Liz Wiseman is a bestselling author, speaker and executive advisor.  Her work, including her latest books Multipliers How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter and The Multiplier Effect: Tapping the Genius Inside Our School.

In gearing up for ASTD 2013 and her keynote, I got really excited about the concept of leadership multiplierswhat kinds of behaviors and what ways of thinking can activate leadership that propels individuals and organizations ahead?

Leadership MultiplierAt its simplest, multiplication is about taking what you have and making something that much bigger and better. Leadership multiplication should be the same…except instead of bigger numbers, the end gains should be trust, accountability, productivity and business impact.

This is of course the biggest challenge in leadership, and Wiseman makes a great point in trying to figure out why leaders don’t always multiply (and no doubt you’ve seen this first-hand)—high-performers aren’t necessarily leaders (at least not without training).

In the case of our math analogy, a high performer is simply a big number. But, is it better to have a 100-level high-performer who races ahead on his own or a 75-level leader that multiplies the output of every member of her team?

Leaders can’t forget to look beyond their own capabilities to use the genius that sits on their team.  So how do they do it? How do leaders engage their team and embrace how employees are most productive to create the multiplier effect?

Create the Environment:

Leaders need to create an environment where good things happen. And, leaders need to recognize more clearly than anyone else, the way their team members work and how to max each and every person.

Think about the flexibility of your environment—how does it look to people on different ends of the Flexibility spectrum? Some want an environment that is very defined; others want change.

An environment that thrives on communication is key—don’t hire intelligent employees, only to put them on projects that don’t fit their Expressiveness tendencies.

  • How a leader interacts and provides feedback (from 1-on-1 to group brainstorms and everything in between) can make the difference from performance to multiplier.

Recognize Your Team Members’ Unique Individual Strengths:

Realizing that each person is not only intelligent but also prone to specific thinking and behavioral tendencies can bring the multiplier effect to the forefront.

Growth and higher productivity comes when the full spectrum of thinking and behavior is both utilized and developed. This interesting Fast Company Article stressed that idea (and my recent blog, How Cognitive Diversity Can Boost Innovation pinpoints it even further)—no one thinking style is superior to others…but all are necessary.

The encouragement of working on visionary ideas, the sharing of intellect, will ignite the multiplier effect; but realize that visionary ideas look different to a Structured Left-Brain Thinker than they do to a Conceptual Right-Brain Thinker. Both are necessary.

Talented people come from all facets. A leader who can not only recognize his/her own strengths and capitalize on them but also the strengths of his team will make the multiplier effect happen.