Spotting "Native Genius"


Are you spotting "native genius"? It is essential if you want to be a leader who multiplies people and productivity.

What Is Native Genius?

In the book Multipliers: How The Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown hit on a phrase that resonates with me: native genius!The authors write,

By "native genius" I mean something even more specific than a strength or a skill that might be highly rated on a 360 degree leadership assessment. A native genius is something that people do, not only exceptionally well, but absolutely naturally. They do it easily (without extra effort) and freely (without condition).

They do it better than anything else they do, but they don't need to apply extraordinary effort to the task. They get results that are head-and-shoulders above others but they do it without breaking a sweat....Finding someone's native genius is the key that unlocks discretionary effort.[1]

How To Spot Native Genius

Spotting native genius is an important concept for leadership development, so Wiseman and McKeown provide practical steps to help identify it. They offer five questions we need to ask as we watch people in action:

  1. What do they do better than anything else they do?
  2. What do they do better than the people around them?
  3. What do they do without effort?
  4. What do they do without being asked?
  5. What do they do without being paid?

Why You Need To Label Native Genius

Identifying native genius is important, but leaders also need to label it. Labeling native genius is telling people what you see in them. When leaders do this for their team members it raises awareness, builds confidence, and helps team members to serve at their best.[2]Here are few examples:

  • "Bob, you are doing a fantastic job of helping us identify the gaps in our process. I love your eye for the details."
  • "Sally, you have a knack for asking just the right questions."
  • "Sam, you're fast! Your speed is a difference maker on our team!"
  • "Cathy, you are a motivator! People are fired up about working when you are around. You bring out the best in our team."
  • "Greg, you are so biblically astute. You help us honor God and his ways."
  • "Sarah, when you show up, things get done. You are a make-it-happen person!"

Wiseman and McKeown explain the importance of labeling when they write, "Native genius can be so instinctive for people that they may not even understand their own capability."[3] In this case, pointing it out helps bring it out.

Put It Into Practice Today

Great leadership is a mix of great character and great skills. The Psalmist writes, "And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them" (Psalm 78:72 NIV). Skillful leaders help team members identify and implement their skills. Why not implement this teaching today?

  1. Pick one person from your team.
  2. Ask the five questions that help identify native genius.
  3. Label the native genius for that team member today.

Native genius is everywhere. Multipliers find it, label it, and harness it!


[1] Wiseman, Liz. Multipliers: How The Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter. New York: HarperCollins. 2010. Page 47-49.

[2] Multipliers, page 48.

[3] Multipliers, page 48.