Are You a Genius or a Genius Maker?


 We’ve all had experience with two dramatically different types of leaders. The first type drain intelligence, energy, and capability from the ones around them and always need to be the smartest ones in the room. These are the idea killers, the energy sappers, the diminishers of talent and commitment.

On the other side of the spectrum are leaders who use their intelligence to amplify the smarts and capabilities of the people around them. When these leaders walk into a room, lightbulbs go off over people’s heads, ideas flow, and problems get resolved. These are the leaders who inspire employees to stretch themselves to deliver results that surpass expectations. These are the Multipliers.



Multipliers are genius makers. Everyone around them gets smarter and more capable. People may not become geniuses in a traditional sense, but Multipliers invoke each person’s unique intelligence and create an atmosphere of genius – innovation, productive effort, and collective, viral intelligence.

Diminishers on the other hand are absorbed in their own intelligence, stifle others, and deplete the organization of crucial intelligence and capability.


The mind of Multiplier

Multipliers and Diminishers tend to hold radically different assumptions about the intelligence of the people they work with. These assumptions appear to explain much of the difference in how Diminishers and Multipliers operate.

The Diminisher’s view of intelligence is based on elitism and scarcity. Diminishers appear to believe that really intelligent people are a rare breed and I am one of the few really smart people. They then conclude, other people will never figure things out without me.

Multipliers on the other hand have a rich view of the intelligence of the people around them. They see intelligence as continually developing. Therefore their key assumption: people are smart. They will figure this out and will get even smarter in the process.


In analysing data from more than 150 leaders, Wiseman and McKeown have identified five key disciplines that distinguish Multipliers from Diminishers:

  1. The Talent Magnet: Attract and optimize talent
  2. The Liberator: Create intensity that requires best thinking
  3. The Challenger: Extend challenges
  4. The Debate Maker: Debate decisions
  5. The Investor: Instill ownership and accountability


* * *


The Talent Magnet


Talent Magnets get access to the best talent because people flock to work for them knowing they will be fully utilized and developed to be ready for the next stage. Talent Magnets:

  • Appreciate all types of genius: genius comes in many forms. Some minds excel at quantitative analysis or verbal reasoning – capabilities measured through IQ and other tests of traditional cognitive intelligence. Other minds offer creative genius, innovating through fresh thinking and bold ideas. Some minds are critical, spotting every problem or landmine lurking within a plan; the genius of some others is to find a way to tunnel around these landmines.
  • Ignore boundaries: Talent Magnets live in a world without walls and without hierarchical or lateral restrictions. Instead, they see talent networks.
  • Find people’s native genius: A native genius is something that people do, not only exceptionally well, but absolutely naturally. They do it easily (without extra effort) and freely (without condition). It is something that gives them inherent satisfaction, and they offer their capability voluntarily, even ardently. Native genius can be so instinctive for people that they may not even understand their own capability, like the fish that discovers the water last. By telling people what you see, Talent Magents can raise their awareness and confidence, allowing them to provide their capability more fully.
  • Utilize people to their fullest by connecting people with opportunities that allow them to be used at their highest point of contribution.


* * *


The Liberator


Liberators create an intense environment that requires people’s best thinking and work. As a result, people offer their best and boldest thinking and give their best effort.


  • Release others by restraining themselves: it is a small victory to create space for others to contribute. But it is a huge victory to maintain that space and resist the temptation to jump back in and consume it yourself.
  • Shift the ratio of listening to talking: liberators are ferocious listeners who listen to feed their hunger for knowledge.
  • Operate consistently: The consistency in the liberator’s actions establishes a predictable pattern of behaviour. This allows others to know when it is their turn and where there is space for them to contribute. It also creates safety with all people knowing what to expect.
  • Level the playing field: in any formal organization, the playing field is rarely level, and certain voices are inherently advantaged. These include senior executives. Unless managed, other voices that are perhaps closest to the real issues can become muffled.
  • Demand best work: Asking whether people are giving their best gives them the opportunity to push themselves beyond their previous limits.
  • Distinguish best work from outcomes: people feel positive pressure when they are held to their best work, however it is important to avoid creating stress by holding people accountable for outcomes beyond their control.
  • Generate rapid learning cycles by admitting and sharing mistakes and insisting on learning from mistakes.


* * *


The Challenger


Challengers define opportunities that challenge people to go beyond what they know how to do. As a result they get an organisation that understands the challenge and has the focus and energy to take it on.

The Challengers:

  • Seed the opportunity by allowing people to discover it, challenging the assumptions, re-framing the problems into opportunities, and providing the starting point.
  • Lay down a challenge by asking the hard questions and letting others to fill in the blanks.
  • Generate belief in what is possible by laying out a path, co-creating the plan and beginning with small early wins.


* * *


The Debate Maker


Debate Makers engage people in debating the issues up front, which leads to sound decisions that people understand and can execute efficiently.

Debate Makers:

  • Frame the issue by defining the question that unearths and challenges the assumptions entrenched in the organization, forming the team, and assembling the required data.
  • Spark the debate by creating safe environment for best thinking and demanding rigor.
  • Drive sound decision making.


* * *


The Investor


Multipliers operate as Investors. They invest by infusing others with the resources and ownership they need to produce results independent of the leader.

The Investors:

  • Define ownership by naming the lead, giving ownership for the end goal and stretching the role
  • Invest resources by providing mentoring, coaching and backup
  • Hold people accountable


Multipliers also tend to have a great sense of humor. They aren’t necessarily comedians, but they don’t take themselves or situations too seriously. They can laugh at themselves and see comedy in error and in life’s foibles. Their sense of humor liberates others. Multipliers use humor to create comfort and to spark a natural energy and intelligence in others.

 From “Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter” by Liz Wiseman with Greg McKeown


The concept of Diminishers and Multipliers however is not limited to business leadership only. It can be easily applied to any relationship, including marriage, family, parenting, friendship etc.


Are you a Diminisher or a Multiplier, a Genius or a Genius Maker?





21 thoughts on “Are You a Genius or a Genius Maker?

  1. I like to think I was both!

  2. satzie says:

    Wonderful post Otrazhenie.

    This post reminds me of MS Dhoni, current skipper of Indian Cricket Team. I’ve seen much of the Multiplier skills with him. Keeping touch of people who apply such skills in life, often can motivate and remind us that it is possible.

    When I was struggling during my university times, my friend Imran walked up to me and told that I can achieve great heights. His words weren’t meant for encouraging, or trying to put over me a positive belief. I’m very sure. When he walked up to me and said that I can do it, I saw that he was telling the truth. It took around one year to realize how my friend said that I can do it. He saw the potential inside me. And I learned to see it in myself very often after that. It is interesting that I’m also able to see potential in other people around me. Its not like imagination or intuition. It’s a vision of the possibility, an ability to see a glimpse of the way. Of course discovering our potential alone cannot help us grow, but it definitely inspires us to work towards liberating it. Reminds me one of my fav quote “Its not the guarantee that keeps me going, but the possibility”, which I remind myself during crisis.

    Feels fresh to hear the term “Native genius”, something new which I haven’t been aware of.
    Love the fish picture with Einstein’s quote.

    I take around 60 – 90 minutes for each of your few recent posts. Word by word. I find it worthy spending ample amount of time on the posts. Such a richness of content and plenty of insights, both from your own writings and from other sources.

    A very good post that inspires me to read Liz’s book on “Multipliers”.


  3. curiouslylost says:

    The article is awesome but i couldn’t help relating it to a comparision between introverts and extroverts!

  4. Mélanie says:

    oh, non, I’m not a genius at all, but I’ve been married to one for several decades who’s humble, generous, funny and open minded… 🙂
    * * *
    off-topic: film director Jane Campion, your fellow country lady is the honor Prez of the Cannes film festival… Have you watched her masterpiece?… 🙂

    • Otrazhenie says:

      Humble, generous, funny and open-minded – nothing can beat that 🙂 You are such a wonderful couple. And you are a true genius in blogging 😉

      With regard to ‘Piano’, I did watch this movie a long time ago, before I came to New Zealand. Would love to watch it again now, when I know New Zealand and its people so much better. Love West Coast where this story unfolds. I’ve been the a few times. My favourite part of the country.

      • Mélanie says:

        Thanx-spasiba, Miss O! we’d like to visit your amazing homeland some day asap… it’s on our list! 🙂
        * * *
        @”And you are a true genius in blogging 😉 ” – merci! 🙂 well, I’m trying to write and to post “original stuff” @ my playground-crossroads… I really like to play with words and I often think they’ve been invented for it… 🙂 have a pleasant weekend and friendly hugs… ❤ Mélanie – tvaia padruga 🙂

      • Otrazhenie says:

        Have a wonderful weekend too 🙂

  5. Woods says:

    Excellent article. I have two questions:

    Do you believe that Multipliers have all of the 5 disciplines, or as each name implies, are specifically one of the types? I am pretty sure that these are 5 disciplines that are integrated together. To that end, any given leader is better at some and need to work on others, but I would like to ensure I understood your intent.

    With regard to Accidental Diminishers – I read that as each of these characteristics is not wrong, can even be part of the make-up of an exceptional Multiplier, but can go awry if not keep in check. Certainly being an optimist can be a positive (and I believe usually is), but keeping it in check with understanding the battle that one’s people are fighting is important to not take this positive and shut people down. Again, have I understood your point?

    Note – Accidental Diminishers struck me so much that I printed it out and posted by my desk to ponder for a while.

    • Otrazhenie says:

      Very good questions. The human nature is very complex and never fits nicely into conceptual frameworks 🙂

      In my view, 1 discipline is not enough for a leader to become a true ‘Multiplier’. Multipliers would require a combination of those disciplines. Totally agree with your point – any given leader would have some of these disciplines but might need to work a bit more on others to become an effective Multiplier. Like with any personal development, leadership development is a never-ending process. I don’t think any leader can ever reach complete perfection with no room for self-improvement.

      With regard to your second question, to me ‘Accidental Diminishers’ poster illustrates very well how good intentions can go wrong depending on the situation, context and other people involved. Therefore leaders do need to always keep their minds, eyes and ears open. This poster is something I would keep by my desk at all times. 🙂

  6. […] following words are outcome of reading a fascinating post about “ Multipliers “ from Otrazhenie. After reading that particular post, I tried reading the book […]

  7. […] better words consciousness is like a “Multiplier Leader“, who trusts the unconscious and helps it. So basically i told myself what to do and […]

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