The DISC Model Explained: Part 2

Posted by: Nigel Girling Post Date: 28th January 2015

This is part of our blog series on the DISC model. In part one we looked at the dominance and influence aspects of the profile. Now we take a look at the remaining two areas: steadfastness and compliance.

‘S’ is for steadfastness

The DISC Model Explained

The value and power of this aspect of the profile is often underestimated, and represents the intent to be of service and to maintain and sustain. Often seen as the dominant trait in employees across the UK, perhaps illustrated by the stereotypical UK tendency to ‘Keep calm and carry on’, it is perhaps a less common trait among leaders and managers.

While the High S characteristic is to serve and support, and to be less overtly ambition, those identified and promoted to management roles often exhibit many of the opposite traits, having a desire to overcome, transform and drive change.

The High S, however, fulfills an essential function of leadership, and one which is illustrated very clearly by the books of Robert Greenleaf. While followers want to know that their leader has the drive and determination to achieve, they also want to know that their leader cares for them and will support and enable them to be successful. Therefore, it is also a leader’s role to serve and support those whom they lead.

The downside for the High S is a tendency to resist change and maintain the status quo, along with a slowness to respond to shifting expectations or influencing factors. As with every trait, adaptation is key, and the High S leader needs to be sure they also have the pace and energy to drive performance. If they do, this can provide an excellent balance and avoids some of the potentially negative consequences of the High D, as covered in the last blog post.

‘C’ is for compliance

Our final trait, compliance, brings a very different set of characteristics. The High C is bound by rules and standards. They ensure that deadlines are met, criteria addressed and outcomes delivered.

If this is coupled with an above-average mind, then this perfectionist trait can be a powerful force for achievement. If not, it can be rather less helpful and even a barrier to performance.

As with the other traits, adaptation is key. The challenge here, as is partially true for the High S, is that the trait is by its nature less adaptable, as it involves being driven by boundaries and an unwillingness to compromise.

What is apparent from these, admittedly brief, descriptions of the four traits is that the key to leader effectiveness is a combination of three things:

  • The ability of the leader to adapt to meet changing needs, and the motivations and preferences of different people
  • How well the profile fits the needs of the leader’s role
  • The calibre of the leader: their mental agility, experience and professional skills

The DISC profile, along with other leadership models, is covered in more depth at all levels of our CMI leadership and management courses.

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