Can A Diminisher Become A Multiplier?

Can a person really change? Can a diminisher become a multiplier?

I know of no question more difficult than this one.  And, to quote again from Cecil Eager, the owner of The Gruene Mansion Inn in New Braunfels, “you can teach someone how to check someone in – but you can’t teach friendly.”  If a person is not friendly to begin with, you can’t teach friendly, and such a person seldom becomes “friendly.”

I keep thinking about this as I read business books.  So many books describe the way the world could be/should be.  But to actually move from here to there is one tough assignment.

At the moment, I am reading through Multipliers:  How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman.  (Read Bob Morris’ review of this book, on our blog, here).  The book has this great narrative about the difference between a leader who is a diminisher, (thus, in reality, not a leader at all), and a leader who is a multiplier.  It is a graphic depiction, a really clear image; one that makes sense.  A person in a leadership position either has the ability to help people become more than they would be without such a leader, or they can diminish someone, literally de-motivating people, squeezing life right out of them.  This is the very essence of leadership

Liz Wiseman quotes Bono at that the beginning of her book:

“It has been said that after meeting with the great British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone, you left feeling he was the smartest person in the world, but after meeting with his rival Benjamin Disraeli, you left thinking you were the smartest person.”

Wiseman defines a leader who is a multiplier:

Some leaders make us better and smarter.  They bring out our intelligence.  This book is about those leaders, who access and revitalize the intelligence in the people around then.  We call them Multipliers.

The Multiplier is the exact opposite of the diminisher.  From her opening story, about an Israeli Tank Commander candidate who flourished under one leader, but was practically paralyzed by a leader who was a diminisher, we get the clear impression that leaders really do fall into one of these two categories.  I think I agree.

But here is the question:  can a true “diminisher” become a true “multiplier?”  Though she has a final chapter tilted “Becoming a Multiplier,” and though this chapter provides some encouragement on this question, I’m just not sure.  Maybe I would say it this way – if someone wants to become a “multiplier,” that is a signal that there’s a good chance that they already have that spark in them to begin with.  But I’m not sure a true diminisher can ever become a full-blown multiplier.  I’m just not sure people can really change.

But, I hope I’m wrong.


By the way, the real mystery from reading this book is this:  how do some of these diminishers ever get promoted to leadership positions to begin with?  Maybe the fastest way to fix this problem is this approach:

#1 — don’t promote any diminishers.

#2 – find those with a spark of multiplier ability, and nurture/cultivate/train/encourage such a spark in the people who have the best chance of becoming multipliers.


One thought on “Can A Diminisher Become A Multiplier?

  1. Bob, I like your optimism. I hope you are right. I want to believe you are right. But I think you hint at slight agreement with me: you ask “what can supervisors do to help diminishers become multipliers,” and then you recommend hiring multipliers. I suspect it is a lot easier to help a “natural” multiplier blossom than it is to turn a diminisher into a multiplier.

    I certainly like the idea of making this one of the more important metrics when measuring a supervisor’s performance. I think Wiseman has written about an important concept — one of those, “well, duh” insights — I had not necessarily thought about it, but as I read it, it made absolute sense!

    This sort of reminds me a very old problem. Businesses take a good salesperson, and then promote that person into a supervisory position. Those are two different sets of skills. And sometimes, when a good salesperson is promoted, the company loses sales and ends up with a very poor supervisor…

    I do agree that if this could be accomplished: “What can supervisors do to help the diminishers for whom they are directly responsible to become multipliers?” — that would be a great ability to nurture. But…

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