Leadership Notes #22/23 – Personality styles/Interaction styles

(This series of “notes” first appeared in the YahooGroup “VenturingList” and are written by Michael Brown. I thought that they were worth sharing with the Commissioner Corps.)

As leaders, knowing ourselves is an important aspect of leadership that is too often overlooked. Do you have a good understand of what `type’ of person you are? Are you an extrovert or an introvert? Do you like working with people or with things? Are you more a thinker or a doer? Have you put any thought into the fact that the people you often like to work with or be around have similar traits to you, and that the people you don’t like to work with have different traits? This is usually all lumped into the broad concept of “personality types” or “interaction styles”, of which here are many models. While many people may get the chance to take a personality/interaction test at work or maybe school, not everyone gets the chance.

I should say that I am not a psychologist, and I have no training in this field. I have been exposed to some of these concepts, and have spent some time doing further research for this Note, and so I encourage those who have an interest to seek out some of the resources I mention and take this further if they want to learn more.

For me, my first real exposure to this was at work when I completed the “L-E-A-D Personality Inventory”, which was developed by Dr. Walter Lacey. It focuses on 4 types: Leader, Expresser, Analyst, and Dependable, and the inventory then ranks these four. (if you are interested in this inventory, it’s available from the Church Growth Institute www.churchgrowth.org) In this area of personality/interaction tests, the main 3 tests seem to be Myers-Briggs, DISC, and Social Styles. In addition, I felt that StrenghtsFinder should also be touched on as many may have also heard of it. Let’s take a look at each one.


The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is probably well known, even among people who haven’t taken the test. The materials are controlled by the MBTI Trust and sold by CCP. (www.myersbriggs.org and www.cpp.com)

MBTI was developed to make the psychological theories of C. G. Jung understandable. Jung came up with 4 basic personality types, which he called Thinkers, Feelers, Intuiters, and Sensors. MBTI was developed by the mother-daughter team of Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers, and attempts to measure a person’s preferences with 4 pairs of attributes. These attributes are Extraversion/Introversion, Sensing/Intuition, Thinking/Feeling and Judging/Perceiving. This gives 16 possible personality types. As noted, MBTI specifically measures personality, not behavior (interaction). It identifies a person’s preferences, not their actions, which is sometimes misunderstood.

So, what are these 4 pairings about?

Extraversion/Introversion- is your focus outwards or inwards?
Sensing/Intuition- do you focus on information you have or do you prefer to interpret it?
Thinking/Feeling- when making decisions, do you base it on fact and logic, or people and situations?
Judging/Perceiving- when dealing with the outside world, do you prefer a decision is made, or be open to new information or options?

Depending on which of each pairing is your major one gives you your personality type, for a total of 16 different possible ones. You may be EIFP or ISTJ or the like.

Of course, to find out where you are, you need to take the test. I’ve tried to find accessible information on this, but wasn’t that successful. Most of the material developed by CCP is aimed at professionals providing testing services. They DO offer an on-line assessment, but it costs money. I tried to find some work that could be read that could help. One I came across that may be useful is “Do What You Are” (2007, 4th edition) by Paul Tieger and Barbara Barron. It deals with MBTI, and gives a simplified assessment to find out your personality type, then spends time on each one.


DISC is a different set of personality tests (properly behavioral/interaction styles) that was based on the work of William Moulton Marston (who happened to be the creator of Wonder Woman). His basic idea was similar to Jung, with 4 types:

• Dominance – relating to control, power and assertiveness
• Influence – relating to social situations and communication
• Steadiness – relating to patience, persistence, and thoughtfulness
• Conscientious – relating to structure and organization

This is usually put in a grid:

Guarded ———————|——————– open

This is done because the top of the grid (D & I) are extroverted aspects, and the bottom (C & S) are introverted aspects, along an assertive-passive axis. Further, the left side (D & C) are task-focused and the right side (I & S) are social-focused, along a guarded-open axis.

In looking at the four types, they are explained this way:

Dominance- High “D”s are very active in dealing with problems and challenges, while low “D”s are people who want to do more research before committing to a decision. High “D”s are described as demanding, forceful, egocentric, strong willed, driving, determined, ambitious, aggressive, and pioneering. Low “D”s describe those who are conservative, low keyed, cooperative, calculating, undemanding, cautious, mild, agreeable, modest and peaceful. Influence- High “I”s influence others through talking and activity and tend to be emotional. They are described as convincing, magnetic, political, enthusiastic, persuasive, warm, demonstrative, trusting, and optimistic. Low “I”s influence more by data and facts, and not with feelings. They are described as reflective, factual, calculating, skeptical, logical, suspicious, matter of fact, pessimistic, and critical. Steadiness- High “S”s want a steady pace, security, and don’t like sudden change. Low S intensity scores are those who like change and variety. High S persons are calm, relaxed, patient, possessive, predictable, deliberate, stable, consistent, and tend to be unemotional and poker faced. People with Low S scores are described as restless, demonstrative, impatient, eager, or even impulsive. Conscientious – Persons with High C styles adhere to rules, regulations, and structure. They like to do quality work and do it right the first time. High C people are careful, cautious, exacting, neat, systematic, diplomatic, accurate, and tactful. Those with Low C scores challenge the rules and want independence and are described as self-willed, stubborn, opinionated, unsystematic, arbitrary, and careless with details.

It doesn’t seem that any one group controls DISC, however Inscape Publishing (www.inscapepublishing.com) seems to be the largest provider of materials, and they call it “DiSC” (yes, with a lower case “i” is their trademarked version of the tests). Inscape sells both an on-line version of the assessment, as well as a self-scored version (surprisingly, the on-line version seems to cost more than the paper version), but you will probably have to go to other provides to obtain them. Now, with DiSC, it’s not just a matter of being placed in one of four groups. You are tested and scored for each of the four, and this places you in the two-dimensional grid. This was due to further research in the topic, and Inscape calls this the DiSC Classic or DiSC Classical Profile.

I did come across a recent book by the people at Inscape entitled “The 8 Dimensions of Leadership: DiSC Strategies for Becoming a Better Leader” (2011) that includes a basic DiSC assessment. As I haven’t looked at the book myself, I don’t know how useful it may be.

Social Style/People Style

“Social Styles” was first developed by David Merrill in the 1960s, and is also based on Jung’s theories (like MBTI), but here the focus is on individual’s outer styles or their interactions if you will, similar to DISC. This was later enunciated in “Personal Styles and Effective Performance” (1981) by David Merrill and Roger Reid. Another set of researchers (Robert & Dorothy Bolton) based their own “People Styles” on this work, but with some differences with the addition of what they call `style flex’, which is about how people can modify, or flex, their behavior to be more compatible with people of differing interaction styles. This was covered first in their work “Social Style/Management Style” (1984), but has been more or less replaced by their later and more accessible work: “People Styles at Work and Beyond” (2009, 2nd edition). Training based on Merrill’s work is sold thru his company Tracom (www.tracomcorp.com) and the Boltons’ thru their company Ridge Associates (www.ridge.com). I would recommend the “People Style” work as a more recent and readable intro to the subject, plus it includes a basic test to determine your style. But check out Tracom for some interesting reports that show how “Social Styles” can work with other leadership methodologies.

In Social Styles, people are put into one of 4 styles:

Analytical- thinking oriented
Driving- action oriented
Amiable- relationship oriented
Expressive- intuition oriented

They are oriented around 2 axis. An assertiveness axis on the horizontal, that ranges from ASK to TELL. And a (emotional) responsiveness axis on the vertical, that ranges from CONTROL to EMOTE. Keep in mind that these are scales or axis. You can be anywhere along either of those scales! Putting this all together, you have:

Ask —————————————–

As with DISC, we also find that these styles pairing up, again tied into those vertical and horizontal scales. As it relates to the horizontal scale:

Analytical and Driving are both TASK oriented, they like emotional control. They are typically cool, independent, disciplined and use facts.
Amiable and Expressive are RELATIONSHIP oriented, they emote. They use opinions, are usually undisciplined, warm, and approachable.

But also, these styles are also paired up along the vertical:

Driving and Expressive are part of the TELL side of assertiveness, so they like fast action, taking risks, and being competitive.
Analytical and Amiable are part of the ASK side of assertiveness, so they prefer slow action, avoiding risks, and being cooperative.

You will fall into one of these four areas mainly, but can have aspects of the other 3. Again, this is due to those 2 axis: Assertiveness and Responsiveness.

Of the three personality profiles, Social Styles is the one I’m most familiar with, as my Fraternity incorporated it into our self leadership workshop of our LD program. I find it the most useful of the three.


The StrenghsFinder Profile is a newer idea of accessing people, based on finding people’s unique talents or strengths. Based on research by the Gallup organization, led by Donald Clifton, it was first introduced in “Now, Discover Your Strengths” (2001), which introduced the first version of the profile. More recently, a new version has been released, now called the Clifton StrengthsFinder 2.0, and this was introduced in “StrengthsFinder 2.0” (2007) by Tom Rath. A slightly different version of the 2.0 profile is covered in “Strengths-Based Leadership” (2009) by Rath and Barry Conchie. The associated website is at www.strenghtsfinder.com. Be aware that to fully use these works, you need to access the on-line assessment tool, and you get the code to do so in the books. So if you want access to the 2.0 version of the tool, you need to purchase a NEW copy of either “StrenghtsFinder 2.0” or “Strenghts-based Leadership” (you actually get different tests with each, so be aware). The prior books only give you access to the first version.

There are 34 strengths covered. The strengths are things like Analytical, Communication, Empathy, Learner, Positivity, and Strategic. The assessment tests only tell you your top 5 strengths. The books, along with the report you get from taking the test, explain your strengths and how you can best utilize them.

Why is all of this important?

Again, as leaders, we need to better understand ourselves and others. How do we like to interact? What motivates us? What demotivates us? How can we best work with others? Especially if we have a poor understanding of how we like to work and interact, much less how others work and interact. By learning more of these behavior & interaction styles, we have a better understanding.

The problem, as I see it, its many people who take on leadership position don’t understand this. Especially if their company or organization does not make use of such programs. Too often what happens is that when some people are put in charge of a group, they feel it’s their chance to pick the best people. Ok, that sounds great. But too often they focus on people they like to work with, not understanding that this is due to their interaction styles. And so, people who could contribute to the group or organization (because of their experience, knowledge, talents, and more) are passed over for others who may not have those attributes ONLY because their interaction style is more compatible with the leader’s. This is a mistake. It’s actually to avoid these sorts of things that there exist programs like what has been covered here.

If you are a leader, you need to learn to work with ALL people, regardless of their personality or interaction style. Your selection of members of your team should NOT be based on personality or interaction style, but their ability to get things done. Their skills, knowledge, talents, etc. Many groups talk about “diversity”. How it’s important that the organization be “diverse” and that all kinds of people are welcome in the group. Well, “diversity” should not just about religion or ethnic groups or national origin or gender or the like. It should ALSO be about personalities.

So if you are a DRIVER, you need to be open to working with (and including) people who are AMIABLE and ANALYTICAL and EXPRESSIVE, no matter how much they annoy you.

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