Leveraging Your Leadership Style

By Kirsten Meneghello, December 20, 2018

Where can we begin to gain insights into our own leadership style? Assessments can be a tool to gain greater self-awareness. While there are many well-known and effective self-assessments, one that is very user-friendly is the Everything DiSC Workplace because it measures two dimensions of personality that have a tremendous impact on how we interact in the workplace. It’s also easy to determine the DiSC styles of others once you understand the basic framework, unlike other assessments that are not so easy to apply in practice.

Ask yourself these questions to help you to determine your own DiSC style:

1. Are you more fast-paced and outspoken OR cautious and reflective?
2. Are you generally more warm and accepting of others and their ideas OR questioning and skeptical of them?

If you selected fast-paced and outspoken AND questioning and skeptical, you probably lead with a “D” or “Dominance” style and you focus on RESULTS.

If you selected fast-paced and outspoken AND warm and accepting, you probably lead with an “i” or “Influence” style and you tend to prioritize ENTHUSIASM.

If you selected cautious and reflective AND warm and accepting, you probably lead with an “S” or “Steadiness” style and you like to provide SUPPORT.

If you selected cautious and reflective AND questioning and skeptical, you probably lead with a “C” or “Conscientiousness” style and you put an emphasis on ACCURACY.

See the chart above for more detail about the four main DiSC styles. Our DiSC style informs how we communicate with others, the level of detail we need, the pace at which we like to work, and if we focus on facts or feelings. Even though we are all a blend of the four styles, we tend to lean into some styles more heavily than others. Think about your primary style as your home base, but you are “free to move about the cabin,” as they say on airplanes, and shift into other styles as well.

How DiSC Style Impacts Leadership

What does DiSC tell us about our leadership style? If you look at the DiSC diagram below, you’ll see eight words around the circumference. These are the eight priorities where leaders focus their energy. One priority or style is not better or preferable to another. Individuals with all DiSC styles can be effective leaders.

Depending on the leadership activity you are engaged in, there is a time and place for all of these leadership styles. For example, when a team embarks on a project or a strategic planning process, that is the time for the leader to help the team brainstorm and stay open to possibility. It’s important to focus on being “pioneering” and “energizing.” However, when the project shifts into the execution phase and all the details become important, having an “energizing” approach isn’t always warranted – or appreciated. Instead, being “deliberate” and “resolute,” to make sure that the details aren’t overlooked, is important.

A common DiSC style amongst lawyers is the “C” style that puts an emphasis on being “deliberate.” This style values accuracy and objectivity and likes focusing on details. Sometimes, people with a C style will get bogged down in analysis paralysis or not concede a minor point because they don’t want to appear wrong. A leader with this style will benefit from knowing when to focus on details versus when to prioritize the big picture. It’s also easy for this style to slip into micromanagement of others, so more frequent check-ins with employees and clearly defined deliverables and deadlines will help this leader to be successful. Making a point to show empathy and concern for others will also help to build the foundational trust needed for effective working relationships.

As you can see, each style of leadership has inherent strengths and some blind spots or areas for growth. There is no one leadership style that is inherently skilled in all areas. We begin the journey towards self-awareness when we understand what our priorities are, what leadership best practices come naturally in relation to those priorities, and what areas we can strengthen or shore up.

For further reading on leadership styles, please consult the book The Eight Dimensions of Leadership by Sugerman, Scullard, and Wilhelm.

Kirsten Meneghello, JD, PCC

Kirsten Meneghello, JD, PCC, is a leadership coach and consultant and the founder of Illumination Coaching LLC. Kirsten coaches leaders and executives, facilitates team communication, and is a Certified Trainer for Everything DiSC and Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team. She can be contacted at Kirsten@IlluminationCoaching.com if you would like to learn about personalized assessments.

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