The 8 Dimensions of Leadership: DiSC Strategies for Becoming a Better Leader

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Don't Be a One-Dimensional Leader! To be an effective leader you need to know your strengths-but that's only part of the story. You also need a broad perspective on all the behaviors needed to be an effective leader. This book provides both. Using the third-generation DiSC online personality assessment-one of the most scientifically validated tools available-The 8 Dimensions of Leadership helps you identify your primary leadership dimension. Whether you are a Pioneering, Energizing, Affirming, Inclusive, Humble, Deliberate, Resolute, or Commanding leader, the authors help you understand the psychological drivers, motivations, and "blind spots" characteristic of your style. But no single style will take you all the way. A Humble leader may have a hard time making tough decisions. A Commanding leader may run roughshod over potential allies. The authors detail the lessons all leaders can learn from each style, enabling you to craft a multidimensional approach to becoming the leader you aspire to be.

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Chapter 1: The 8 Dimensions of Leadership

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As we pulled together material for this book, we had the pleasure of speaking with leaders in all phases in their careers—from those just getting their feet wet to those who are approaching retirement. Across the board, everyone had learned some important lessons along the way. Many laughed openly about the naïveté that they brought to their first leadership roles, or the fact that they just didn’t “get it” at first. Some were so driven that they didn’t pay much attention to the needs of the people around them. Others lacked confidence and struggled to make unpopular decisions. One referred to herself as nothing short of a “hard-ass” in her early days as a leader.

The fact of the matter is, we all approach leadership from a unique starting point—a combination of our own psychological make-up, intelligence, training, and experience. Life has taught each of us what it means to be a leader, and we probably caught our first glimpses of it as children. As we watched teachers, coaches, parents, and scout leaders, we started to form our own concepts of “leader,” and with every new experience, that concept became more complex. Not only did we note examples of outstanding leadership, but we also thought to ourselves, “I’m not going to do that when I’m in charge.”

 

Chapter 2: Discover Your Primary Leadership Dimension

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Perhaps you’re one of the millions of people around the world who have taken a DiSC® assessment through a workplace training session, or, this may be your very first encounter with this simple yet powerful model of human behavior. No matter. Whether you’ve previously “done DiSC” or not, this book can help you learn the model, discover your own style, and use the 8 Dimensions of Leadership Model to increase your effectiveness as a leader

What, exactly, is DiSC? The DiSC assessment is a tool that helps individuals assess which of several behavioral styles describes them most accurately. By learning their individual DiSC styles, people can gain a better understanding of their own strengths, challenges, fears, and motivators. More importantly, they can learn how to use DiSC to strengthen their relationships with others, building stronger, better-functioning organizations, one relationship at a time.

Before we dig into the 8 Dimensions of Leadership Model further, we’ll provide an overview of the DiSC model. In its simplest form, the DiSC model includes four basic styles—D, i, S, and C. These initials stand for Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness. Within each of these four “primary” styles, there is some variation. For example, some people who fall in the D quadrant lean slightly toward the i quadrant, whereas others lean toward C. The former have the Di style—that is, D flavored with i—whereas the latter have the DC style. There is also variation in intensity of the styles. Some people are strongly inclined toward one style, while others are more of a blend of all of the styles. For more information about DiSC, please refer to the Appendix.

 

Chapter 3: The Pioneering Leader

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Pioneering leaders cut through the brush and inspire the group to venture into uncharted territory. They have a natural passion to grow, expand, and explore. These leaders seize on opportunities that others might not even recognize. We’ll elaborate on the value of the Pioneering leader in Chapter 11, but in this chapter, we want to look under the hood to understand what makes this style of leader tick. More specifically, we want to help Pioneering leaders understand some of the hidden psychological mechanisms that can hold them back.

If you’re a Pioneering leader, you’re probably fairly high-energy and outspoken. People might regard you as charming and confident, and you’re more likely to take chances than others. Erin, the vice president of a national political organization, told us, “I think the best description I’ve ever heard of my personality was [when] somebody said that I was Type A masquerading as smooth jazz.” Hiding beneath your exterior are deeper motivations, needs, and assumptions that drive you to act the way you do. The more you understand these drivers, the more you’ll be able to consciously control and shape your leadership style.

 

Chapter 4: The Energizing Leader

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Of all of the leaders we will discuss in this book, Energizing leaders have the easiest time generating enthusiasm for an idea. They have a contagious sense of optimism that engages people, and they help the group build an invaluable network of connections. We’ll elaborate on the value of the Energizing leader in Chapter 12, but in this chapter we want to dig a little deeper to understand what is going on behind all of that energy. More specifically, we want to help Energizing leaders understand some of the unobservable psychological mechanisms that can hold them back.

If you’re an Energizing leader, you’re probably outgoing and sociable. People readily pick up on your enthusiasm, and you’re rarely at a loss for words. Beneath this extremely positive exterior are deeper motivations, needs, and assumptions that drive you to act the way you do. The more you understand these drivers, the more you’ll be able to consciously control and shape your leadership style.

Based on our research and experience talking to Energizing leaders, the qualities listed below have a significant impact on how you lead.

 

Chapter 5: The Affirming Leader

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As you might expect, Affirming leaders have a pretty positive vibe about them. They excel at building morale and creating a supportive environment. They’re quick to acknowledge the contributions of their team members and to show people just how much their efforts and talents are appreciated. We’ll elaborate on the value of the Affirming leader in Chapter 13, but in this chapter, we want to go behind the scenes to understand what makes these leaders tick. More specifically, we want to help Affirming leaders understand some of the more subtle psychological mechanisms that can hold them back.

If you’re an Affirming leader, you probably have an easy, cheerful demeanor. People instantly pick up on your warmth and sincerity, and they probably find you extremely easy to talk to. Clearly, there are deeper motivations, needs, and assumptions underneath this friendly exterior that drive you to act the way you do. The more you understand these drivers, the more you’ll be able to consciously control and shape your leadership style.

 

Chapter 6: The Inclusive Leader

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Inclusive leaders have a heightened awareness of the needs of the people around them. And because they have such a rare gift for listening, they’re better able to tap into the talents and ideas of members of their team. As a result, they create an environment that’s both collaborative and understanding. We’ll elaborate on the value of the Inclusive leader in Chapter 14, but in this chapter we want to dig beneath the surface to understand what makes this style of leader tick. More specifically, we want to help Inclusive leaders recognize some of the not-so-obvious psychological factors that can hold them back.

If you’re an Inclusive leader, you’re probably very patient and accommodating. Through your soft-spoken, gentle demeanor, people recognize that you are genuinely interested in their lives. But clearly, underneath this exterior there are deeper motivations, needs, and assumptions that drive you to act the way you do. The more you understand these drivers, the more you’ll be able to consciously control and shape your leadership style.

 

Chapter 7: The Humble Leader

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More and more leadership experts are beginning to recognize the extremely important role that humility plays in effective leadership. Humble leaders are able to recognize their mistakes, learn from others, give credit where credit is due, maintain their composure, and keep their personal egos in check. We’ll elaborate on the value of the Humble leader in Chapter 15, but in this chapter we want to dig beneath the surface to understand what makes this style of leader tick. More specifically, we want to help Humble leaders understand some of the less-than-obvious psychological mechanisms that can hold them back.

If you’re a Humble leader, you probably have a bit of a cautious side. You’re self-controlled, and people see you as fairly soft-spoken. Underneath this steady exterior there are deeper motivations, needs, and assumptions that drive you to act the way you do. The more you understand these drivers, the more you’ll be able to consciously control and shape your leadership style.

Based on our research and experience talking to Humble leaders, the qualities listed below have a significant impact on how you lead.

 

Chapter 8: The Deliberate Leader

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Deliberate leaders do their homework. They get to the bottom of problems before they propose solutions. And because they take such care to ensure quality, they’re able to provide direction that’s reliable and well-organized. We’ll elaborate on the value of the Deliberate leader in Chapter 16, but in this chapter we want to make a more careful study of this dimension. More specifically, we want to help Deliberate leaders understand some of the subtle and sometimes elusive psychological mechanisms that can hold them back.

If you’re a Deliberate leader, you probably have a strong analytical side. Although you tend to be quiet, people have immense respect for your commitment to accuracy. But clearly, underneath this exterior there are deeper motivations, needs, and assumptions that drive you to act the way you do. The more you understand these drivers, the more you’ll be able to consciously control and shape your leadership style.

Based on our research and experience talking to Deliberate leaders, the qualities listed below may have a significant impact on how you lead.

 

Chapter 9: The Resolute Leader

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As the name suggests, Resolute leaders are highly determined. Their strong-willed persistence and their inner strength give people the courage to get though tough times. We’ll elaborate on the value of the Resolute leader in Chapter 17, but in this chapter we want to dig beneath the surface to understand what makes this style of leader tick. More specifically, we want to help Resolute leaders recognize some of the sometimes hidden psychological mechanisms that can hold them back.

If you’re a Resolute leader, you may have a bit of a questioning side. There’s a no-nonsense quality to your leadership, and people probably respect your willingness to speak up about problems. But beneath this tough exterior are deeper motivations, needs, and assumptions that drive you to act the way you do. The more you understand these drivers, the more you’ll be able to consciously control and shape your leadership style.

Based on our research and experience talking to Resolute leaders, the qualities listed below may have a significant impact on how you lead.

 

Chapter 10: The Commanding Leader

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When we speak of leadership, the Commanding leader is often the first image that comes to mind. These leaders are decisive and direct. They take charge of the situation and show a rare level of confidence. We’ll elaborate on the value of the Commanding leader in Chapter 18, but in this chapter we want to delve beneath the surface to understand what drives this style of leader. More specifically, we want to help Commanding leaders understand some of the more subtle psychological mechanisms that tend to cause them problems in the long run.

If you’re a Commanding leader, you probably have a fairly dominant presence. You call it like you see it and can be forceful to get what you want. Underneath this tough outer shell are deeper motivations, needs, and assumptions that drive you to act the way you do. The more you understand these drivers, the more you’ll be able to consciously control and shape your leadership style.

Based on our research and experience talking to Commanding leaders, the qualities listed below have a significant impact on how you lead.

 

Chapter 11: Lessons from Pioneering Leaders

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Pioneering leaders are often aggressive about taking risks, and our research suggests that this is an area of leadership that many people wish they’d done more of earlier in their careers. Whether you consider yourself high or low on the Pioneering Dimension, we’ll show you the ins and outs of this dynamic approach. As we discussed in Chapter 2, the Pioneering Dimension is located on the northern side of the model, which means that Pioneering leaders tend to be fast-paced and outspoken. We’ll explore some key characteristics that epitomize the Pioneering Dimension of leadership in action.

Pioneering leaders want to drive the group toward results, to share their passion and energy, and more than anything, to keep things moving onward and upward at a rapid pace. These achievement-oriented leaders exude an air of confidence and authority, and they tend to set lofty goals for both themselves and the group. They see themselves as inspirational, and they often enjoy the challenge of rallying people together to work toward a shared vision. They’re charismatic leaders who work hard to gain alignment with the people they need to get the job done. Like other leaders whose styles fall on the northern side of the model, Pioneering leaders like to maintain a fast pace. These leaders are particularly willing to take risks, to seek out new opportunities, and to make rapid changes.

 

Chapter 12: Lessons from Energizing Leaders

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Energizing leaders help organizations focus on building a dynamic, engaging atmosphere. Their instinct is to humanize and bring emotional connection to their work. In this era of service-based work, the organization’s most important assets walk out the door each day and go home to their families and friends. As we discussed in Chapter 2, the Energizing Dimension is located in the northeastern area of the 8 Dimensions of Leadership Model, which means that they tend to be fast-paced and outspoken, as well as warm and accepting. The Energizing leader maintains a focus on the people side of the business and has much to teach leaders who may focus more on processes, analyses, operations, and strategies.

Energizing leaders want to collaborate with others, to explore adventurous ideas, and more than anything, to show and build enthusiasm. They tend to be extremely gregarious. Not only do they energize social settings, but they’re skilled at building and maintaining professional networks. Leaders who are high on the Energizing Dimension often have so much energy that they have trouble sitting still. They’re eager to maintain their momentum, and they tend to get bored easily. Frankly, it takes a lot of energy to be an Energizing leader, but they come by it naturally. They have a seemingly unlimited supply of optimism, and they do their best to bring up the spirits of those around them.

 

Chapter 13: Lessons from Affirming Leaders

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Whether you consider yourself high or low on the Affirming Dimension, we’ll help you understand the benefits of this positive approach. As we discussed in Chapter 2, the Affirming Dimension is located on the eastern side of the 8 Dimensions of Leadership Model, which means that Affirming leaders tend to be exceptionally warm and accepting. We’ll explore some key characteristics that make up the Affirming Dimension of leadership.

Affirming leaders want to encourage groups to succeed, to engage others in open communication, and more than anything, to create a positive, collaborative environment. They tend to maintain informal relationships with the people they lead, and one of their gifts as leaders is to create a sense of cohesion. People feel personally connected to the leader and connected to each other, and this helps members of the group to perceive themselves as a team rather than a group of individuals working toward the same goal. Affirming leaders generally aren’t as geared toward independence as some other leaders. This is positive in that they look for opportunities to collaborate, and in some regards, they can seem almost egoless. They take almost as much pride in seeing someone else come up with a brilliant idea as in coming up with it themselves. They take joy in building on that idea and connecting with the other person.

 

Chapter 14: Lessons from Inclusive Leaders

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Whether you’re highly Inclusive already or suspect that you may need to dial up this dimension, we’ll give you a tour of this people-oriented approach. As we discussed in Chapter 2, the Inclusive approach is located in the southeastern area of the 8 Dimensions of Leadership Model, which means that Inclusive leaders tend to be cautious and reflective, as well as warm and accepting. In this chapter, we’ll paint a picture of these leaders in action.

Inclusive leaders want to provide stability, to show concern for others, and more than anything, to maintain a harmonious environment. They tend to be soft-spoken, and they’re more likely to lead by example than with force. In general, they do a lot more listening and thinking than speaking, and because they tend to be modest, they’re careful not to impose on others. Inclusive leaders work carefully to make sure everything is done “just so,” and they often shy away from radical changes and adventurous ideas. They’re more concerned with being helpful and collaborative, and they’re usually willing to go the extra mile for everyone.

 

Chapter 15: Lessons from Humble Leaders

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Whether you’ve determined that you’re a Humble leader or you feel that you need to become a more Humble leader, we’ll help you explore this important dimension of leadership in more detail. As we discussed in Chapter 2, the Humble Dimension is located on the southern side of the 8 Dimensions of Leadership Model, which means that Humble leaders tend to be cautious and reflective. Their modest, internal nature belies a number of very powerful leadership skills. And although individual Humble leaders have many unique traits that set them apart, we’ve found predictable patterns—we know what makes these leaders tick.

Humble leaders want to support the people around them, to ensure accurate results, and more than anything, to provide reliable leadership. Harmony is important to them, both in terms of tasks and relationships. They tend to be diplomatic, soft-spoken leaders, and they don’t often wear their emotions on their sleeves. They’re conscientious about getting things right and are willing to take the extra time to nail down the details. In fact, they can be quite perfectionistic at times. At their core, Humble leaders want to be seen as reliable. They have a penchant for routine and consistency, and they maximize predictability by relying heavily on their past experiences.

 

Chapter 16: Lessons from Deliberate Leaders

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Deliberate leaders take a measured approach to their work. They’re not about the immediate payoff and making a big spectacle of themselves. Using logic and carefully designed systems, they take the time necessary to get things right. Whether you think of yourself as a Deliberate leader or quite the opposite, we’ll give you a good sense of this analytical approach. As we discussed in Chapter 2, the Deliberate Dimension is located in the southwestern area of the 8 Dimensions of Leadership Model, which means that these leaders tend to be cautious and reflective, as well as questioning and skeptical. We’ll explore some key qualities that Deliberate leaders have to offer.

Deliberate leaders want to create a sense of stability, to solve problems, and more than anything, to ensure accurate outcomes. They like to have a plan, and they’d much rather over-prepare than risk failure. Personal competency matters to them, and they want to be seen as having expertise in their field. Because they’re analytical leaders who communicate in a straightforward manner, they may have little patience for people who seem illogical or more interested in schmoozing than getting work done. They tend to be reserved, and when interacting with people socially, they often prefer intimate groups to large parties or professional networking opportunities.

 

Chapter 17: Lessons from Resolute Leaders

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All leaders can learn a thing or two from the tough-minded ways of Resolute leaders. As we discussed in Chapter 2, the Resolute Dimension is located on the western side of the 8 Dimensions of Leadership Model, which means that Resolute leaders tend to be questioning and skeptical. In this chapter, we’ll give you a clearer picture of the Resolute Dimension of leadership in real life.

Resolute leaders want to get efficient results, to ensure high quality outcomes, and to challenge themselves and others to do their best. They are matter-of-fact leaders who ask tough questions. When ideas don’t seem solid, they push for more analysis. Resolute leaders tend to strike a balance between speed and quality, and both are quite important to them. They’re both driven and analytical, though they’re not quite as fast-paced as Commanding leaders nor as methodical as Deliberate leaders. Getting things right matters a great deal to Resolute leaders, and they may sometimes overlook the emotional aspects of leadership in their quest to accomplish their goals efficiently.

 

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