Friday 9 February 2024


I've just finished reading Liz Wiseman's book, Multipliers (on the recommendation of an academic, who saw parallels with the approach I had taken to facilitating a leadership meeting he attended).

The subtitle is How the best leaders make everyone smarter, and Wiseman contrasts Multipliers (who multiply the collective intelligence, contribution and commitment within their sphere of influence) with Diminishers, who dominate and discourage people from thinking for themselves, taking the initiative and so on.

My first thoughts are that Wiseman has dressed McGregor's Theory X and Theory Y in new clothes, with a nod at the knowledge economy. Back in the 1950s, McGregor articulated the different management styles of those who assumed workers are lazy, and those who assumed they were keen to contribute; and how the styles tended to become self-fulfilling prophecies. That is, if you consistently treat workers as though you expect them to skive off at every opportunity, you will create an environment when they will see management as the enemy, and try to get away with whatever they can. Conversely, if you expect the best of them, you are more likely to create an environment in which they contribute their best efforts.

It is hard to see much difference in Wiseman's Diminisher and Multiplier assumptions. The Diminisher  assumption she offers is: People will never figure this out without me; and the Multiplier assumption is: People are smart and can figure it out.

Having said that, the book is useful in bringing this fundamental point to people's attention in a thought-provoking and memorable way. As one reads, one can quickly identify managers one knows who act as Diminishers - reducing their staff's room for contribution, and ultimately their commitment, creativity and morale; or conversely those who act as Multipliers, expecting and creating the conditions for staff to give of their best.  And following on from that, one can look in the mirror and start to reflect on one's own practice. 

However, I found her taxonomy of Talent Magnets, Liberators, Challengers, Debate Makers and Investors less convincing and less helpful. It seemed to me that she was merely restating the central thesis in slightly different contexts over and over; and the same was true of the multiple examples of people who exemplify her theory. That results in the book being over-long, somewhat confusing, and very easy to put down. Multiplying pages is not, perhaps, a virtue.

Nonetheless, I was glad to have read it, and would recommend it to anyone who has either lots of time and patience, or the ability to skim and extract the key ideas without wading through the whole lot.

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