Understanding your DISC Profile: Part 1

Posted by: Nigel Girling Post Date: 22nd January 2015

For any leader, a key factor in shaping your leadership style is your natural behaviour and personality.

At Babington, we base each of our leadership programmes on our ‘rule of 3’…

  • Know yourself
  • Know the impact that your approach has on others
  • Know how and when to modify your approach
Understanding your DISC Profile

Leaders need to understand their natural behaviour and how this affects the people they work with, and have a range of approaches they can adapt to suit the needs of the situation. This is where the DISC profile comes in.

The DISC profile is a behavioural assessment tool used by thousands of people across the UK and elsewhere. Understanding your profile is fundamental for any leader, and usually involves completing a questionnaire that assesses how far you exhibit the following four characteristics.

  • D = Dominance – the desire to overcome, to win and to take charge
  • I = Influence – the need to make things happen through people and relationships
  • S = Steadfastness – the desire to be of service and to support others
  • C = Compliance – the need for rules and boundaries, and the desire for precision and correctness

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The majority of leaders will tend to be higher on two of these and lower on the other two… but which are high and which low has a massive impact on style, relationships and the ability to modify approaches.

To illustrate, let’s look at the first two. We cover the second two characteristics in this post.

‘D’ is for dominance

Almost by definition, many leaders exhibit higher scores for D – a lot of people associate this with drive, dynamism and the power to achieve tough targets (all of which is absolutely true).

As with any trait, though, the silver lining has a cloud. Naturally dominant people may suppress the contributions of others, either deliberately or inadvertently. They may lack empathy or concern for others and have a tendency to be self-absorbed. They may cause collateral damage and will almost certainly ruffle a lot of feathers.

Sometimes this is exactly what is needed. Often it isn’t, and this is where the ability to adapt is key. A High D needs to be able to turn the volume down to ensure that others are engaged and fully committed. If they are working with someone who has a very low D, they need to be able to behave in a less assertive, demanding or aggressive way, in order to avoid intimidating a colleague or team whose performance may therefore suffer.

Some respond well to the drive of a High D, while others don’t. Adaptation is crucial.

‘I’ is for influence

A High I leader may be very engaging and gregarious, with the ability to relate to all types of people.

A High D, however, may think that the High I spends ‘far too much time chatting’ and needs to ‘just get on with their work’. The High I may struggle to meet deadlines. They may hate to be unpopular and therefore avoid difficult conversations or conflict (which the High D thrives on!).

However, the High I needs people and interaction. Without it, they may become disengaged and demotivated. They tend to build relationships quickly and can gain the trust and support of others with friendliness and a genuine interest in people. They are often good at motivating and encouraging others and, as leaders, will often have great loyalty and trust from their people.

But, without some High D in the mix, the High I may drift or get distracted, and lose sight of the goalposts.

In the next part of our DISC profile series, we will look at the High S and High C profiles, before finishing in our 3rd installment with a summary about compatibility and team dynamics.

The DISC profile is covered in more depth at all levels of our professional leadership and management qualifications. Find out more about the courses we offer here.

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