Are you an accidental diminisher?

Are you an accidental diminisher?

Gregory Pal was proud of having hired Michael, a talented individual with rich foreign trade experience gained as an employee of the Brazilian embassy. Gregory wanted him to be able to make a genuine contribution to the renewable energy company’s efforts to expand rapidly into Brazil. But in an effort to help, Gregory would often jump in to solve Michael‘s problems. Because Michael was still new, Gregory gave him easy assignments and piecemeal tasks that were routine and not suited for someone with such highly developed skills. Then, because Michael was the only team member working remotely, Gregory would often end up representing him in meetings that he couldn’t attend. After a few months, Michael was using just 20 to 25% of his talent on the job.

Michael’s case is hardly an isolated one. In fact, it illustrates an all-too-common workplace phenomenon: leadership poorly exercised. Have you ever worked for a leader who underutilised your talent or who made you question your own intelligence? Or, have you ever worked for a leader who drew on every ounce of your brainpower and even made you smarter and more capable? We call the first type of leader a Diminisher and the second type a Multiplier.

Despite your good intentions, you may be holding your team back. Many leaders are unaware of the restrictive impact they can have on others. Some have continually been praised for their intellectual merit – and thus assume they’re supposed to have all the answers. Others have worked for Diminishers for so long they’ve gone naïve.

Accidental Diminisher or not, your effect on your team members is the same: you’re not tapping their full brainpower. Here are three signs you might be an accidental Diminisher:

You’re a rescuer. You hate to see people fail and experience the career-limiting ramifications of their mistakes. You think you are protecting them; in reality, you are weakening their reputation and denying them the learning they need to grow and perform.

You’re always on. You’re passionate, articulate, and can consume a lot of space in a meeting. You think your passion is infectious; in reality, it’s stifling other people’s thinking.

You’re an ideas person. You’re continually spouting new ideas for your team to explore. You think you’re sparking the creative process; in reality, you’re causing organisational whiplash as people scurry to keep up with each new idea, making only a millimetre of progress in a hundred directions.

The good news is that being aware is half the battle. The survey at can help you assess your own leadership practices.  When you lead like a Multiplier, you bring out the best in your staff, allowing them to contribute their full intelligence at work.

The five disciplines of Multipliers v Diminishers



The Empire Builder

Hoards resources and underutilises talent

The Talent Magnet

Attracts talented people and uses them at their highest point of contribution

The Tyrant

Creates a tense environment that suppresses people’s thinking and capability

The Liberator

Creates an intense environment that requires people’s best thinking and work

The Know-it-all

Gives directives that demonstrate how much they know

The Challenger

Defines an opportunity that causes people to stretch their thinking and behaviors

The Decision-maker

Makes centralised, abrupt decisions that confuse the organisation

The Debate-maker

Drives sounds decisions through rigorous debate

The Micromanager

Drives results through their personal involvement

The Investor

Gives other people the ownership for results and invests in their success

The five Multiplier disciplines

In isolating the practices that truly differentiate Diminishers and Multipliers, we found:

Multipliers are talent magnets: They look beyond their own capabilities to see the deep capabilities – or genius – of others. And then they utilise people so that they can make the greatest contribution possible.

Multipliers are liberators: They strip the stress and fear from their organisation and create an intense environment that requires people’s best thinking and work. They keep the pressure on but make it safe to make mistakes. The result is a climate that is intense without being tense.

Multipliers are challengers: Instead of telling people what to do, they show them what they can do. They seed opportunities and let people discover needs for themselves. Then, they lay down challenges that cause people to stretch their capabilities.

Multipliers are debate makers: Instead of making decisions themselves that leave others in the dark, they engage people in discussing high-stakes decisions up front. This leads to decisions that people understand and can execute efficiently.

Multipliers are investors: Instead of micromanaging, they give other people ownership of the results and invest in their capability and success.

US case studies

Nike, Inc has adopted “Manager as Multiplier” as its leadership framework for managing its rapid growth. It is being driven by CEO Mark Parker, and David Ayer, Nike’s vice-president of global HR. Nike’s senior leadership team believes the way to maximise individual and collective intelligence is for managers to extract and extend the genius of others, getting vastly more from their people. David Ayer says: “With Nike’s aggressive agenda, our managers are critical in scaling and sustaining that growth.  Each and every day they unlock and multiply the individual potential of employees. Multipliers is a simple concept.  I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t relate to it in some way.” is using Multipliers as its Leadership ethos across the company and is using it as the framework for developing its top executives globally.

Symantec has been implementing Multipliers across its global marketing organisation, with each of its region and functional marketing executives bringing in Multipliers training for its management teams. Symantec has also been training its individual contributors in Multipliers so they can be more effective leading cross-organisational collaborations.

Liz Wiseman, author of Multipliers: How the best leaders inspire their team and make everyone smarter, was rated the best speaker at the Sydney National Growth Summit. Multipliers recently joined the Wall Street Journal best-seller list and has been rated one of the top 10 best business books ever written by


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