Leaders are multipliers of thinking

Many clients tell me that they are ‘running lean’. This may be following a series of redundancies, internal changes to service delivery or as a direct result of simply cutting their cost base. In these lean times, wouldn’t it be great if leaders could multiply the thinking of their most precious resource, human capital, through specific attitudes and behaviours?

Liz Wiseman‘s “Multipliers” outlines the behaviours of leaders that optimise the thinking talent within an organisation. Of no surprise is that micromanagers, know-it-alls and empire builders do not make the grade. Those who have experienced the impact of some of these leadership traits would attest to the fact that rather than empower people with inclusive practices, these leadership behaviours minimise engagement and reduce productivity and effectiveness. In a global context of ‘doing more with less’ this is a missed opportunity.

Multipliers are those leaders who embrace the learning capacity of their organisation and increase the discretionary effort of their people. They do this, not by wide-spread, aimless consultation, but by engaging the thinking of their people at every strategic opportunity.

So how does a leader become a multiplier of thinking?

  • Develop a helpful attitude about their teams’ potential
  • Inspire others
  • Build trust
  • Drive continuous improvement
  • Empower teams’ freedom within parameters of values and vision

As a CEO, Margaret Heffernan demanded ‘thinking partners not echo chambers’. Heffernan describes her teams as being ‘good at conflict’ in terms of thinking – always striving for the best result for the business. The outcome of these behaviours is a learning organisation, driven by continual improvement, where diverse ideas are nurtured and people are empowered to contribute.

So what are the implications of leaders who diminish the thinking of their teams? These leaders do not unlock human potential but instead drive compliance and counter-productivity. In contrast to multipliers, diminishers need to be seen as the smartest person in the room, are loathe to give recognition to others for achievement and often take credit for others’ work, which also results in a decrease in creative thinking and innovation.

In a time when we recognise that many organisations are ‘doing more with less’, the development of leadership attitudes and behaviours could not be more crucial.

What can you do to multiply the thinking of your team?


GM – Client Solutions

First published on LinkedIn, 4 November 2015.

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