How The Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter

What people do easily, they do without conscious effort. They do it better than anything else they do, but they don’t need to apply extraordinary effort to the task. They get results that are head-and-shoulders above others but they do it without breaking a sweat.

“Ignore me as needed to get your job done.”

Leaders most often know who the blockers are. The most common mistake they make is waiting too long to remove them.

While a Tyrant creates stress that causes people to hold back, a Liberator creates space for people to step up. While a Tyrant swings between positions that create whiplash in the organization, a Liberator builds stability that generates forward momentum.

One way he elicits the best thinking from people is that he knows what people are actually capable of producing. He knows everyone’s job intimately, but he doesn’t do it for them. generate rapid learning cycles.

Liberators don’t just listen the majority of time. They massively shift the ratio, listening most of the time. This creates space for others to share what they know.

Diminishers give answers. Good leaders ask questions. Multipliers ask the really hard questions. They ask the questions that challenge people not only to think but to rethink. They ask questions so immense that people can’t answer them based on their current knowledge or where they currently stand.

There are times when a leader is so knowledgeable and personally brilliant that it seems tempting for them to provide directives centered in what they know. However, in the end, Know-It-Alls limit what their organization can achieve to what they themselves know how to do.

The nature of the executive role makes it easy to stay rooted in answer mode and to be the boss. The first step in this journey is to stop answering questions and begin asking them.

Our research has shown that Diminishers tend to make decisions solo or with a small inner circle. As a result, they not only underutilize the intelligence around them, but they also leave the organization spinning instead of executing.

In preparation for the meeting itself, Debate Makers define what needs to be addressed, why it is important, and how the final decision is expected to be made.

At first glance, it appears that Diminishers make efficient decisions. However, because their approach only utilizes the intelligence of a small number of people and ignores the rigor of debate, the broader organization is left in the dark, not understanding the decision, nor the assumptions and facts upon which it is based. With this lack of clarity, people turn to debating the soundness of a decision rather than executing it.

Multipliers enable others to operate independently by giving other people ownership for results and investing in their success. Multipliers can’t always be present to perform emergency rescues, so they ensure people on their teams are self-sufficient and can operate without their direct presence.

Their job is to coach, and their players’ job is to play. What perhaps isn’t so obvious is why, when the stakes are high, so many managers in organizations don’t hesitate to run onto the playing field, steal away the ball, and score the winning goal.

When people are given ownership for only a piece of something larger, they tend to optimize that portion, limiting their thinking to this immediate domain. When people are given ownership for the whole, they stretch their thinking and challenge themselves to go beyond their scope.

Investors get involved in other people’s work, but they continually give back leadership and accountability.

Their well-meaning attempts to help can accidentally diminish people’s intelligence and development. They protect people from the natural consequences of their actions, which delays and dilutes the potency of learning.

When the scoreboard is visible, people hold themselves accountable.

Micromanagers hand over work to others, but they take it back the moment problems arise. They get lured in like a fish to the shiny objects on a fisherman’s line.

When we let nature take its course and allow people to experience the natural consequences of their actions, they learn most rapidly and most profoundly. When we protect people from experiencing the natural ramifications of their actions, we stunt their learning.

…leaders do not need to be good at everything. They need to have mastery of a small number of skills and be free of show-stopper weaknesses.

People’s best thinking must be given, not taken.

It appears that being a Multiplier to everyone takes deliberate intention and effort. A leader needs to think consciously of the people at the periphery of the organization in order to be a Multiplier to them.