A thought-provoking, accessible, and essential exploration of why some leaders (“Diminishers”) drain capability and intelligence from their teams, while others (“Multipliers”) amplify it to produce better results. Including a foreword by Stephen R. Covey, as well the five key disciplines that turn smart leaders into genius makers, Multipliers is a must-read for everyone from first-time managers to world leaders.
The Problem with Genius
Some leaders seemed to drain intelligence and capability out of the people around them. Their focus on their own intelligence and their resolve to be the smartest person in the room had a diminishing effect on everyone else. For them to look smart, other people had to end up looking dumb. We’ve all worked with these black holes. They create a vortex that sucks energy out of everyone and everything around them. When they walk into a room, the shared IQ drops and the length of the meeting doubles. In countless settings, these leaders were idea killers and energy destroyers. Other people’s ideas suffocated and died in their presence and the flow of intelligence came to an abrupt halt around them. Around these leaders, intelligence flowed only one way: from them to others.
Other leaders used their intelligence in a fundamentally different way. They applied their intelligence to amplify the smarts and capability of people around them. People got smarter and better in their presence. Ideas grew; challenges were surmounted; hard problems were solved. When these leaders walked into a room, light bulbs started going off over people’s heads. Ideas flew so fast that you had to replay the meeting in slow motion just to see what was going on. Meetings with them were idea mash-up sessions. These leaders seemed to make everyone around them better and more capable. These leaders weren’t just intelligent themselves—they were intelligence Multipliers. Perhaps these leaders understood that the person sitting at the apex of the intelligence hierarchy is the genius maker, not the genius.
A TALE OF TWO MANAGERS
Vikram3 worked as an engineering manager under two different division managers at Intel. Each leader could be considered a genius. Both had a profound impact on Vikram. The first leader was George Schneer, who was a division manager for one of Intel’s businesses.
Manager #1: The Midas Touch George had a reputation for running successful businesses at Intel. Every business he ran was profitable and grew under his leadership. But what most distinguished George was the impact he had on the people around him. Vikram said, “I was a rock star around George. He made me. Because of him I transitioned from an individual contributor to big-time manager. Around him, I felt like a smart SOB—everyone felt like that. He got 100 percent from me—it was exhilarating.” George’s team echoed the same sentiments: “We are not sure exactly what George did, but we knew we were smart and we were winning. Being on this team was the highlight of our careers.” George grew people’s intelligence by engaging it. He wasn’t the center of attention and 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.
Manager #2: The Idea Killer Several years later, Vikram moved out of George’s group and went to work for a second division manager who had been the architect of one of the early microprocessors. This second manager was a brilliant scientist who had now been promoted into management to run the plant that produced the chips. He was highly intelligent by every measure and left his mark on everyone and everything around him. The problem was that this leader did all the thinking. Vikram said, “He was very, very smart. But people had a way of shutting down around him. He just killed our ideas. In a typical team meeting, he did about 30 percent of the talking and left little space for others. He gave a lot of feedback—most of it was about how bad our ideas were.” This manager made all the decisions himself or with a single confidant. He would then announce those decisions to the organization. Vikram said, “You always knew he would have an answer for everything. He had really strong opinions and put his energy into selling his ideas to others and convincing them to execute on the details. No one else’s opinion mattered.” This manager hired intelligent people, but they soon realized that they didn’t have permission to think for themselves. Eventually, they would quit or threaten to quit. Ultimately Intel hired a second-in-command to work alongside this manager to counter the intelligence drain on the organization. But even then, Vikram said, “My job was more like cranking than creating. He really only got from me about 50 percent of what I had to offer. And I would never work for him again!”
Diminisher or Multiplier?
The second leader was so absorbed in his own intelligence that he stifled others and diluted the organization’s crucial intelligence and capability. George brought out the intelligence in others and created collective, viral intelligence in his organization. One leader was a genius. The other was a genius maker. It isn’t how much you know that matters. What matters is how much access you have to what other people know. It isn’t just how intelligent your team members are; it is how much of that intelligence you can draw out and put to use.
We’ve all experienced these two types of leaders. What type of leader are you right now? Are you a genius, or are you a genius maker?
THE MULTIPLIER EFFECT
Multipliers are genius makers. Everyone around them gets smarter and more capable. People may not become geniuses in a traditional sense, but Multipliers invoke each person’s unique intelligence and create an atmosphere of genius—innovation, productive effort, and collective intelligence. In studying Multipliers and Diminishers, we learned that at the most fundamental level, they get dramatically different results from their people, they hold a different logic and set of assumptions about people’s intelligence, and they do a small number of things very differently. Let’s first examine the impact of the Multipliers—why people get smarter and more capable around them and why they get twice as much from their resources as do the Diminishers. We call this the Multiplier effect. Because Multipliers 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. They don’t get a little more; they get vastly more.