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Accidental Leadership Traits of Multipliers and Diminishers

Why is it that we are smart and capable under some leaders, and not others?



Okay, you lead with the best intentions.

So why, under your leadership, is your team not thriving?

It’s time to look at whether you’re a “Multiplier” or a "Diminisher".

Our Time for Transformation masterclass “Multipliers - Unlock Your Team’s Potential” explored Liz Wiseman's famous leadership concept.

Multipliers master practitioner Deborah Keep (pictured) said studies show employees use up to 90% of their intelligence when working for a “Multiplier” leader but only around 40% when working for a “Diminisher”.  

Multiplier or Diminisher?

A Multiplier is a big part of what makes a good leader. This style of leadership amplifies everyone’s unique genius so the whole team shines.

Yes it’s tough but it's exhilarating to work for a Multiplier.

Diminishers are leaders we don’t want to be working under. They’re the micromanagers, tyrants and know-it-alls. It’s plain exhausting to work for a Diminisher.

Diminisher Behaviours:

·       Empire builder – they hoard and underutilise talent.

·       Tyrant – they create stress that stops thinking.

·       Know-it-all – they tell people what to do.

·       Decision Maker – they decide (then ask for debate).

·       Micromanager - they're always over your shoulder.

Good intentions but poor results

But Diminishers are often unaware of their impact on others, who probably assume they're doing the best they can.

The “Accidental Diminisher” leads with the best of intentions but accidentally shuts down intelligence. Their people feel stifled, depleted, toxic, or overworked but underutilized.

It's just one way leaders can destroy teams.

So let's take a look at Accidental Diminisher types, their behaviours, and the results of each.

Do you have these diminisher traits? 

·       Idea fountain – Leader shares new ideas all the time. No-one knows what idea to work on. They stop executing ideas, and the team stops coming up with ideas.

·       Always on – Leader is gregarious and energetic, sharing stories, leading the parade. It’s exhausting because the leader takes up all the space.

·       Rescuer – Leader fixes things and solve problems. Individuals feel helpless and they stop fixing their own problems.

·       Pacesetter – Leader rolls up their sleeves and sets a cracking pace. People can’t keep up. Employees lose momentum.

·       Rapid responder – Leader jumps to immediate response. Team members wait and let the boss respond. Stop offering their intelligence.

·       Optimist – Leader is all “ra, ra, we can do this.” Team sees the leader as out of touch and with rose-coloured glasses.

·       Protector – Leader over-focused on making a safe, nice experience at work. Employees don’t grow. They don’t use their intelligence muscles.

·       Strategist – Leader builds a compelling vision, and expects the team to follow. But the team is excluded from the big thinking.

·       Perfectionist – Leader wants everything to be perfect. Employees feel they’re never good enough.

Multipliers assume their people are smart

Multipliers, by contrast, work on the core assumption that people are smart and will figure it out.

Multiplier Behaviours:

·       Talent magnet – Attract and optimise talent.

·       Liberator – Create space for best thinking and demand best work.

·       Challenger – Extend stretch challenges.

·       Debate maker – Drive sound sound decisions through rigorous debate.

·       Investor – Instill ownership and accountability. 

To become a better leader, it’s about shifting the balance to create more multiplier moments, and fewer diminishing moments.

6 behaviour shifts to move towards being a multiplier:

·       From giving answers – to asking better questions.

·       From taking responsibility – to giving your people 51% of the vote.

·       From taking over entirely – to giving the pen back (assist, don’t take over).

·       From encouraging innovation – to making space for mistakes.

·       From hiring smart people – to using the native genius already in the team.

·       From delegating work – to offering stretch challenges.

To identify native genius in your employee:

·       Observation – be intellectually curious.

·       Having conversations, and notice. What do they volunteer for? Where do they really excel? What do they naturally gravitate to?

·       Read about Patrick Lencioni’s 6 Type of Working Genius diagnostic tool. 

Building a multiplier habit

The habit chain: Trigger – Behaviour – Surface Result – Hidden Reward – Consequence

Diminisher example:

·       Someone starts to miss milestones.

·       Diminisher behaviour: I want to jump in and take the lead on the project.

·       On the surface, things start moving to completion.

·       Diminisher reward: I feel important as a contributor and problem solver.

·       Diminisher consequence: They stop taking ownership in future challenges.

Multiplier example:

·       Someone starts to miss milestones.

·       Multiplier behaviour: I contribute but make sure I give the pen back.

·       On the surface, things start moving to completion.

·       Multiplier reward: They feel empowered and confident.

·       Multiplier consequence: They grow and trust they can share their struggles.


Self-awareness will unlock whether you're a Multiplier or Diminisher.

Like most of us, you're probably a bit of each on most days. But by being aware of your triggers, your behaviours and your habits, you can lift the intelligence of your team and give them the great leadership they want and deserve.

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