“If the only tool in your toolbox is a hammer, then all your problems are going to look like nails.”

Have you ever considered your personality style and how it is reflected in your leadership?  There are many personality profile programs, but one of the most popular is the DISC personality profile.  D.I.S.C. refers to four basic personality traits.  These characteristics are a combination of your God-given personality that you are born with and the accumulated training, experience, and environment that have shaped your personality. 

  • Dominance – relating to control, power and assertiveness
  • Influence – relating to social situations and communication
  • Steadiness (submission in Marston’s time) – relating to patience, persistence, and thoughtfulness
  • Conscientiousness (or caution, compliance in Marston’s time) – relating to structure and organization

These four dimensions can be grouped in a grid with “D” and “I” sharing the top row and representing extroverted aspects of the personality, and “C” and “S” below representing introverted aspects. “D” and “C” then share the left column and represent task-focused aspects, and “I” and “S” share the right column and represent social aspects.  In this matrix, the vertical dimension represents a factor of “Assertive” or “Passive”, while the horizontal dimension represents “Open” vs. “Guarded”.

  • Dominance: People who score high in the intensity of the “D” styles factor are very active in dealing with problems and challenges, while low “D” scores are people who want to do more research before committing to a decision. High “D” people are described as demanding, forceful, egocentric, strong willed, driving, determined, ambitious, aggressive, and pioneering. Low D scores describe those who are conservative, low keyed, cooperative, calculating, undemanding, cautious, mild, agreeable, modest and peaceful.
  • Influence: People with high “I” scores influence others through talking and activity and tend to be emotional. They are described as convincing, magnetic, political, enthusiastic, persuasive, warm, demonstrative, trusting, and optimistic. Those with low “I” scores influence more by data and facts, and not with feelings. They are described as reflective, factual, calculating, skeptical, logical, suspicious, matter of fact, pessimistic, and critical.
  • Steadiness: People with high “S” styles scores want a steady pace, security, and do not like sudden change. High “S” individuals are calm, relaxed, patient, possessive, predictable, deliberate, stable, consistent, and tend to be unemotional and poker faced. Low “S” intensity scores are those who like change and variety. People with low “S” scores are described as restless, demonstrative, impatient, eager, or even impulsive.
  • Conscientious: People with high “C” styles adhere to rules, regulations, and structure. They like to do quality work and do it right the first time. High “C” people are careful, cautious, exacting, neat, systematic, diplomatic, accurate, and tactful. Those with low “C” scores challenge the rules and want independence and are described as self-willed, stubborn, opinionated, unsystematic, arbitrary, and unconcerned with details.

The most effective leaders have the ability to draw upon each of the personality traits to most effectively appeal to the individual or group.  However many of us are stronger in one area and tend to rely on that personality characteristic to accomplish all of our goals.  It is said “If the only tool in your toolbox is a hammer, then all your problems are going to look like nails.”  Out of the womb I was a fairly strong “S”, steady, calm, relaxed, predictable, stable and unemotional.  We all have elements of each characteristic and our environment and training can pull out or develop the other characteristics.  As a salesperson, manager and company President my career has put me in circumstances that required me to develop and use the weaker areas of my personality to effectively work with, influence, lead, and gain agreement with the varying personality profiles of customers, vendors, co-workers, and supervisors.  In my most recent DISC testing I find my strongest areas are now the D. and C. areas of my personality.  To be an effective communicator and leader, it is important to recognize the natural tendency of those you are trying to associate with and try to appeal to their natural personality traits.  If you are working with someone that is a high C, it is probably not a good idea to ask them to take risk or expect them to gladly embrace the change you are so excited about.  Seek to appeal to the personality characteristics that are in their comfort zone and you will find it much easier to gain agreement.  As a parent I have also had to draw on different personality profiles to effectively train, discipline, motivate and lead my children.  Each of my three children have unique and developing blends of these personalities and I need to be sensitive to each child.  I must admit that I have learned from and continue to learn from my many mistakes in both professional and personal areas of leadership. 

The study, practice, effective understanding and use of the full range of personality characteristics is a tremendous asset in our personal and professional lives.  It takes a lifetime to nurture and train yourself to recognize these traits and effectively apply the matching style to build rapport, gain confidence, inspire, and motivate others to follow you.  As parents and leaders in our professional and personal lives we are all challenged to inspire, motivate, and lead others to success.  Effective leadership requires a blend of all the personality tools.  So the next time you are seeking to lead, inspire, motivate, or gain agreement with a collegue, prospect, child, or friend consider your audience and all the tools in your toolbox.

DISC is a group of psychological inventories developed by John Geier, and others, and based on the 1928 work of psychologist William Moulton Marstonand the original behavioralist Walter V. Clarke and others. Information sourced from Wikipedia.
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