Liz Wiseman: Making the A-List

Liz  Wiseman black on black 1 final

Working at the Oracle Corporation, alum Liz Wiseman found herself constantly surrounded by intelligent people. But she noticed an ebb and flow—not of intelligence but of how leaders capitalized on or closed off that intelligence. One executive she coached was brilliant but shut down others, leaving their ideas untapped. Wiseman searched for something to share with this leader about the dynamic he was caught in but found nothing. “Someone needed to research how what leaders did either diminished or multiplied the intel­ligence of the people around them,” Wiseman says. “This seemed like a worthy pursuit, so I just did it.”

And she did it well. Wiseman’s book Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter hit the Wall Street Journal bestseller list its first week on the market in 2010. It has sold more than 100,000 copies and shows no signs of stopping. “My publisher, HarperCollins, calls it ‘the little book that could,’” she says.

But more than the book topped the charts. Wiseman was named on the 2013 Thinkers50 list—a ranking of the top management minds in the world—and was shortlisted for the Thinkers50 leadership award as well. “Being named on that list was a total thrill,” she says. “It reminded me that I have had incredible mentors who have shared with me their love of learning and teaching.”

Many of these mentors, including some of the leaders who inspired her research, came from Wiseman’s time at Oracle. Wiseman joined the company after receiving her bachelor’s degree in business management with an emphasis in finance in 1986 and her master’s in organizational behavior in 1988, both from BYU.

Though she intended to stick around for only a year, Wiseman was thrown into management and tasked with building Ora­cle’s training program. The challenge kept her hooked for the next seventeen years. She was vice president of Oracle University when she left to build the Wiseman Group, a leadership research and development consulting firm of which she is president.

Following the success of Multipliers, Wiseman was asked to apply her research to education. Her second book, The Multiplier Effect: Tapping the Genius Inside Our Schools, was released in spring 2013. Though she initially declined the offer, thinking she didn’t have enough experience in education policy, Wiseman realized it was an opportunity to work with family.

“My mother is a retired middle school principal and a phenomenal educator, so I talked her into writing the book with me,” Wiseman says. “We then recruited Elise Foster, an executive coach and member of my firm, who graduated from the Har­vard Graduate School of Education. The three of us bonded in the highs and inevitable lows of writing a book. The project turned into a wonderful mother/daughter/honorary-daughter project.”

With two books behind her, she’s already well on her way to a third, due out in October 2014. When asked about hobbies, her response is a candid “That’s funny!” She and her husband, Larry, have four children and live in Menlo Park, California, where they run the Wiseman Group out of their home office.

Check out the summer issue for class notes and more alumni updates.