How leaders bring out the best in their teams

There are leaders who believe they are the smartest and most capable in the organisation. They don’t need any input from others. They know it all. As a result, they often find faults in good suggestions from others and stifle the flow of ideas. We know these people because often we have worked for or around such people.

You know managers who only listen to a small group of people, they think they have answers to all problems and their way is the best. They claim that everyone around them just is not smart and all the burden of decision making falls on them. People feel less smart around these and over time lose initiative and stop contributing. These are the ‘diminishers[i]’.One the other hand, there are leaders who care more about fostering a culture that values smart ideas from others and are open to debates before key decisions are made. They don’t become nor cultivate prima donnas, who dominate the discussions. These managers are not soft or feel good types. They expect great performance from employees and drive to get extraordinary results. There are the ‘multipliers’.

Different mind-sets

There are several differences between the mind-sets these two types of leaders. Diminisher’s view of smarts is based on scarcity and elitism. They think if the employees don’t understand now, they never will. On the opposite end the multipliers believe that smarts can be developed. They don’t ask if the person is smart or not but “In what ways is this person smart?” A leader’s job according to multipliers is to bring out the best in people by putting them in an environment where they can thrive.

Some leaders believe smart team members are scarce and smarts cannot be developed

In times like today, when everyone is busy and overworked, you may think asking more from people is unreasonable. But if you led like a multiplier, you can get more from the team. But you must be willing to shift the responsibility of thinking and problem solving from yourself to the employees. Irrespective of where you are on the leadership spectrum, research indicates multipliers can get more from the team than others.

The methods of the multipliers

There are five areas that multipliers manage differently. These are talent, culture, strategy, decision-making, and execution. They do these very differently than managers who behave like diminishers.

The Empire Builder Hoards resources and under utilizes talent The Talent Magnet Attracts talented people & uses them at their highest point of contribution
The Tyrant Creates a tense environment that suppresses people’s thinking and capability The Liberator Creates an intense environment that requires people’s best thinking and work
The Know-It-All Gives directives that showcase how much they know The Challenger Defines an opportunity that causes people to stretch
The Decision Maker Makes centralized, abrupt decisions that confuse the organization The Debate Maker Drives sound decisions through rigorous debate
The Micro Manager Drives results through their personal involvement The Investor Gives other people the ownership for results and invests in their success

Managing talent

Some leaders find talent everywhere and different levels

Some managers are good at attracting top talent to the organisation. But, more importantly, do they get the most from these talented recruits? Multipliers attract people with the implicit understanding that accelerated development is part of the deal. They find talent everywhere and at different levels. They look for staff to complement their own skills and knowledge. They look for people who are naturally good at certain skills. They take time to understand the capabilities of each person, so that they can engage the right person with right assignments. This way the virtuous circle of attraction, growth and opportunity continues.

Productive environment (Culture)

Corporate environment and work policies can be stifling. The power and privilege concentrates at the top and tends to shut down ideas and initiatives of the people down in the organisation chart. There is little flow of ideas from the followers to the leaders. Diminishers behave like autocrats and create anxiety. Multipliers explicitly give people permission to think, speak and act with responsibility. They demand high-level work from the team but also tolerate mistakes and understand the importance of learning. They create an environment in which people and learn and grow and flourish.

Multipliers ask thought-provoking questions that  stretch the thinking.

Strategy setting

In the times of disruptive change, the entire course of the business is likely to change. Multipliers know this. When creating strategy, they push the employees to look beyond what they already know. While the diminishers assume they know it all and have all the best ideas. Their strategies and initiatives are around what the leader knows rather than what the team might learn. Multipliers ask thought-provoking questions that create natural tensions and stretch the thinking. They make the team find the answers. As the team learns their confidence grows and problems don’t look that difficult. They give their teams permission to rethink the way they work and allow people to take risks without fear of failure.

Decision Making

Diminishers make decisions with little input from the broader team. As a result, the rest of the team is left second-guessing the rationale and the impacts of the decisions rather than execution. In contrast, the multipliers involve the team in intense upfront discussions on the issues at hand. They provide an opportunity to provide input, seek different perspectives and different solutions. This strengthens team members understanding of the issue, challenges, and constraints and thus increasing the likelihood of their full participation in carrying out the required actions.


Diminishers act like heroes. They are the smartest people! While multipliers think of themselves as coaches and teachers. They enable others to operate independently by letting people own the decisions and results. They create a sense of self-sufficiency rather than dependence on the leader. They strive to build an organisation that can execute flexibly and independent of the leader. They give the control to the subordinates.

How to become a multiplier?

Most people fall somewhere between being naturally diminishers or multipliers. But they can learn to adopt some of the methods of the multipliers.

Use your ideas sparingly

Rather than giving the team your all ideas first, deliver them in small doses and only when the team is stuck. Make space for the team to do their own thinking and contribute.

Ask questions

With practice you will bring the best in your people.


[i] Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown

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