The Mindset of Genius-Makers

What makes working for some leaders tough but worth it, while others are simply tough and disagreeable? I’ve been reading up on the mindset of leaders who are genius-makers.

In the book Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter (HarperBusiness, 2010), authors Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown interviewed and assessed more than 150 leaders on their managerial practices.

The authors divide leaders into two camps, based on the results they achieve: multipliers or diminishers.

Leadership effectiveness can be judged on a continuum. The following table outlines the differences in these leaders’ approaches:

It boils down to a fundamental difference in how a leader views the people who work for him/her:

  • I must closely supervise my people in order to get them to complete tasks.


  • If I know what people’s strengths are, I can stay out of their way and watch them come up with solutions on their own.

I can remember working for both kinds of leaders in my career. Clearly, I gave my best for the bosses who believed in me and gave me room to stretch myself and grow.

Leading like a multiplier requires more than mimicking the approaches described above. You must believe in your people’s capabilities and trust them to use their intelligence and creativity to develop their own solutions. Act as a guide instead of an expert to achieve buy-in and self-sufficiency.

It requires that leaders truly believe that people are smart and motivated and respond well to coaching. In the work I do with executives, some are naturally supportive of others. They bring out the best in their team.

Others are concerned (unnecessarily so) that without micromanaging, things will go wrong and it will reflect poorly on them as leaders. This diminishes confidence and trust, and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

What’s been your experience with leaders like this, who tend to diminish rather than multiply capabilities? I’d love to hear from you; leave a comment.

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