11/01/2013 05:24 pm ET

How to play to others' intelligence

Liz Wiseman is an executive leadership adviser and author of the book "Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter." Wiseman spoke about her management theories with Tom Fox, a guest writer for On Leadership and vice president for leadership and innovation at the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service. Fox also heads up their Center for Government Leadership.

Can you describe this concept of multipliers and explain why they make the best leaders?

To understand multipliers, it first helps to start with diminishers. Diminishers are leaders who are so absorbed in their own intelligence that they stifle other people and deplete an organization of its intelligence and capability. I have found that these diminishing leaders get less than half of peoples' capabilities. Leaders on the other side of the spectrum are called multipliers. They are smart and capable, but they use their intelligence to bring out intelligence in other people. They build a collective intelligence and capability inside an organization.

How can leaders act more this way?

When I interviewed employees, they described working for multipliers as a little exhausting but totally exhilarating, and they described working for diminishers as frustrating and exhausting. People come to work wanting to be exhilarated and to work hard, but when they bounce up against leaders who aren't seeing their capability, they start to give up. They realize that their boss doesn't expect much from them, so they clock out and they go home.

Federal managers can act more like multipliers by realizing that the resources needed to solve our most critical problems are already inside the organization. Much like the corporate world, the public sector has an even larger problem, which is: How do we do more with less? The question really is, how do we get more from people who already come to work every day? It's a problem we can solve.