Self-Deprecating – Good! Other-Deprecating – Not So Good!

self-deprecating, self-depreciating
having a tendency to disparage oneself

People can be energized, or absolutely drained, by what a boss/supervisor/”leader” does.  Some leaders, the folks that Liz Wiseman calls “Multipliers,” energize the people around them.  Others, the folks that Liz Wiseman calls “Diminishers,” drain the very life out of those around them.

In case you can’t figure this out, it is better to work with/for a Multiplier than a Diminisher.  And it is better to be a Mulitplier than to be a Diminisher.

Here is a specific clue:  is your leader one who uses “self-deprecating” humor or “other-deprecating” humor?  If “self-deprecating” means “having a tendency to disparage oneself,” then “other-deprecating” would mean “having a tendency to disparage others.”

Call it what you will — criticism, mean-spirited slamming, competition run amuck — but whatever you call it, it is energy draining with a very negative outcome.

Consider these two quotes from Wiseman’s book Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter:

On a whim we added “Great Sense of Humor” to our leadership survey.  Our suspicions proved right.  The humor of the Multiplier is very George Clooney-esque – a self-deprecating wit and an ability to put others at ease, allowing people to be themselves.  As one journalist wrote of Clooney, “After fifteen minutes, he made me feel comfortable in my own house.”  A Clooney costar said, “He has a way of daring you…which can be irresistible.”


Some leaders seemed to drain intelligence and capability out of the people around them.  Their focus on their own intelligence and their resolve to be the smartest person in the room had a diminishing effect on everyone else.  For them to look smart, other people had to end up looking dumb…  They create a vortex that sucks energy out of everyone and everything around them…  these leaders were idea killers and energy destroyers.

For them to look smart, other people had to end up looking dumb. It is almost as though these “diminishers” in a leadership position view those they “lead” as their competitors – “I’ve got to show that I’m better than/smarter than/more successful than those I lead.”  Which means, of course, that they are not leading at all – they are driving away:  driving away initiative, driving away cooperation, driving away ambition, driving away their team.

Self-Deprecating – Good!  Other-Deprecating – Not So Good!

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