Monday, June 12, 2017

Book Review: 'Multipliers, Revised and Updated: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter' by Liz Wiseman

Multipliers, Revised and Updated: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter
By Liz Wiseman

Review by Robert Morris

In the first edition of this book, written with Greg McKeown, Liz Wiseman juxtaposes two quite different types of persons whom she characterizes as the “Multiplier” and the “Diminisher.” Although she refers to them as leaders, suggesting they have supervisory responsibilities, they could also be direct reports at the management level or workers at the "shop floor" level. Multipliers "extract full capability," their own as well as others', and demonstrate five disciplines: Talent Magnet, Liberator, Challenger, Debate Maker, and Investor. Diminishers underutilize talent and resources, their own as well as others, and also demonstrate five disciplines: Empire Builder, Tyrant, Know-It-All, Decision Maker, and Micro Manager. Wiseman devotes a separate chapter to each of the five Multiplier leadership roles.

Wiseman cites dozens of real-world examples that suggest how almost any organization (regardless of its size or nature) can plan, implement, accelerate, and sustain a human development program that strengthens participants' leadership and management skills that (a) will enable them to multiply the intelligence and capability of the people around them and (b) avoid behaviors that can diminish people's ability and enthusiasm

As Wiseman clearly realizes, people combine some of the best and worst traits of both the Multiplier and Diminisher. Strengths can become weaknesses or vice versa if carried to an extreme. A Talent Magnet, for example, could be especially effective recognizing and attracting high-potentials and then hoard their talents, exploiting them to her or his advantage. A Micro Manager could be especially alert for significant details that others ignore but deny other people's professional development by refusing to delegate tasks to them. In the healthiest organizations, there are constant efforts to increase (multiply) positive and productive engagement while reducing (diminishing) waste.

In the revised and update edition (May 2017), Wiseman develops in even greater depth many of her brilliant insights that were first introduced in 2010. In this context, I am reminded of an incident that occurred years ago when one of Albert Einstein’s faculty colleagues at Princeton gently chided him asking the same questions each year on his final examination. “Quite true. Guilty as charged. Every year the answers are different.” All organizations always need leaders who make everyone smarter and they need these leaders at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise. Multipliers must also sustain cultural change in a competitive marketplace that is more volatile, more uncertain, more complex, and more ambiguous than at any prior time that I can remember.

What’s new in the revised and expanded edition?

According to Wiseman, they include a Preface “that describes the changing landscape of management and why leaders can and must get more from their talent (Pages xvii-xxii); A new chapter on the ways that well-intended leaders become ‘Accidental Diminishers’ (Chapter 7); A new chapter on how to deal with Diminishers and minimize their impact on yourself and others (Chapter 8); A new section on how to effect lasting change inside corporations (Chapter 9); A new set of tools to enable managers to put the ideas into action (Appendix E).” She also includes a number of new case studies of Multiplier leaders throughout her lively and eloquent narrative.

Wiseman again focuses on seven familiar archetypes:

Multiplier sees issues in Technicolor
Diminisher sees them in black-and-white
Talent Manager builds a consensus driven by ability and diversity
Liberator creates a culture with discipline that nourishes growth and development
Challenger embraces opportunity but is wary of assumptions and premises
Debate Maker: Achieves high-impact results, guided and informed by collective judgment
Investor: Sees the objective, applies the resources, and proceeds with strict accountability

Of course, as Wiseman points out, Diminishers reduce morale and performance whereas Multipliers “make everyone smarter.” Empire Builders hoard talent whereas Talent Managers nourish it. Tyrants impose their will whereas Liberators celebrate principled dissent. Know-It-Alls think and live in terms of first-person-singular pronouns whereas Challengers seem to have first-person-plural pronouns in their DNA. Micromanagers are hostage to details that support what James O’Toole characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom” whereas Investors thrive through others’ achievements

For whom will this book be most valuable? First, for those who must -- in Alvin Toffler’s words -- “learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Also, for their supervisors and other decision-makers who need to strengthen leadership and management skills.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Robert Morris. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right. 

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