Lead Like a Multiplier

Some leaders drain all the intelligence and capability out of their teams. Because they need to be the smartest, most capable person in the room, these managers often shut down the smarts of others, ultimately stifling the flow of ideas. These leaders are “diminishers”, they underutilize people and leave creativity and talent on the table.

At the other extreme are leaders who, as capable as they are, care less about flaunting their own IQs and more about fostering a culture of intelligence in their organizations. Under the leadership of these “multipliers,” employees don’t just feel smarter, they become smarter.

The critical question for the multiplier is not “Is this person smart?” but rather “In what ways is this person smart?” The job, as the multiplier sees it, is to bring the right people together in an environment that unleashes their best thinking—and then stay out of the way.

Getting the most from your team is important all the time. No doubt your employees are stretched tight, but many of your top performers would probably admit to feeling underutilized. Their workloads may be at capacity, but they’re sitting on a stockpile of untapped—or, even worse, thwarted—ideas, skills, and interests.

So while you may think you can’t ask for more from your people in these tumultuous times, it turns out you can. But only if you are willing to shift the responsibility for thinking from yourself to your employees. You can get much more from your team without adding resources or overhead, if you lead like a multiplier.

Multipliers ask hard questions that create a natural tension that impels people to find the answers. As team members earn small wins, their confidence grows and seemingly insurmountable problems appear less daunting. Roadblocks become interesting puzzles for the team to solve.

We all fall somewhere along the spectrum of multipliers and diminishers. Here are two steps for moving in the right direction:

1) Don’t throw all your ideas and suggestions on the table at once. Dispense your thoughts in small but intense doses. By limiting your own comments, you make space for others to contribute—and your words become that much more influential.

2) Stop worrying about having all the answers. Use your knowledge of the business to ask insightful questions that prompt the members of your team to stop, think, and then rethink.

Summing-up: When you invite people’s best thinking and lead like a multiplier, your team will give you more—more discretionary effort, more mental and physical energy, and more of the fresh ideas critical for long-term success.

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