Scott Thielman
MASA President and Superintendent
Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose Schools

For many, this time of year finds us in reflection. Perhaps you are even contemplating a New Year’s resolution. I suggest school leaders resolve to be multipliers in 2017. You may be asking, what do you mean we should be a multiplier? A few years ago, a colleague invited me to attend a workshop featuring the authors of one of Wall Street Journal’s bestsellers, Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter. Unfortunately, I was unable to join her at the workshop, but recently our administration team had the opportunity to engage in a book discussion using the same book. Through the process, we found that we needed to reflect on our leadership style and ensure we were not caught in the trap of wanting to be considered the smartest person in the room (a genius), but rather, we should want to be a genius maker (someone who enhances and supports the capabilities of those around them).

Liz Wiseman, coauthor of Multipliers and The Multiplier Effect, has deftly identified characteristics that can multiply and diminish the intelligence, energy and capabilities of individuals in an organization. Wiseman and her co-authors analyzed data from more than 250 leaders in business and education and identified disciplines that distinguish multipliers and diminishers. The disciplines focus on skills and practices that everyone can learn to use to multiply the intelligence and energy in an organization.

As leaders of the school districts we serve, we give our very best to our students and communities on a daily basis. To grow, learn and benefit from our research and reflection is critical to the vitality and sustainability of the districts we lead. The Multipliers and The Multiplier Effect are books that can provide practical tips and techniques for us in our own reflection and personal growth to improve our leadership capabilities.

Wiseman and her colleagues, Lois Allen and Elise Foster, have identified five disciplines that focus on skills leaders can practice to multiply the genius of an organization. She and her coauthors took an in-depth look into schools in their book The Multiplier Effect: Tapping the Genius Inside Our Schools. The authors make an insightful observation about school leaders striving to be perfect leaders, but in reality falling on “the continuum between amazing multipliers and dreadful diminishers.” In their exploration of identifying multipliers and diminishers, the authors provide a quick reference for leaders to reflect upon for their own practices.

“Multipliers: attract talented people and use them at their highest point of contribution; they create an intense environment that requires people’s best thinking and work; they define an opportunity that causes people to stretch; they drive sound decisions by constructing debate and decision-making forums; and they give other people the ownership for results and invest in their success. On the opposite end of the continuum, diminishers: hoard resources and underutilize talent; they create tense environments that suppress people’s thinking and capabilities; they give directives that showcase how much they know; they make centralized, abrupt decisions that confuse the organization; and they drive results through their personal involvement.”

Some may think that these descriptions are somewhat obvious of a diminisher and not very likely to occur in their daily practice but Wiseman and her coauthors highlight how in our own practices we can drift from a multiplier into an accidental diminisher. It is easy to fall into the role of accidental diminisher by presenting too many new ideas that have the effect of inhibiting the completion of current goals or rescuing people who don’t need to be rescued and by doing so not utilizing the capabilities of your team to their fullest potential. To discover if you may be an accidental diminisher, Wiseman offers us an opportunity to assess ourselves by taking a three-minute quiz at

The authors point out that no one is free from tendencies that may accidentally diminish our team or organization’s capacities. In this New Year, make a resolution to become an amazing multiplier and in your reflective practices focus on how you can increase the genius of your team and organization.

As tireless advocates of a world class education for Minnesota’s children, I thank you for all that you do, on a daily basis, on behalf of your students, your schools and those you serve. Thank you for the privilege to serve our organization on your behalf. Happy Holidays!

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