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Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter – Liz Wiseman

1st March 2020
Multipliers book cover


Multipliers is a book on leadership. The first edition was published in 2010. This is the revised and updated edition in 2017. I chose to read this book because the subtitle is very interesting and I would like to improve my leadership skill. This book discusses the impact and the promise of the Multiplier.


Liz Wiseman is a researcher and executive advisor. She is also an acclaimed author in the leadership field. The author is currently the CEO of the Wiseman Group, a leadership research and development firm headquartered in Silicon Valley, California. She was an executive in Oracle Corporation for 17 years where she worked as the Vice President of Oracle University and as the global leader for Human Resource Development.


Multipliers contains 9 chapters and a preface. It also has a foreword by Stephen R. Covey, the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and 6 appendices.

The chapters are 1) The Multiplier Effect, 2) The Talent Manager, 3) The Liberator, 4) The Challenger, 5) The Debate Maker, 6) The Investor, 7) The Accidental Diminisher, 8) Dealing with Diminishers, and 9) Becoming a Multiplier. Chapter 1 serves as an introduction to Multiplier effect. Chapter 2 to 6 discuss the 5 disciplines of Multipliers. The next chapter deals with the subtle Diminisher known as Accidental Diminisher. Chapter 8 teaches us the ways to handle Diminishers. The last chapter teaches us how to become Multipliers.

The appendices are A) The Research Process, B) Frequently Asked Questions, C) The Multipliers, D) Multipliers Discussion Guide, and E) Multiplier Experiments.


What is Multiplier? Multipliers are genius makers who bring out the intelligence in others. On the other end of the spectrum are the Diminishers who are absorbed in their own intelligence and stifle others. However, the Multiplier/Diminisher framework is not a dichotomy but a continuum.

What are the benefits of being a Multiplier? According to the author, a Multiplier gets twice the capacity, plus a growth dividend from their people as their genius expands under the leadership of the Multiplier. On the other hand, Diminishers underutilize people and leave capability on the table.

There are 5 disciplines to being a Multiplier and these are mentioned in the titles of Chapter 2 to 6. I will summarize some lessons that resonate with me here.

The functions of a Multiplier, in my opinion, are spotting the talent, challenging people and starting debate. In order to get full effort from people, we should help people discover opportunity and then challenge themselves by asking hard questions that no one yet has the answers to and backing off so that people within the organization have the space to think through the questions, take ownership, and find the answers.

The hallmark of a good leader is giving harder work, but not more work, which represents a bigger challenge that prompts deep learning and growth. To engender a great debate, the leader should find the right issues and formulate the right question for others to find the answers. Furthermore, a great leader is not entirely consensus-driven. He/she could be the decision maker in the end, just that the team should be informed about the decision-making process in the beginning.

Does becoming a Multiplier sound impossible? Do not give up yet. The author provides a realistic approach to become a Multiplier. A leader does not have to be exceptional in all 5 disciplines to be considered a Multiplier. He/she just needs 2 to 3 strong disciplines and the others can be just good enough. Focus on improving our strengths first so that they become strong enough to let us to become a Multiplier.

Most of us have an inner Diminisher that may be triggered during times of stress or crisis and we could become Accidental Diminishers. Even with good intention, these honest attempts to lead or be helpful shut down ideas and cause others to hold back. There are a few types of Accidental Diminisher and these are explained in the book. The author gives a few experiments in Appendix E that can be used to combat these Accidental Diminishers tendencies.

Overall, I find this book to be very enlightening. It makes me relook at my way of leading. There are examples of both Multiplier and Diminisher in the chapters and you might find some of these figures to be familiar. There is a summary at the end of each chapter, so if you are busy, you could just read these summaries.


  1. Learning can’t happen without mistakes.
  2. Allowing consequences to have their effect allows natural forces to inform intelligent action.
  3. As leaders, sometimes the faster we run, the slower others walk. When leaders set the pace, they are more likely to create spectators than followers.
  4. Most great accomplishments require a great leader – but the leader may not always be the boss.
  5. People cannot change others, only themselves.


3 out of 3 stars

Interested in Barking Up the Wrong Tree?

You may get the book from Kinokuniya Malaysia through the link below*.

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