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Book Summary – Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter

Multipliers - Book summary

Why do some leaders create a positive impact on people around them while others don’t? This book by Liz Wiseman presents the characteristics of Multipliers who amplify the results of people around them (vs Diminishers who reduce others’ results). It also lays out practical tips, experiments and steps you can take to become a Multiplier and build a Multiplier culture. In this free Multipliers summary, you’ll get an overview of the 5 disciplines of Multipliers, how you can apply them to improve your outcomes as a leader and develop a Multiplier culture.

Overview of Multipliers

Based on research of more than 150 executives across 4 continents, Liz Wiseman discovered that leaders can be placed on a spectrum between two extremes: Multipliers vs Diminishers.

• Multipliers are leaders who bring out others’ capability and intelligence. They’re “genius makers” who multiply an organization’s collective intelligence.

• Diminishers are leaders who’re so absorbed in their own genius that they stifle others’, thus depleting the organization’s vital intellectual resources.

Multipliers book summary_Multiplier effect

Wiseman’s research found that managers used on average only 66% of their people’s capability. Interestingly, Multipliers get 2x more out of people than Diminishers. They concurrently extract and expand people’s intelligence. People around Multipliers feel like winners. They’re inspired to give 100% of their creativity/effort and to stretch themselves beyond their original capacity. By contrast, people around Diminishers get their ideas squashed until they eventually shut down or quit.

The 5 Disciplines of Multipliers

The difference between Multipliers and Diminishers come from their difference in mindsets. Diminishers assume that people can’t figure things out without them, while Multipliers assume that people are smart and can work things out. Such assumptions drive their behaviors differently in 5 key ways.

We’ll now briefly outline these differences. Check out our complete, 16-page version of Multipliers summary for a breakdown of each behavior and the experiments/strategies you can use to start becoming a Multiplier.

Multipliers book summary - multipliers versus diminishers

1. THE TALENT MAGNET: Attract and optimize talent

Empire Builders vs Talent Magnets

Both Multipliers and Diminishers seek to attract A-players, i.e. good people with the required talents and abilities for the job. However, they manage these talents differently to create a self-perpetuating cycle:

• Diminishers act like Empire Builders. They hoard resources and underutilize talents. They bring in top talent to make themselves look good and build their own career, carve out fiefdoms and position themselves as the sole integrator and decision-maker. The A-players are underutilized, their talents stunted, and the team’s performance suffers. As word spreads, it gets harder to attract good people and a Cycle of Decline is created.

• Multipliers are Talent Magnets. They hire talented people, use and develop their strengths fully, and remove obstacles to help people succeed. Both the individuals and team thrive, word spreads that they’re the best bosses to work for, and more talents flock to them to create a Cycle of Attraction.

4 Practices of Talent Magnets

Talent Magnets attract and nurture talents with 4 practices.

• They look for diverse talent everywhere. Specifically, they:
(i) Value all types of talents (e.g. quantitative analysis, creative problem-solving); and
(ii) Ignore organizational boundaries to seek talents inside and outside the organization.

• They find and unlock people’s native abilities, be it a knack for connecting people or diagnosing complex issues. They:
(i) Carefully observe people to identify what’s native to them, i.e. things that people do (a) easily without conscious effort and (b) freely without condition.
(ii) Label the ability to make it obvious. Talents often don’t realize their own genius. Labelling it raises their awareness, confidence and the likelihood that they’ll use it.

• They utilize people to the fullest. Specifically, they:
(i) Connect people with opportunities to use their native ability.
(ii) Shine a spotlight on them so others can see them in action. This builds their character and confidence even further.

• They remove blockers that hinder people’s growth/success:
(i) Remove prima donnas who persistently put their egos over the team’s interests (thus hurting team effectiveness).
(ii) Get out of the way if they themselves are the blockers.

Strategies/Experiments to Become a Talent Magnet

To become a Talent Magnet, start by (i) becoming a genius watcher and (ii) weeding out people who’re bad for the team. Try these 3 experiments:

Name the genius: Find the native genius of every team member. Or, consider someone hard to work with and ask “in what way is this person smart?”

Upsize their role. Give people a role/project that’s slightly bigger than their current capabilities, and let them grow into it.

Let superstars go. When people have outgrown their roles, encourage them to move on. Don’t keep them for your own gain. Likewise, don’t wait to remove people who’re bad for the team.

2. THE LIBERATOR: Demand people’s best thinking and effort


Diminishers use their hierarchical position to suppress others. Multipliers free people to think, speak up and do their best work.

• Diminishers are Tyrants who create a tensed environment that crushes people’s ability to think and perform. They insist on their views, shut out others’ ideas, dominate the space, and create anxiety by constantly judging others. People are afraid to speak up and act cautiously to avoid coming under fire.

• Multipliers are Liberators who create an intense environment that demands people’s best performance. They’re hard on the issues but easy on the people. They provide the stability for people to focus on their work, and make it safe for people to be bold in their thinking and actions.

Do check out our complete version of Multipliers summary to learn more about the 3 practices of Liberators and the 4 strategies/experiments to start becoming one.

3. THE CHALLENGER: Extend compelling challenges

Know-It-Alls vs Challengers

In setting the direction for their team:

• Diminishers are Know-It-Alls. They tell you their superior insights, ask questions to “test” you, and tell you exactly how to do your job. People waste energy second-guessing them or pretending to follow their instructions, and the organization is stuck with what it already has/knows

• Multipliers are Challengers. They identify the right opportunities, then challenge everyone to get there. They seed ideas and let people stretch themselves to find the solutions. Matt McCauley assessed that Gymboree’s share price could be increased from $0.69 per share to $1. Even though he knew what could be done, he chose to share his “Mission Impossible” and enlist his managers to come up with their Mission Impossible. One year later, Gymboree reached $1.19 per share. Matt kept lifting the bar to reach $2.15 per share in 2007, then $3.21 in 2008.

You can learn the 3 practices of Challengers and the 4 strategies/experiments to become a Challenger in our full summary.

4. THE DEBATE MAKER: Debate decisions constructively

Decision Makers vs Debate Makers

Diminishers tend to make decisions by themselves (or with a privileged few), while Multipliers engage people in meaningful.

• Diminishers are Decision Makers. They assume that only a few people are worth listening to. They raise issues, dominate the discussions with their own opinions, and make snap decisions without explaining the rationale. Others in the organization are left feeling confused and left out.

• Multipliers are Debate Makers. They bring people together, draw out what they know, and facilitate rigorous debate. They stretch people, depersonalize decisions, and make sound decisions which people own, understand and can execute.

Learn more about the 3 practices of Debate Makers and how you, too, can spark constructive debate using shared inquiry in 4 parts.

5. THE INVESTOR: Instill accountability

Micromanagers vs Investors

Diminishers drive results personally while Investors build people’s ability to perform without them.

• Diminishers are Micromanagers. They try to handle everything themselves. They issue instructions, then intervene thinking people can’t cope without them. They create confusion by jumping in and out. People become dependent on them and can’t operate in their absence.

• Multipliers are Investors. They share guidance, invest in others’ success, but give back the ownership for results. They’re like coaches who build a winning team without jumping in to play the game themselves.

Read our full Multipliers summary for the 3 practices of Investors and 4 experiments you can use to get started.

Becoming a Multiplier & Developing Multipliers

Accidental Diminishers

Most Diminishers actually have good intentions and are unaware of their diminishing impact on others. And, all of us have our Accidental Diminisher moments. You can learn more about the 9 common Accidental Diminisher profiles in our full summary.

Dealing with Diminishers

Even if your boss is a Diminisher, you can still break the vicious cycle with a Multiplier mindset. Learn the 3 levels of strategies for dealing with Diminishers, in increasing levels of sophistication.

Adopting Multipliers Practices

Being a Multiplier is a matter of choice. It starts with (i) recognizing Multipliers/Diminishers around you, (ii) recognizing the Accidental Diminisher tendencies in yourself, and (iii) making a firm decision to become a Multiplier.

In our full 16-page Multipliers summary, we elaborate on how you can:

Accelerate your results by translating the insights above into positive outcomes; and

• How to adopt Multiplier practices to address various cultural layers, including visible elements (e.g. shared language/behavior) and subtler elements (e.g. rituals, norms and beliefs).

Getting the Most from Multipliers

If you’d like to learn more about how to cultivate the Multipliers characteristics above, check out the our full book summary bundle which includes an infographic, 16-page text summary, and a 24-minute audio summary.

Multipliers summary - Book Summary BundleThis is a comprehensive guidebook with numerous real-life examples for each set of Multiplier and Diminisher characteristics. The book also includes several appendices with additional information on the research process, commonly asked questions, team discussions and the various Multiplier experiments outlined in our summary. You can purchase a the book here, or check out more resources and details at

Want more from Liz Wisesman?  Read our Impact Players summary.

About the Author of Multipliers

Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter is written by Liz Wisemana researcher and executive leadership advisor. She’s the CEO of the Wiseman Group, a leadership research and development firm that has worked with clients like Apple, AT&T, Disney, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Nike, Salesforce, Tesla, and Twitter. Prior to that, she worked for Oracle Corporation from 1988-2005.
Wiseman was listed on the Thinkers50 ranking. She was also
recognized as the top leadership thinker in the world in 2019. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business management and a Masters of Organizational Behavior from Brigham Young University.

Multipliers Quotes

“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.”

“An unsafe environment yields only the safest ideas… People’s best thinking must be given, not taken.”

“The highest quality of thinking cannot emerge without learning. Learning can’t happen without mistakes.”

“Once a leader accepts that he or she doesn’t have to have all the answers, he or she is free to ask much bigger, more provocative, and, frankly, more interesting questions.”

“We judge others by their doings, but ourselves by our intentions.”

“As leaders, sometimes the faster we run, the slower others walk.”

Click here to download the Multipliers book summary & infographic

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