Extended DISC® Leadership Cultures


The Diamond in the Extended DISC® Lead & Manage Assessment provides us with vital information relating to the leadership style of team members. Depending on where their name appears on the “behavioural map”, we can assess the individual’s leadership style. We can then conclude the type of leadership that could be expected if that particular individual was placed in a leadership role.

Sometimes we tend to conclude that a leader has to have “D” characteristics. Of course, in some cases is desirable but leaders can and do emerge with different behavioural styles.

Remembering the four-quadrant model, on which Extended DISC® is based, the type of leadership expected from the various styles becomes quite logical. The four main scales of opposites are:

  • Sensing – Intuition
  • Thinking – Feeling
  • Extroversion – Introversion
  • Judging – Perceiving

Each Leadership Culture is graphically detailed on the Diamond in the Lead & Manage Assessment. Consider the Diamond like a behavioural map. “Thinking” toward the top, “Feeling” at the bottom, “Sensing” to the left and “Intuition” to the right. From here, the various styles begin to become apparent.

  • At the top of the Diamond the “Thinking” segment, C and D styles rely on power-centred leadership
  • At the bottom of the Diamond the “Feeling” segment, “IS” styles rely on participating leadership
  • To the left of the Diamond the “Sensing” segment, “SC” styles rely on planning leadership
  • To the right of the Diamond the “Intuitive” segment “DI” styles, rely on change leadership

Between these segments, we have the following behavioural styles, “D” = Authoritative Leadership, “I” = Informal Leadership, “S” = Supporting leadership and “C” = Quality Leadership.

Authoritative Leadership Style

A D-style leader emphasizes a more authoritarian style of leadership. Authoritative leaders are great in crisis situations and can even create a crisis of their own if there isn’t one! They are looked at as a ‘things leader’ and look for results and may see people as any other resource. They like challenges and fast decisions, as they are good at it. They are highly directive and tend to have one-way communication – they are the leader, and therefore, they TELL the followers. They tend to exert pressure through the setting of demanding goals. Their emphasis is on speed and achievement of results, and they see themselves as very much in charge.

Informal Leadership Style

An I-style leader is more informal and social. Informal leaders are great at creating a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere for their people. They will often lead through being a friend to their followers. They are a ‘people’ leader, so they want and need a lot of contact with people. Creativity, positiveness and good energy tend to be valued more than accuracy or rules at times. Personal relationships are essential to them and at times are more emphasised than arriving at the end results. An I-style leader encourages competitiveness through inspiration rather than applying pressure.

Supporting Leadership Style

An S-style is a supportive leader who guides, teaches, and develops followers. Supporting Leaders are comfortable in maintaining routines and in general, tend to be stable and service-orientated. They prefer “small teams” as they have a very participative approach to their leadership. Because this type of leader is so patient, they also have a great ability to guide, teach and develop their people. The are forever the patient helper. Their emphasis is on trust, loyalty and sincerity – so privacy and confidentiality of a team member are crucial to them and expected in reverse. Help is mutual, given and expected. As a rule, they don’t tend to have a firm goal focus and emphasis is then put on a gradual evolution of goals.

Quality Leadership Style

A C-style leader focuses on quality, rules and compliance with little tolerance for mistakes. Quality Leaders are fascinated by facts, details and analyses. They have an emphasis on rules and compliance and not usually through inspiration or words of encouragement. As a leader, they don’t feel they need to connect or have a relationship as such with their followers and therefore tend to be remote or emotionally disconnected, (if you think about what an I-style person needs then this can be difficult for them as they like to connect!). A quality style leader like this is very systematic in their approach, and that tends to ensure that everyone knows what is expected. In their case, they look at the ‘systems’ as a leader not so much themselves – hence they keep their systems highly detailed, structured and enforce the rules!

The critical thing to remember is that none of these styles is better or worse than the other and in differing circumstances (and in different teams). Different leadership styles are more readily accepted, become more effective and can be more desirable than in others. The challenge for consultants and human resource professionals is to recognise the differences. D-styles are decisive and not afraid to take control. I-styles are charismatic and promote ideas. S-styles pull up their sleeves and get things done while still maintaining the company’s core values. C-styles focus on high quality and doing things correctly. Each leadership DISC style brings its own set of strengths and development areas.

Unless the leader’s unconscious behavioural style is known, it is easy to conclude that their conscious adjusted behavioural style underpins their leadership style.

The consequences of this fundamental misunderstanding can be expensive for any organisation because, in a pressure situation, the leader will revert to their unconscious behavioural style – the style that takes the least energy and effort.