The Logic of Multiplication in Management

By Elise Foster and Liz Wiseman
This is an excerpt from and was originally published August, 2014.

How does a school system leader tap into the latent talent that sits inside the district?

At a time when expectations are rising while funding is plummeting, doing more with less has become standard operating procedure. Administrators from all corners are feeling the burden — if not in navigating a complex funding formula, then addressing teacher quality or ensuring all students graduate college and career ready.

The natural responses from education leaders weighed down by enormous challenges and work demands include the following:
-We are already overworked.
-Our most effective staff are even more overworked.
-The only way we can make these changes is through the addition of more resources.

Instead of pinning one’s hopes on a cavalry of additional resources, a school or district leader might ask, “Are we getting the most out of our staff?” This is a very different question than “Can our staff work harder?” The former is the kind of question that confronts basic assumptions; it is a question of “multipliers,” leaders who use their own intelligence to grow others, literally making the people around them smarter and more capable.

In our book The Multiplier Effect, we contrast this type of leader with “diminishers,” leaders who drain intelligence and capability from those around them.

In our research, we found too many administrators across K-12 education, business and nonprofit organizations don’t capitalize on the first lesson of management: The job of an administrator is to flow work to the team and then keep it there. When administrators take back work, not only do they end up doing all the work (which they inevitably come to resent), they deny their team the natural learning and accountability needed for personal growth. Because these leaders don’t use the full complement of talent and intelligence available to them, capacity sits idle in their organizations, and they tend to become micromanagers. To counter this, they overwork themselves and continue to ask (or secretly hope) for more resources, wondering why people aren’t more productive and are always letting them down. (To be concluded at


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