One of the first things I learned in my graduate classes for the M.S. in Communication & Leadership is that there is no one way to lead. When I say leadership, the picture that comes into our heads will be a little different for each of us. Our leadership philosophies – whether they’re intentionally developed in a graduate program or are unconscious habits – reflect our experiences leading and being led, and are heavily influenced by our leadership role models.
Often we carry deeply ingrained ways of thinking that – left unrecognized or unchallenged – can threaten our impact as leaders. When I envision the most effective leader, I think of a vision-oriented, selfless Multiplier, as Wiseman and McKeown describe in Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter.
The authors describe a Multiplier as a leader who gets more than people know they have to give. They hire intelligent people, give them challenges, and step back – leaving them freedom to think for themselves. A Multiplier multiplies the intelligence and performance of existing teams and structures through transformational leadership, where his antithesis – a Diminisher – assumes that the way to solve a problem is to add more resources (more employees, more money, more time).
The basic formula for a Multiplier’s logic, as Wiseman and McKeown explain, is this:
- Most people in organization are underutilized.
- All capability can be leveraged with the right kind of leadership.
- Therefore, intelligence and capability can be multiplied without requiring a bigger investment.
Multipliers explained that the way these exponentially more effective leaders are so successful starts with the assumptions they hold – a leadership philosophy that might be revolutionary to some managers, and definitely challenged me!
Some of the simple but essential truths a Multiplier holds include:
- In any situation – trust your team. People are smart and will figure it out.
- There are smart people everywhere who will figure out these challenges and get even smarter in the process.
In high-pressure situations, even the most selfless and inspiring leader can fall into the task-managing habits of a Diminisher. Sometimes we can catch ourselves thinking “These people will never get it!” and “It would be better if I just did it myself.”
What’s important is that we do catch ourselves acting on bad mindsets. Taking the time to process and reflect, especially with a mentor, can help us identify and rectify our negative leadership attitudes. For me, the continual self-reflection and growth opportunities afforded in graduate classes like “Organizational Change and Leadership” have helped me developed healthy leadership habits.