Are You A Genius Or A Genius Maker?

How would you answer this question, posed by Liz Wiseman, in “Multipliers: How The Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter”

Are you a genius or a genius maker?

Let’s stipulate that the world needs geniuses.

We need earth-shattering ideas and novel solutions to vexing problems. We do.

The question is, can we get genius minus a personality that sucks the energy out of every room?

Certain authors, creatives and hyper-specialized (or aggrandized) consultants can make a fruitful living being “geniuses”, even if—sometimes especially if—they make sport of quashing the ideas of those around them.

But the genius maker is another breed.

“When these leaders walk into a room, light bulbs go off over people’s heads; ideas flow and problems get solved.”

All of a sudden, we feel good. We feel inspired, we feel heard. And our hearts and our minds get engaged.

Who doesn’t want more of that?

Meet Gary, one of my favorite genius makers. When we met, he was in the role of underdog, fighting an uphill battle to convince his global firm partners that there was value in spending non-billable (gasp) time courting present and future clients.

Gary has a knack for letting others shine. In strategy sessions, he made senior partners feel valued for their insights (while reining in any attempts to take focus off the client). He mentored junior consultants (considered too junior by others), teaching them how to court peer-level clients. And he always—always—shared credit. He never wasted time proving himself the smartest person in the room.

So when he became the firm’s leading rainmaker, none of his many fans were surprised. His critics faded into the woodwork and Gary’s star—his genius—multiplied into the very culture of the firm.

That is the power of a genius maker.

What genius will you make today?


  • Stephen

    Genius Makers walk into a room, a meeting, a one on one…..whatever, and make the other people in the room feel better about themselves, smarter, and better able to function as a team and as a professional. Genius’ on the other hand tend to want all the credit, and many times crush the creativity of the group or their peers/colleagues due to their need to overshadow and always having to be right! I’ll take a “Genius Maker” every day!!

  • Stephen

    At the end of the day, it’s all about “leadership”, and leaders tend to be “genius makers”, as people follow those leaders who treat them well and make them feel as a valuable part of the team and the organization and the task at hand.

  • Hi Stephen, Thanks for your thoughts–and the idea for this post! When you think about all the genius makers we’ve been lucky enough to experience, it is truly humbling….

  • I argue a true genius {“G”) does not sap a room of energy or worse; true genius requires knowing how to get the great idea done. The genius maker suggests to me that super mentor; you may not even know how he or she made a difference unless others shared it; this mentor might not even crave the spotlight (well not all the time). No question also that some of the best leaders benefit from being genius makers (“GM”); encouraging great ideas from others. Great leaders often are great facilitators.
    There more than a few out there who thrive with both the “G” and “GM” traits.

  • Hi Corey, Thanks for weighing in! I like to think of it as the type of genius one brings to the party. One can have a great idea (genius?), but if they can’t influence others to join them and make it bigger/better/spread it, they will never be able to achieve the full potential of the idea.

    Gary, the man I wrote about, met your definition of the super-mentor….

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