Multipliers: Book Questions and Answers

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Multipliers" by Liz Wiseman. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do you have questions about the Multipliers book? Do you have doubts about the Multiplier leadership style?

Multipliers is a book on how leaders use the intelligence of their teams. After years of studies, the authors found that there are two main leadership styles: Multipliers and Diminishers. However, it’s only natural to be skeptical, so the authors of Multipliers answered some frequently asked questions.

Continue below for the Multipliers book FAQ.

Multipliers Book FAQ

In the Multipliers book, author Liz Wiseman and researcher Greg McKeown tackle the question: How do leaders perceive and use intelligence? For two years, they studied 150 leaders in four continents by interviewing them, assessing them quantitatively (using a survey that addressed 48 leadership practices), and talking to their team members.

The authors of the Multipliers book answered some FAQs:

Q: Are these two types of leaders universal across cultures?

A: The author studied leaders from 35 countries and discovered that while individual Multiplier practices differed, and in hierarchical cultures, Multipliers had to work harder to create the safety to share ideas, the Multiplier approach itself—assuming people are smart—worked everywhere in the world. 

However, Diminishing did vary across cultures. Hierarchical cultures tended to see higher levels of diminishment. Diminishers in these cultures got approximately 10-20% less out of people than the global average of 48%.

Q: Can I be both?

A. It’s possible to act as both a Diminisher and Multiplier, or to be one or the other towards different people. This is for three reasons:

1. There are situations in which everyone is more prone to Diminisher behavior, even the best Multipliers, notably situations that feature:

  • High stakes
  • Short deadlines
  • Moments of stress
  • Crises

Be aware that these situations tend to bring out diminishment and keep an eye on your behavior when they arise. Also keep in mind that sometimes, extreme situations are when a multiplying effect is needed the most—to solve something complicated, the more talent and brainpower you have access to, the better.

2. There are situations where Diminisher behavior is necessary. For example, in a life-or-death situation, Multipliers should step in and take over. However, it’s possible to mitigate the diminishing effect of these moments by explaining that they’re exceptions, asking for permission to take over, and reverting to Multiplier behavior when the crisis is over.

  • For example, when someone’s dying on an operating table, physician-leaders micromanage and give orders to resident physicians. The author suggested they keep using this approach in these moments (which are only 3-5% of the time) and use Multiplier practices the other 95-97% of the time.

3. It’s harder to multiply people who are far away. The author’s research found that some people who were named as Multipliers by some were named as Diminishers by others. Typically, the people who saw them as Multipliers were direct reports, and the people who saw them as Diminishers had less contact with them. It takes more effort and conscious thought to multiply the people who are farther away.

If you’re a strong Multiplier, your people will forgive the occasional Diminisher blip, especially if you call yourself out and explain what led to your actions. 

Q: But aren’t some Diminishers successful?

A: Some Diminisher leaders can be successful, but this is usually because there are other factors at play such as:

  • Diminishers can have Multiplier traits too, and sometimes the Multiplier ones are strong enough to make up for the Diminisher ones.
    • For example, Steve Jobs had the diminishing trait of micromanaging, but he also had the multiplying traits of creativity and curiosity.
  • Diminishers sometimes recruit other leaders who are Multipliers, and these other leaders make up for them.
  • Diminishers sometimes do fine at leading others when the environment is stable.
  • Diminishers are sometimes only in charge because they founded the company. While the company is still small, the founder’s intelligence can carry the organization.
Q: How does gender factor in?

A: When it comes to deliberate multiplying and diminishing, the author didn’t find any differences between genders—no one was more likely to multiply or diminish. There was, however, a difference in accidental diminishing, with more women doing this. This may be because, in the past, women leaders had to fit themselves into one of two leadership categories to succeed in a male-dominated world: 1) being tough, fearless, and manly, or 2) acting as a mom and protecting and rescuing people. Both roles come with diminishing tendencies.

Multipliers: Book Questions and Answers

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Liz Wiseman's "Multipliers" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Multipliers summary:

  • Why multipliers make better leaders than diminishers
  • How multipliers increase the total intelligence and capability of a team
  • The 3 steps to follow if you want to reduce your own diminishing qualities

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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