DiSC® - Diving Deeper into the D (Dominant) Style

Posted by Bill Harshman on

D Style

This lesson is first in a series taking a deeper dive into the research behind the characteristics, thought processes,  core needs, and assumptions associated with each of the DiSC® styles.  Today’s focus is on the D (Dominant) style.  As with any assessment, there are always a small percentage of outliers from the existing research.  However, the reliability and validity of the DiSC® has stood the test of time.

This lesson will be helpful if you don’t know your style OR if you are a different style.  Here is a reminder:  One of the Cornerstone Principles of DiSC® is that “Everyone is a unique blend of all DiSC® styles, and people typically tend toward one style.”  I’ll suggest at this point that you read/listen for those insights that will help you make sense of your own, unique experience.

Here is another reminder about the Dominant style to provide context.  The D has a Faster & Outspoken PACE, combined with a Questioning & Skeptical (result-focused) AGREEABLENESS quotient.  And, their brief list of (observable behaviors) descriptors include:  Direct, Firm, Strong-willed, Forceful, and Results-oriented.  (For more specifics on the D style, refer to the blog titled,DiSC®  – Understanding the Dominant (D) Style”) at our website, www.TrainingLocation.com.

The thrust of this article is the core needs that tie those descriptors together.  For example, why is it that people with a D style lean (more than the average person) toward being direct, forceful, results-oriented, etc.?  And, is there underlying motivation to these observable behaviors?  In order to understand that, let’s look at the core needs.

Core Needs of the Dominant Style:

  1. The D style has a need to be strong. This translates to the belief that “If I’m going to be useful, productive, and valuable, I need to be strong”
  2. The D style has a need to control the factors which influence their fate (i.e., success or failure)
  3. The D style has a need to be on top (i.e., winning). Winning for the D style is a barometer for how well they’re doing.  The D style likes to win more than the average person.  This is probably their least socially desirable need.
  4. The D style has a need to be making progress (i.e., always to be moving forward; restless; “If you’re not moving, you’re losing” or “I can think AND act at the same time – let’s get going”) This can also look like a lack of empathy. The D style tends to choose being direct or blunt versus taking the time required of empathy.

These core needs show up in how a person approaches their life (work, family, recreation, etc.) and there are positives and negatives to each need.  These needs appear as behaviors, including a strong sense of drive (bordering on impatience).  This boldness, directness, and firmness shows up as confidence in the D style about how the world should be coupled with an eagerness to make that happen/occur.  Sometimes, this appears as high standards and occasional disconnects with others who don’t share those high standards.  I heard someone say once, “Don’t should on me and I won’t should on you.”  Sounds like a nice motto by which to live.

Note:  I would be remiss to not state the obvious.  If any of these core needs are missing, absent, or unmet on behalf of the D style, we can certainly appreciate there may be frustration, impatience, or tension in and around that D person.

Driving Assumptions of the Dominant Style:

A very important part of who we have become are driving assumptions.  They are unconscious.  These driving assumptions which are created at a young age now drive our behavior and guide our interpretation and understanding of the world around us.  Here they are:

  • I should always be doing something useful
  • I’m valuable because I achieve or accomplish
  • I should never show vulnerability or weakness

There is a significant amount of research and implications to these driving assumptions.  However, in the interest of time, just keeping these in the back of your mind will remind you of the simple humanness of people, whatever their style.  Our growth as people is to simply monitor our behavior and our thoughts, and become aware as to when these assumptions are being played out in the background. 

Note:  As stated earlier, I would be remiss to not state the obvious.  Considering these driving assumptions of the D style, we can certainly appreciate the impact (helpful and harmful) these can have on all aspects of one’s life.

What does all of this mean and how do I interpret and make meaning from this for either me or the D’s in my life?  Let’s consider leadership.  Research based on ratings from managers, peers, and direct reports shows the five areas where D leaders do the best and the five areas where they do the worst.

The five highest rated areas where D leaders do best, in order of rating:

  1. showing confidence
  2. taking charge
  3. stretching boundaries
  4. setting high expectations
  5. and focusing on results

Here are the five lowest rated areas where D leaders struggle, in order of rating:

  1. showing diplomacy
  2. showing modesty
  3. creating a positive environment
  4. staying open to input
  5. maintaining composure

There is so much implied with these two, short lists.  The “So what?” is to understand that the core needs and driving assumptions work both independently and together all the time in everything you do.  Some aspects have more influence on observable behavior than others at any given moment.  Knowing the lowest rated areas conveniently shows us those behaviors that managers, peers, and direct reports would like to see more of.  Thinking critically of the interrelatedness of the core needs and driving assumptions will serve you well.

I hope this overview increased your awareness, knowledge, and familiarity of DiSC®, especially the Dominant style.  Whether your needs include Onboarding, Employee Engagement, Culture Change, Conflict Management, Team Building, or simply Communication, DiSC® is the research-based, proven, leading training solution.

As ALWAYS, the key to effectiveness through DiSC® is understanding your and others’ styles and then using that knowledge for improved interactions.

If you would like a live, complimentary webinar (online) for your team or organization, please send an email to info@traininglocation.com.  If you’d like to purchase the DiSC®, visit  DiSC® Classic or Everything DiSC® at our website.  And, check out our products from The Ken Blanchard Companies as well.

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