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Math of Leadership: Add, Subtract, Multiply or Divide

A monthly leadership blog focused on transformational leadership, and the math of leadership, courtesy of and authored by Phil Henderson.

I recently heard, “People impact our lives in four ways – they add, subtract, multiply or divide”.

Substitute “leader” for “people” and the same thing is true: leaders add, subtract, multiply or divide every time they interact with others.

Effective leaders add and multiply – they instill confidence, inspire, motivate and build others up. This is known as “others-focused leadership”.

Before we go further, let’s revisit our definition of leadership.

Leadership: “The ability to create an air of confidence in people or groups of people that inspires them to realize their fullest potential or achieve a common goal”.

Ineffective leaders do little to build esteem or confidence; they subtract and divide. They tear others down, sometimes knowingly, but often unknowingly, and are typically unaware of how their behavior damages interpersonal relationships and collective team behaviors. Remember, it’s essentially the sum of these relationships and team behaviors that define a culture.

Choosing to add and multiply (rather than subtract and divide) when interacting with people is just common sense, right? Well, yes… but common sense isn’t always common practice. What may seem sensical for some, may not be for others.

If leaders add, subtract, multiply or divide when they interact with others, and the general population has the same impact on their peers, then everyone has the opportunity to create confidence and inspire… to add and multiply – to LEAD.

In our March 6th blog, we’ll further explore the relational & emotional complexities of leadership. More specifically, on how we add, subtract, multiply and divide when interacting with one another.

Here’s something to think about between now and then: Do the math. Whether you’re in an organizational appointed leadership position or not, reflect on how you add and multiply – or subtract and divide – in your work environment.

taking action; organization; leadership; Phil HendersonPhil Henderson is a former Regional VP of Manufacturing Operations at Harland Clarke Holdings. He is a Designer of Self-Directed, Team-Based Work Systems in manufacturing environments over the course of 26 years. He served 8 years as an Air Traffic Controller and Officer in the US Army, and with distinction as a Captain in the First Gulf War. He currently provides leadership development and self-directed work team design assistance to Trenton Forging. For inquiries, Phil may be reached at (210) 316-3212 or at

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