LFCS Book Club: "Multipliers" - If you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room

If you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room


You know the quote. Well, here is the book that dedicates 7 chapters to it.  

Book: Multipliers
Author: Liz Wiseman with Greg McKeown


The premise of this book, written by Liz Wiseman with Greg McKeown, is for leaders who would like to create an environment where every individual in their team utilises all their intelligence to achieve goals, solve old problems and to …. think. The book details that there are two distinct leadership styles:

A Multiplier - “A leader who uses their intelligence to amplify the intelligence and capabilities of the people around them.”

A Diminisher – “A leader who drains intelligence, energy and capability from the ones around them and always needs to be the smartest one in the room”.

The benefit of being a multiplier according to Liz’s research is that a Multiplier can yield 2 times greater return on resources than a Diminisher.  

“How do I do more with less?” - A well-worn catch phrase I hear in businesses and government in Australia today. And so it serves purpose to understand how a Multiplier can leverage the intelligence of people to utilise all their brain, rather than have under-utilised resources lying dormant or requiring more resources and still not being able to complete work. 


Multipliers_1The book provides detail of the 5 disciplines of the Multiplier 

  1. The Talent Magnet – looks for talent everywhere, finds people’s native genius, utilises people to their fullest, and removes blockers (e.g. prima donnas)
  2. The Liberator – creates space (to think, speak, and act), demands the best work and generates rapid learning cycles
  3. The Challenger – seeds the opportunity, lays down the challenge, then generates belief in what is possible
  4. The Debate Maker – frames the issue, sparks the debate and drives a sound decision
  5. The Investor – defines ownership, invests resources and holds people accountable


Multipliers_2Each chapter also provides 5 disciplines of a Diminisher (which is the opposite of the Multiplier in most cases):

  1. The Empire Builder – brings in great talent, but they under-utlise it because they hoard resources and use them only for their own gain.
  2. The Tyrant– create a tense environment that suppresses peoples’ thinking and capability. As a result, people hold back, bring up safe ideas that the leader agrees with and work cautiously.
  3. The Know-It-All– gives directives that showcase how much they know. As a result they limit what their organisation can achieve to what they themselves know how to it.  
  4. The Decision-Maker– decides efficiently with a small inner circle, but they leave the broader organisation in the dark to debate the soundness of the decision instead of executing it.  
  5. The Micro-Manager– manages every detail in a way that creates dependence on the leader and their presence for the organisation to perform.


It is interesting to see in a book how the author provides an overview of the Multiplier and Diminisher – other books focus on one or the other.  

The book provides great examples and illustrations of the Multiplier and Diminisher at work with a “How To” section at the end of each chapter.  

The drawback of the book is that is it repetitive and can labour points unnecessarily.


What are the key insights for the book?


  1. Go with extreme question challenges.

This was best explained with a personal example from Liz. One of her colleagues challenged her to speak to her young children in the form of questions after Liz complained that all she does is nag her children each night to go to bed, brush their teeth, and put their pjs on. No orders. No statements. Just questions. At night when it was time to go to bed, she asked her children, “What time is it?”. They replied “Bed time”. She followed up with “What do we do at bedtime?” “We put our pjs on, brush our teeth and get ready for bed”. They scampered away to do just that.  

It is about shifting the balance to not answering but asking questions and see the intelligence come into play. This works just the same in the workplace.


  1. Demand people’s best work and expect complete work.

An example of this in action is when a Multiplier will ask whether their team has done the best work possible once they have handed something in before reading it. The mere question of asking an individual whether they are proud of the work can encourage rethinking and inspire better work.  I know from my experience I ask my team to produce “client ready” work – this translates as “would you be happy if I sent this to one of our clients without me reading this”.  The completeness and whole-thinking that is required to produce something is what we are trying to capture in individuals.  


  1. Look for natural genius

"Finding someone’s natural genius is the key that unlocks discretionary effort”. Liz asks that when you are watching 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?

This can tap into their natural genius.


A great read for new leaders and managers!

- Kelly Maniatis, Managing Director


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