‘Force-multiplication’ is a term used in military science and warfare and refers to an attribute or a combination of attributes that dramatically increases (hence multiplies) the effectiveness of an item or group, giving the troops the ability to accomplish greater things than without it. The expected size increase required to have the same effectiveness without that advantage is the multiplication factor. If a specific technology, like GPS for example, enables a force to accomplish the same results of a force five times as large but without GPS, then the ‘multiplier’ is ‘five’.

A modern example of a force-multiplier could perhaps be the role that tanker aircraft (like the Boeing KC-135) play by carrying fuel so bomber and fighter aircraft can take off loaded with extra weapons and ammunition instead of full fuel tanks. The tankers increase the range and time loitering near the target by off-loading fuel when it is needed. The force-multiplier of a KC-135R can be anywhere from a factor of 1.5 to as much as 6 when used near the target area – clearly a huge advantage.

Leaders, likewise, should develop force-multiplying attributes that dramatically increase levels of commitment amongst employees. These force-multiplying attributes include the following traits:

  • The ability to recruit accurately and strategically – as employees’ feelings of belonging start to develop well before they actually join the organisation, recruitment procedures should be professional and helpful. Organisations have goals and values and people recruited by the organisation should share these. Check for organisational ‘fit’.
  • A demonstration of sincere care – leaders must develop relationships at all levels and care for staff. Dilys Robinson, Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Employment Studies, notes: As long as the organisation has been able to attract the right sort of employees and has provided a suitable work environment, employee commitment will be largely influenced by the interactions that occur between colleagues and with their immediate and senior managers. The relationship between the organisation and the employee, therefore, should be considered as being no different from any other type of relationship”. The ‘glue’ in relationships seems to be strengthened when parties in a relationship experience genuine care from each other – true care engenders commitment.
  • The ability to engage comprehensively – having “conversations that matter” shows employees that they are valued. Debrief expressed emotion (frustration, fears, anxiety, disappointment, excitement, etc.) effectively. Ensure that performance management is a daily activity.
  • The ability to impart vision – share “big picture” information liberally and discuss ideas openly. Keep demonstrating the link between what an employee does to achieving the goals of the organisation sustainably.
  • Fairness – ‘evenness’ in leadership means that you acknowledge great performance and address bad behaviour consistently, whilst showing no favouritism. Employees look up to and honour fair leadership.
  • The offering of some flexibility – granting enough flexibility to employees not only to achieve work targets in their own ways, but also time flexibility to meet personal or family responsibilities too. Draconian conditions of employment mitigate levels of commitment.
  • Paying a competitive salary and rewarding handsomely – pay and reward should make sense economically to the employee and be an incentive to stay with the organisation. Pay above industry norms if possible.

Leaders should be force-multipliers of commitment. The leaders’ characters, attributes and management practices should dramatically increase levels of commitment amongst employees, not dampen their spirits.

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