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What Kind of Leader Are You?

Nicole Fallon
Nicole Fallon
Updated Sep 16, 2022

Ever wonder what your behavior says about your leadership style? A DiSC assessment can help.

  • A DiSC assessment is a behavior-assessment tool that aims to help people understand their leadership styles and improve workplace teamwork.
  • A post-DiSC assessment report shows your scores in various dimensions, provides insights into your personality, and suggests tactics for increased effectiveness.
  • Assessing your employees’ DiSC traits can raise their self-awareness, boost sales and service skills, and improve employee engagement.
  • This article is for small business owners, managers and employees interested in behavior assessment tools.

If you’re interested in figuring out your leadership style or want to assess your employees’ leadership potential, a DiSC assessment may be able to help.

A DiSC assessment is a behavioral assessment tool that can help people understand their management style strengths and weaknesses, and ultimately become better leaders. When you can see your tendencies, preferences and even blind spots, you gain the self-awareness needed to guide your team to success even under challenging circumstances.

We’ll explore DiSC assessment basics, how it works and why assessing your workers’ DiSC attributes can benefit your business.

What is a DiSC Assessment?

A DiSC assessment is a behavioral assessment that businesses and other organizations sometimes use to determine employees’ and managers’ leadership strengths and weaknesses. It aims to provide more self-awareness and insight, potentially improving operations and teamwork.

Psychologist William Moulton Marston first outlined the DiSC behavior model in his 1928 book, Emotions of Normal People.

According to Personality Profile Solutions’ blog, DiSC Profile, Marston’s theory was that the behavioral expression of emotions could be categorized into four types: Dominance, Inducement, Submission and Compliance. These emotional expression types were based on someone’s self-perception in relation to their environment.

Marston believed that understanding your primary behavioral trait would help you understand and manage your experiences, and foster relationships.

In the decades that followed, others developed several assessments using Marston’s theories, eventually leading to the modern DiSC assessment. Today’s emotional styles have changed a bit from the original incarnation: DiSC now stands for Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Conscientiousness.

Did you know?Did you know? Another personality indicator is your desk. Messy and neat desks reveal personality traits like being extroverted, creative, generous and conventional.

How a DiSC assessment works

In a DiSC assessment, individuals answer a series of questions. Based on their answers, they are assigned a main personality type (D, i, S or C) and secondary personality characteristics. A DiSC assessment also measures the values you prioritize.

The results explain the percentage of each style you are and what that means for how you handle challenges, interact with others, approach life and how others perceive you.

Today, DiSC assessments are most frequently used in business and government organizations to help teams work more effectively together. Typically, a human resources personnel will ask a new hire to take an online DiSC assessment. Respondents rate a series of behavior-related statements – such as “Getting results is one of my top priorities” or “I like to be involved in group projects” – based on how strongly they agree or disagree with each statement. The system will compile the respondent’s answers into a report.

While there are free assessments available online, the type of DiSC assessment companies usually conduct is more extensive. In addition to basic information, the assessment report can include these details:

  • It provides your employees’ scores in each dimension, revealing work- and nonwork-related personality strengths and weaknesses.
  • It suggests personalized tactics and strategies for increased effectiveness with colleagues that have varying results.
  • It summarizes your employees’ prime values to your organization.
  • It pinpoints opposite DiSC types and how best to approach them.

The report is typically shared with the employee, managers to whom they directly report and possibly others who work closely with the individual.

Did you know?Did you know? Unlike some other workplace personality tests, a DiSC assessment is easy to administer and doesn’t require a professional to interpret.

Why a DiSC assessment works

Like other personality or behavior-assessment tools, DiSC works by helping your staff become more self-aware. Increased self-awareness will help you recognize your colleagues’ strengths in order to harness them and their shortcomings for a basis in which to improve.

When everyone has taken the same assessment, you have a common framework to view each employee, which will guide decision-making. For example, when forming a team that needs to work closely with each other, you may want to balance personalities rather than have an overabundance of one type. Understanding other people’s styles and values helps you communicate more effectively, resolve conflict and delegate assignments appropriately.

“Assessment tools … can indicate whether the group is likely to bond or fracture by examining qualities that predict both success and failure,” wrote Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Dave Winsborough in a Harvard Business Review article. “For example, we know that teams with members who are open-minded and emotionally intelligent leverage conflict to improve performance, whereas neurotic and closed-minded teams fall apart in the face of disagreement.”

Chamorro-Premuzic and Winsborough also noted that teams perform better when their members share values, and assessment tools can help identify the values expressed through everyday behavior.

“Teams whose values cohere identify more strongly as a group and display greater levels of innovation,” the authors wrote. “Because values are a guide for behavioral choices, group members who share similar values are more likely to agree about group actions and vice versa.”

Did you know?Did you know? DiSC results are not tied to age or gender, and tend to change very little over time.

Finding your DiSC style

Which DiSC style are you most closely aligned with? Discprofile.com offers an outline and overview of each.

Dominance

A person with a Dominance (D) style wants to shape their environment by overcoming opposition to accomplish results. They value confidence and focus on the bottom line. (Learn more about the Dominance style.)

  • Traits: This employee is generally blunt, direct, forceful, strong-willed, driven, fast-paced and self-confident.
  • Behaviors: They see the big picture, accept challenges and get straight to the point.
  • Styles: They are commanding, resolute and pioneering.
  • Improvement: They need to work on their patience, sensitivity, ability to look at details and ability to allow for deliberation.

Influence

Someone with a leading Influence (i) style aims to shape their environment by persuading others. This person values openness, friendship and building relationships. (Learn more about the Influence style.)

  • Traits: A person with an i style tends to be enthusiastic, optimistic, convincing, warm and trusting.
  • Behaviors: They like to collaborate; they dislike being ignored, and fear disapproval or the loss of influence.
  • Styles: Their leadership styles are energizing, pioneering and affirming.
  • Improvement: They need to work on following through, speaking directly and candidly, and researching all the facts.

Steadiness

A person with a Steadiness (S) style wants to work with others within existing circumstances to carry out tasks. They value cooperation, sincerity and dependability. (Learn more about the Steadiness style.)

  • Traits: A person with an S style is usually calm, patient, deliberate, consistent and accommodating.
  • Behaviors: They provide supportive actions; they don’t like to be rushed and tend to avoid change.
  • Styles: Their leadership styles are inclusive, humble and affirming.
  • Improvement: They need to work on adapting to change, multitasking and confronting others.

Conscientiousness

Employees with a Conscientiousness (C) style mostly want to work conscientiously within existing circumstances to ensure both quality and accuracy. This person values expertise, competency and objective reasoning. (Learn more about the Conscientiousness style.)

  • Traits: Employees with a C style are generally independent, analytical, careful, cautious, systematic, diplomatic and tactful.
  • Behaviors: They maintain stability, desire details, challenge assumptions, and fear criticism and being wrong.
  • Styles: Their leadership styles are deliberate, humble and resolute.
  • Improvement: They need to work on delegating, compromising and making quick decisions.

A basic, free version of the DiSC assessment is available at DiSC Personality Testing when you sign up for an account. Alternatively, you can purchase the full suite of DiSC products, including the assessment, analysis tools and certifications at Discprofile.com.

Did you know?Did you know? Common leadership mistakes include lacking humility, avoiding conflict and being overly friendly.

Benefits of providing a DiSC assessment to your employees

Conducting DiSC assessments offers many benefits to your individual employees and the company. These are some of the most impactful benefits:

  • It raises self-awareness. By understanding your strengths and weaknesses, you can make positive changes in dealing with conflict, stress and tasks. This self-awareness can help both your business and personal relationships.
  • It enhances teamwork. Self-knowledge can help teams work together better as they communicate more effectively and reduce conflict. Additionally, test results assist managers to allocate tasks for the maximum success. For example, if a team has a strong D, that person might do well directing the team’s overall activities, while they could tap a strong i to make the presentation. A DiSC assessment should not, however, be used to pigeonhole employees; everyone has a blend of personality characteristics.
  • It strengthens sales and customer service skills. Once an employee takes the DiSC assessment and becomes familiar with all the personality types, it’s easier to spot these traits in customers. The employee can drive sales by tailoring their presentations to appeal to various personalities. Understanding clients’ characteristics can also improve customer service.
  • It helps you manage more effectively. Knowing how employees see and interact with the world is invaluable for managers. This knowledge helps them motivate staff, assign tasks, create teams and communicate department needs. If there’s workplace conflict, knowing the DiSC profiles involved can help managers diffuse tensions and create better working relationships.
  • It creates empathy. When a person understands where someone else is coming from, it’s easier to be nonjudgmental. No one personality trait is better than any other; all have a place and purpose in the organization.
  • It improves employee engagement. When employees are given tasks that tap into their natural behavioral strengths, they experience more agency and feel more valued. This is a powerful employee engagement motivator, resulting in greater productivity, higher morale and lower employee turnover.

Jennifer Dublino contributed to the writing and research in this article.

Image Credit:

Platoo Fotography / Shutterstock

Nicole Fallon
Nicole Fallon
Nicole Fallon has written hundreds of B2B-focused articles on topics such as marketing, business technology, leadership, and HR/organizational management. In addition to covering small business trends and software reviews, Nicole runs a digital marketing agency, where she and her team create high-quality content for a wide range of B2B and B2C brands.