You should read this if you want double the capacity of your team


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

Across your career in teaching, there have probably been school leaders that you have loved working with and others that you have loathed working for. With some leaders you will have felt smarter, valued, supported, challenged and loved your work while with other leaders you will have felt demoralised, undervalued, useless and dreading work. Some leaders make you feel like you would gladly walk into battle with them, while others make you feel like to worst kind of factory worker, trudging to clock in and out every day.

If any of this resonates with you, you should read Liz Wiseman’s Multiplers. As a leader it is your job to bring the absolute best out of your teaching staff, and deliver results for your students, and Wiseman shows you clearly how to do so.

Wiseman’s book is based on significant organisational research, which showed that the worst types of leaders ‘Diminshers’ reduce staff member’s capacity, input, motivation, intelligence and output by a large factor. That is, Diminsher leaders only get between 20 and 50 percent capacity out of their staff. Diminshers are ‘know it all’s’ that hoard talent and resources, micro manage and make inconsistent unilateral decisions that confuse people. Multipliers on the other hand are leaders who challenge and stretch their staff, distribute ownership and accountability, drive debate and use people at their highest capacity all the time. And what is the end result? Wiseman’s studies show that Multiplier leaders consistently get 2 times the output from their teams that Diminishers get.

Many of you would be thinking that this is common sense; no one in this day and age would lead like a Diminisher. However, Wiseman discusses this with the concept of the ‘Accidental Diminisher’. Acidental Diminishers are well meaning leaders, who often fall short of their leadership values. Wiseman explains that the Multiplier/Diminisher idea acts as a sort of continuum, with people often moving up and down the scale over time. Thus the idea of accidental diminishers; leaders who know how to lead like a Multiplier, intend to act like a Multiplier, yet find their actions Diminishing the powers of their staff. This is perhaps the most powerful aspect of the Multipliers concept; often, we do not act in accordance with our intentions and values. Seeking regular feedback from staff and completing regular self-reflection should help you maintain your Multiplier leadership.

To help with this, Wiseman has setup an online questionnaire to help people reflect whether or not they are an ‘Accidental Diminisher’. Wiseman’s website and Twitter presence @LizWiseman are also helpful resources for continued learning.

While the Multiplier concept derived from and has been embraced by business (especially Harvard Business Review), the lessons for educational leaders are obvious. If school leaders can multiply the talents and capacity of their staff, they in turn can multiply the capacity of their students. By way of strengthening the point, Wiseman has just written a follow up book, solely about the Multipliers concept in education: The Multiplier Effect: Tapping the Genius Inside Our Schools. Read either, or read both to reflect on your own leadership and how to multiply the capacity of your staff.


Further Reading: Similar books → “Good Boss Bad Boss” and “Game Change” and “The No Asshole Rule”

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