Leadership expert Liz Wiseman explores these two leadership styles analyzing data from more than 150 leaders, Wiseman has identified five disciplines that distinguish Multipliers from Diminishers. These five disciplines are not based on innate talent; indeed, they are skills and practices that everyone can learn to use—even lifelong and recalcitrant Diminishers. (NOTE: Wizeman’s focus on Diminishers closely mirrors the “Canceling Effect” that Bob Anderson and Bill Adams describe in Scaling Leadership where leaders overuse certain strengths to the neglect of their interdependent strength.)

This summary provides a polarity-take to some of points and action strategies (Action Steps on the Polarity MapÒ). Many if not most of the polarities identified are available in the Polarity Public Library in our Polarity Resource Portal: https://www.assessmypolarities.com/.

Multipliers vs Diminishers

Multipliers: – These leaders are genius makers and bring out the intelligence in others.  They build collective viral intelligence in organizations.

One polarity to consider in this effort is a part/whole variation:

Develop Individual Genius
Build Collective Organizational Intelligence

(NOTE: The “Viral” part can be part of the Greater Purpose Statement)

Diminishers: These leaders are absorbed in their own intelligence, stifle others and deplete the organization of crucial intelligence and capability.

Two key mismanaged polarities of Diminishers are:

Technical Problem-solving (“OR Thinking”)
Adaptive Polarity Leveraging (“AND” Thinking)

Focus on Self
Focus on Others

The Five Disciplines of the Multipliers

  1. The Talent Magnet – Attract and Optimize talent
  2. The Liberator – Require people’s best thinking
  3. The Challenger – Extend challenges
  4. The Debate maker – Debate decisions
  5. The Investor – Instill accountability

The Results

By extracting people’s full capability, Multipliers get twice the capability from people than do Diminishers.

Chapter 2 – The Multiplier Formula

The Empire Builders vs. the Talent Magnet

Empire Builders – bring in great talent, but they underutilize it because they hoard resources and use them only for their own gain.

The poles of over-focus that create problems for Empire Builders are in red:

Technical Problem-solving (“OR Thinking”)
Adaptive Polarity Leveraging (“AND” Thinking)

Focus on Self
Focus on Others

Hold Power (Resources)
Share Power (Resources)


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.

The Four practices of the Talent Magnet are High-leverage Action Steps (note suggestions in red)

  1. Look for talent everywhere
    — Appreciate all types of genius
    — Ignore boundaries (perhaps respectfully manage boundaries instead of ignoring)
  2. Find people’s native genius
    — Look for what is native
    — Label it
  3. Utilize people to the fullest
    — Connect people with opportunities
    — Shine a spotlight
  4. Remove the blockers
    — Get rid of prima donnas (perhaps communicate expectations with Candor AND Diplomacy, and manage conflict with Assertiveness AND Cooperativeness)
    — Get out of the way

Becoming a Talent Magnet

  1. Become a genius watcher
  2. Pull some weeds

Unexpected Findings

  • Both Talent magnets and Empire Builders attract ‘A’ talent.  What differentiates them is what they do with the talent once it is in the door
  • Talent Magnets do not run out of talent by moving their people onto bigger, better opportunities, because there is a steady stream of talent wanting to get into the organization

Chapter 3 – Tyrant vs. Liberator

Tyrants – create a tense environment that suppresses people’s thinking and capability.  As a result, people hold back, bring up safe ideas that the leader agrees with and work cautiously.

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

The poles of over-focus that create problems for Tyrant are in red:

Technical Problem-solving (“OR Thinking”)
Adaptive Polarity Leveraging (“AND” Thinking)

Focus on Self
Focus on Others

Hold Power (Resources)
Share Power (Resources)



The First 3 practices of the Liberator that make for great High-leverage Action Steps together with their sub-steps, for several of the polarities listed above, are:

  1. Create space
    — Release others by restraining yourself
    — Shift the ratio of listening to talking
    — Operate consistently
    — Level the playing field
  2. Demand best work
    — Defend the standard
    — Distinguish best work from outcome
  3. Generate rapid learning cycles
    — Admit and share mistakes
    — Insist on learning from mistakes

Becoming a liberator

  1. Play your chips
  2. Label your opinions
  3. Make your mistakes known

Unexpected finding

The path of least resistance is often the path of tyranny.  Because many organizations are skewed, a leader can be above average in an organization and still operate as a Tyrant

Liberators leverage the polarity of:

Giving people permission to think
Creating an obligation for them to do their best work

Multipliers are intense.  Leaders who can discern and create the difference between tense and intense climate can access significantly more brainpower from their organizations.

A polarity to consider to leverage the Greater Purpose of creating an intense environment is:

Be a Challenger
Be a Supporter

Chapter 4 – Know it all vs. the Challenger

Know it all – give directives that showcase how much they know.  As a result, they limit what their organization can achieve to what they themselves know how to do.  The organization uses its energy what the boss thinks

Know it all’s get off track by over-focusing on certain poles (in red) to the neglect of their interdependent pole:

Technical Problem-solving (“OR Thinking”)
Adaptive Polarity Leveraging (“AND” Thinking)

Focus on Self
Focus on Others

Hold Power (Resources)
Share Power (Resources)





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

Be a Challenger
Be a Supporter

Again, the 3 practices and sub-steps of the Challenger that can serve as High-leverage Action Steps are:

  1. Seed the opportunity
    — Show the need
    — Challenge the assumptions
    — Reframe problems
    — Create a starting point
  2. Lay down a challenge
    — Extend a concrete challenge
    — Ask the hard questions
    — Let others fill in the blanks
  3. Generate belief in what is possible
    — Helicopter down
    — Lay out a path
    — Co create a plan
    — Orchestrate an early win

Becoming a challenger

  • Ask leading questions
  • Take a bus trip
  • Take a massive baby step

Unexpected findings

  • Even when leaders have a clear view of the future there are advantages to simply seeding the opportunities
  • Challenges have full range of motion, they can see and articulate the big thinking and ask the big questions, but they can also connect that to the specific steps needed to create movement. They leverage polarities of:


If you ask people to take on the impossible in the right way, it can actually create more safety that if you ask for something easier.

Chapter 5 – The micromanager vs. the investor

Micromanagers – manage every detail in a way that creates dependence on the leader and their presence for the organization to perform

Where micromanagers get off-track by over-focusing on certain poles (in red) to the neglect of the interdependent pole:

Hold Responsible
Give Freedom

Provide Guidance


Investors – give other people the investment and ownership they need to produce results independent of the leader

Some High-leverage Action Steps to promote being an Investor

  1. Define ownership
    — Name the lead
    — Give ownership for the end goal
    –Stretch the role
  2. Invest resources
    — Teach and coach
    –Provide backup
  3. Hold people accountable
    — Expect complete work
    — Respect natural consequence
    — Make the scoreboard visible

Becoming an Investor

  • Let them know who is the boss
  • Let nature take its course
  • Ask for the F-I-X
  • Hand back the pen

Unexpected findings

  • Multipliers do get involved in the operational details but they keep the ownership with other people
  • Multipliers are rated 45% higher at delivering worldclass results than the Diminisher counterparts

Chapter 6 – The lazy way strategy

Use the right principles and tools to attain maximum results with just the right amount of effort

The Accelerators

  1. Work the extremes – assess your leadership practices and then focus your development on the two extremes
    — Bring up your lowest low; and,
    — Take your highest level to the next level
  2. Start with the assumptions – adopt the assumptions of a Multiplier and allow the behavior and practices to naturally follow

— I can find someone’s genius I can put them to work

–People’s best thinking must be given, not taken
–People get smarter by being challenged

–With enough minds, we can figure it out.

  1. Taking a 30-day multiplier challenge – pick one practice within one discipline and work it for 30 days
  • Maintaining momentum
  • Build it layer by layer
  • Stay with it for a year
  • Build a community