover your areas of vulnerability?" You can bring this vague suspicion into sharper focus by taking your online quiz, "Are you an accidental Diminisher? at This three-minute quiz provides additional structure to help you self-assess and analyze your potentially diminishing habits.

  • P203. As you seek to get feedback from others, you can use a 360-degree assessment to get unfiltered feedback, but you can also do it the old-fashioned way—by asking good, honest, face-to-face questions. Here are some questions you might use to elicit this feedback:

  • How might I be shutting down the ideas and actions of others despite having the best intentions?

  • What am I inadvertently doing that might be having a diminishing impact on others?

  • How might my intention be interpreted differently by others? What messages might my actions actually be conveying?

  • What could I do differently?

  • P239. When dealing with Diminishers, we may need to be the light that cuts through the dark. In modern organizations, leadership does not only come from the top; it radiates from the middle and ascends from the bottom. When you are trapped working for a Diminisher, sometimes the only way out is up—multiplying up. Because the only Diminisher you can change into a Multiplier is yourself.

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