Leading with Style

by Merrick Rosenberg, MBA

While there are many factors that drive a leader’s success, style plays a key role in effectiveness. In the 1920’s William Marston created the DISC behavioral model in which he described four styles of behavior. Each style embodied a specific set of behaviors, as follows:

  • Dominance – Direct, results-oriented, bottom-line, risk-taker
  • Influencing – Enthusiastic, motivational, optimistic, social
  • Steadiness – Harmonious, listeners, loyal, patient
  • Conscientious – Detail-oriented, logical, questioning, systematic
  • No matter what style a leader embodies, they all provide value to the organization.

    D Leaders are comfortable playing a leadership role. They are quick decision-makers and people know where they stand. They accept challenges and thriving during change and crisis.

    I Leaders maintain an open door policy and are willingly giving time to their staff. They inspire and motivate others and provide lots of positive feedback, as well as respectful constructive feedback.

    S Leaders are good listeners and are empathetic and sensitive to the needs of others. They appreciate the people around them and tell them so. They are consensus decision-makers and communicating processes in a step-by-step manner.

    C Leaders are objective and fair to everyone. They develop logical processes and apply a consistent application of standards. They provide many details when assigning projects to others.

    Leading with Style by Merrick Rosenberg, MBA

    While each of the styles offers benefits to the team and the organization, not all styles are appropriate in all situations. Effective managers do what their staff needs them to do. Effective leaders do what their staff needs them to do, how they need them to do it. Therefore, flexibility is the key to Leading with Style.

    If a leader lacks flexibility, they may be perceived as follows:

    D Leaders may be perceived as intimidating, insensitive, impatient and concerned more with results than the people.

    I Leaders may be perceived as disorganized, unreliable in following through on commitments and concerned more about keeping people happy than reaching the goal.

    S Leaders may be perceived as indecisive, indirect in providing directions, unwilling to address difficult issues, and hesitant to implement change.

    C Leaders may be perceived as micromanaging, overly perfectionistic, having unreasonably high standards, and hampering of creativity because of the desire to stick to established rules and processes.
    Leaders that use their behavioral style to their advantage are flexible enough to adapt their style to the needs of the person or the given situation. They also tap their strengths and do not overuse their style. – Alexandre Dumas said, “Any virtue carried to extreme can become a crime.” This is true about leadership behaviors as well. When overused, a D’s directness becomes blunt and insensitive. An I’s optimism becomes unrealistic. An S’s need for harmony becomes a fear of conflict. And a C’s analytical nature becomes analysis paralysis.

    Leaders who demonstrate flexibility and maximize their strengths are truly Leading with Style.