I’m going to recommend that you read “Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter,” by Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown, despite the fact that it has a few serious flaws. Don’t be fooled by the title, the authors do NOT offer research support for their claim that leadership can make folks smarter. In fact, their research is full of halos and seriously flawed. This research would never be published in a leading peer-reviewed management or organizational psychology publication.
The other serious flaw is the authors don’t really introduce any new concepts. The things they discuss in the book are concepts that I’ve been teaching for over a decade in my leadership and organizational behavior classes, which means others were talking about them well before that. They have sexy new labels – multipliers and diminishers – but the things they describe these folks doing is really nothing new.
Despite its flaws, it is a good book. It will make the list of optional readings for my MBA class this fall because I think it will have an impact on the students that read it. The book is very well written with excellent organization and a very conversational style. The best thing about the book is the numerous excellent examples Liz gives to support her points, coming from her years of experience as a top executive and consultant.
My copy is full of yellow highlights, which means that I found a lot of value in what the authors had to say and hope to share some of it with others. Here are some of my favorite short quotes from the book:
- 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. (p. 10).
- Leaders rooted in the logic of multiplication believe: 1) most people are underutilized; 2) All capability can be leveraged with the right kind of leadership; 3) Therefore, intelligence and capability can be multiplied without requiring a bigger investment. (p. 17).
- …Multipliers look at the complex opportunities and challenges swirling around them and assume: there are smart people everywhere who will figure this out and get even smarter in the process. Therefore, they conclude that their job is to bring the right people together in an environment that liberates people’s best thinking and then to get out of their way. (p.20).
- Diminishers tell you what they know; Multipliers help you learn what you need to know (p. 173).
- Multipliers generate independence. They create organizations that can sustain performance without their direct involvement. When the organization is truly autonomous, they have earned the right to step away. When they leave, they leave a legacy. (p. 181)
- Can you be a Multiplier while working for a Diminisher boss?…I believe you can. Give yourself permission to be better than your boss. And then watch the organization take notice. (p. 201).
I love this stuff, but many of you will be able to see that there is nothing here that your favorite authors on leadership and organizational learning (e.g. Chris Argyris, W.E. Deming, Bob Sutton, Jeff Pfeffer, Peter Senge, Warren Bennis, Peter Drucker, etc.) have not already said. I fault the authors for not doing a better job of acknowledging the work others have done before them, but I also forgive them. The points they make are valuable and if new readers get these points in this new package, then as Martha Stewart would say “It’s a good thing.”
Liz was lucky enough to have known and worked with C.K. Prahalad, who I consider a giant among management thinkers. This book probably went to press before Prahalad’s recent passing, but it is a fitting tribute to the brilliance of his influence.
(Disclosure: My copy of the book was provided free of charge by the publisher).