Wouldn't it be ideal if we could use DISC to identify the best leaders?
While DISC can't pick the best leader, we can use it to help us make better decisions in finding effective leaders. However, focusing on one ideal leadership DISC style is not the best route. In fact, it can actually get us into trouble.
How using DISC can get us into trouble
If the end goal is finding someone who fits one ideal role of a leader then we'd wind up in a precarious situation at best. The DISC framework describes successful leaders beyond the scope of their DISC styles because it doesn't predict success for any given style and assumes all DISC styles can be successful in any role. DISC does not measure a person's skill set, attitude, knowledge, values, or experience. It focuses on behaviors because we can adjust our behaviors to be more successful.
Have you ever heard of the saying, 'you are successful until you are not?' We will definitely fail at some point if we only relied solely on our natural leadership style. We are not accounting for the strengths and development areas of each DISC style. In addition, we do not see the entirety of who each potential leader truly is if we only focus on one DISC style.
Behavioral Characteristics of Leadership Styles
Leaders come from all styles. The most successful leaders are keenly self-aware and have the ability to effectively adjust their styles to meet the demands of their different roles. DISC profiles help us identify a leader's preferred behavioral style; think of it as a road map showing how a leader is likely to show up in different situations. We can predict how they tend to do things, such as lead others, make decisions, and communicate.
Our styles work for us until they don't. We face different roles and situations all day long where our styles are effective and where adjusting our styles would be more effective. Remember, as leaders we all have strengths and we all have areas of development, regardless of our DISC style. We are virtually guaranteed success if we know when to use our behavioral strengths and when to adjust effectively.
For example, let's say you're typically a leader who takes charge and makes quick decisions; but currently you need to get people on board with recent organizational changes and new goals. Initially, you sent out a non-detailed email telling people to change now, but it's been met with confusion, non-compliance, and even resistance. Would going back and demanding, with 'no ifs ands or buts', work? It most likely wouldn't. What if you held a Q & A session, explained the benefits, and held one-on-one meetings if needed? In the end, you achieve your team goals and continue your success as a leader. It doesn't mean you cannot continue to be decisive and large and in charge, but these temporary adjustments can further your success.
Active DISC style leaders
D-style leaders prefer a more authoritarian style of leadership; ideally they are in charge and in complete control. They prefer a highly targeted style where they lead the followers; they talk and followers listen. The D-style will emphasize speed and execution, and apply pressure to attain targeted, short-term goals. They are willing to take risks and think outside the box in order to achieve their goals.
I-style leaders tend to be informal and highly social. They are more likely to value creativity, positivity, enthusiasm, and energy over procedures, tasks, and data. I-styles focus more on relationships and leading as your friend. This charismatic I-style leader promotes competitiveness through selling their vision, inspiration, and less likely by pressure and authority.
DI-style leaders are a combination of the Active D and I styles. They are independent and practice a dynamic, change-focused style of leadership. Their I-style side is comfortable using their charisma and enthusiasm to persuade and get others to follow their lead. Their D-style side demands quick actions and results; essentially pushing ideas through. DI-style leaders are seen as visionary pioneers because they have clear visions of what they want and stay future-focused. They move at a fast-pace, are highly energetic, and believe in leading by example.
An IS-style leader, is a combination of two people-oriented styles, I and S. They get emotionally engaged. These leaders are comfortable with a more participative style of leadership. They prefer to focus on cohesive team spirit and maintaining the atmosphere. IS-style leaders work with followers and tend not to be hierarchical. They are more likely to focus on positive feedback with employees and can avoid giving negative feedback. Goals and responsibilities are shared. IS-style leaders often serve more as facilitators than directors.
Reserved leadership DISC profiles
An S-style will be a supportive leader who guides, teaches, and develops followers. An S-style leader emphasizes loyalty, consensus, trust and sincerity. S-style leaders support their team and provide and expect to receive mutual aid. S-style leaders emphasize gradual evolution while strongly focusing on agreed upon long-term goals.
A C-style leader demands high quality work, following of rules, and compliance. These leaders tend to maintain distance from the team thus, creating formality and less interpersonal connection. The C-style leader implements a systematic approach and ensures everyone knows what is expected with a high level of details. C-style leaders prefer using emails and written directions to communicate with their teams.
SC-style leaders are a combination of the two reserved DISC styles, S and C. SC-style leaders tend to be more thoughtful, cautious, and collaborative with their team members. They prefer to carefully plan things out in detail and operate in known areas. They are calm to the point employees aren't always sure if they are complacent. SC-styles expect us to follow rules and do what is mutually agreed upon. They clearly communicate expectations and objectives, and carefully prepare to meet set objectives.
CD-style leaders are a combination of the task-oriented DISC styles, C and D. They prefer an authoritarian and centralized form of leadership. CD-style leaders expect compliance and have a low tolerance for errors and unauthorized changes. They tend to be more formal and support a hierarchical environment, while still emphasizing individualism. CD-style leaders prefer structured and practical approaches while relying on detailed information. They know what they want and they know how to do it, but usually only their way. They are motivated by tasks that are challenging and have high return on investments.
Leadership strengths and development areas
Successful leaders are determined in a very large part by how well they interact with their employees and others. The ability to effectively relate, communicate, influence and motivate others is a crucial skill in succeeding and creating successful, long-term relationships with subordinates, customers, prospects, colleagues, and stakeholders.
Each leadership profile has their own unique set of strengths which are a part of their styles. D-styles are decisive and not afraid to take control. I-styles are charismatic and connect to people. S-styles roll up their sleeves and get things done while maintaining status quo. C-styles focus on doing things right and are often the experts in their fields.
Just as each DISC leadership style brings strengths, they also have areas they need to constantly and consciously develop. D-styles need to know when collaboration is more effective. I-styles need to maintain focus on short and long term tasks. S-styles think and act "outside the box." C-styles need to accept and anticipate change.
The most successful leadership style is...
All successful leaders are confidently self-aware; and know how they operate. They own their strengths and don't overuse them. They also own their development areas and don't deny or ignore them.
In addition to their confident self-awareness, great leaders know when to adjust their leadership style. They stay present by modifying their behavior from one interaction and situation to the next. They understand that to lead, motivate and influence their employees, they must identify each person's style and modify their own leadership style accordingly.
Charisma, decisiveness, loyalty, and integrity are qualities considered essential for a leader. However, these descriptors encompass more than one DISC style. So, instead of creating an ideal leadership profile, we should be using the Extended DISC® Leadership Assessment to better understand behaviors we value in a specific leadership role.
As we look at successful and highly regarded leaders around the world, it is clear that leaders come from all leadership DISC profiles. Consider Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., and Queen Elizabeth. They are all famous and respected leaders in their own right, but we can agree their leadership styles were not the same. Regardless of their natural behavioral style, the best leaders are ones who can constantly adjust their behaviors to suit the role, people around them and the situation.