DiSC® - Stressors & Motivators of the D (Dominant) Style

Posted by Bill Harshman on

Our topic today is “Stressors & Motivators of the D (Dominant) Style.”  This updated session is one in a series discussing the Stressors & Motivators of the four DiSC® styles, which include:


Before we dive deeper, I have always encouraged learners to maintain a couple important pieces of baseline knowledge. These two pieces are critical to understanding DiSC®.  (This is especially for first-time readers of my blogs)

First are the Cornerstone Principles that we’ve discussed before:

  • All DiSC®styles are equally valuable
  • Everyone is a unique blend of all DiSC®styles, and people tend toward one or two styles
  • Your unique style is also influenced by other factors such as life experiences, education, and maturity


Second is the Basic DiSC® Styles Model:



A person’s DiSC® style is decided by the intersection of two dimensions of observable behaviors (including body language, tone of voice, expression, and word choice):

The vertical dimension is known as PACE (or outward activity level) described as either Fast-paced & Outspoken OR Cautious & Reflective.  The horizontal dimension is known as your AGREEABLENESS quotient.  This means those who are “less agreeable” place a lower PRIORITY (concern) for cooperation and social harmony, and we refer to them as “Questioning & Skeptical” on the left end of this dimension.  A general term for them might be result-focused.  Those who are “more agreeable” place a higher PRIORITY on cooperation and social harmony and we refer to them as “Accepting & Warm” on the right end of this dimension.  A general term for them might be people-focused.

*It is the interaction between these TWO continua which forms the 4 quadrants (or basic styles) of the DiSC® model, AND by which you identify a person’s DiSC® style.

Let’s now look at a very brief list of other descriptors to help you more easily and more accurately understand the D (Dominant) style.

Here is a reminder from an actual DiSC® Profile report for a D Style.  D’s:

Place a high priority on Getting Results, and are willing to do what it takes to get things done.  They establish what needs to be accomplished, and won’t let a few obstacles stand in their way.

Prioritize Taking Action, and like to hit the ground running, make rapid decisions so they can advance at a fast pace.  Little patience for people or things that stand in the way of immediate progress.

Welcome Challenge, often questioning people’s opinions if they’re unconvinced, and are willing to point out problems and flaws.  Remember the D motto?  Do It Now

Here is some deeper, researched information that contributes to our body of knowledge around 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 (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, AND
  4. The D style has a need to be making progress (i.e., always to be moving forward)

As we consider the behavioral tendencies coupled with these core themes or needs, it will help us better understand the stressors and motivators of the D style.

Let’s take a look at environmental factors which might conflict with or support the D style tendencies and core needs.

Let me preface this list with the following general description:  As a Dominant style, there are those aspects of your work that are stressful for you.  Because you are focused on the end result, you may find it particularly frustrating when your authority is challenged OR you feel you don’t have control over your own success.  You MAY get irritated when you feel bogged down with tasks or procedures that (you think) are a waste of your time.

Here’s a list of environmental factors which may trigger stress for the D style:

  • Following strict rules or protocols*
  • Getting bogged down with inefficient procedures or meetings
  • Having your ideas or authority challenged
  • Having little independence or autonomy
  • Lacking control over situations
  • Slowing down your pace*
  • Dealing with people who don’t meet your standards
  • Performing routine tasks*
  • Being forced to pay attention to the emotional needs of others*

I want to extract a couple points from the previous list.  We spoke of environmental factors that may cause stress.  However, what if others’ behaviors trigger those stressors?

  • For example, can you think of another style who prefers “following strict rules or protocols?” I’m hoping you included a C style in your thinking.
  • Or, are there other styles who prefer to work at a slower pace? At least two styles are opposite of the faster-paced D
  • Which style prefers stability and routine tasks? Stability is the middle name for an S.
  • Which style(s) pay particular attention to the emotional needs of others? The right end of Agreeableness continua is known as people-focused (S & i)

Just food for thought whether you are a D, you manage a D, or work alongside a D.

NOW, let’s take a look at environmental factors which might align with the D style tendencies and core needs.  different people find different aspects of their work motivating.  As a Dominant style, you probably enjoy situations that allow you to take charge and have authority.  Most likely, you prefer working in a high-energy environment.

Here’s a list of environmental factors which may provide motivation for the D style:

  • Implementing ideas
  • Having authority
  • Achieving results
  • Overcoming obstacles
  • Working in an innovative setting
  • Making key decisions
  • Getting things moving
  • Working toward challenging goals
  • Convincing others

So What?  Here are some general observations from research that might help you extract helpful information from today’s lesson.

  • Where do D leaders do the best? Showing confidence, taking charge, stretching boundaries, setting high expectations, focusing on results.
  • Where do D leaders do the worst? Showing diplomacy, showing modesty, creating a positive environment, staying open to input, maintaining composure.
  • Need to be on top? D’s think intimidation CAN be a useful tool for getting things done.  Extreme example:  Jack Nicholson’s (D) attempt in “A Few Good Men” to intimidate Tom Cruz in the final courtroom scene totally backfires.

A D might think:  “Wouldn’t it be a better world if everyone could toughen up a little bit?”

Is there a difference between being blunt and being honest?  Bluntness and diplomacy can BOTH be honest.  Blunt has the danger of closing up the other person.  Why would one choose the blunt option?  Well, 1) maybe I just don’t want to take the time and mental energy to choose my words to be diplomatic (while not intending to be undiplomatic), and/or 2) Being blunt can feel more powerful and indulge my frustration about something that bothers me. 


  • I feel sometimes that you’re not putting in as much energy as the rest of the people on this team, or
  • You’re being lazy

The key here for the D is to ascertain WHY they are being direct or blunt, and not diplomatic.

Here’s a little more So What?  And, this is helpful whether YOU are a D, your peer is a D, your manager is a D, or a coworker is a D.

  • Be present and monitor your behavior and your thoughts to recognize when these assumptions are being played out in the background.
  • I shared in a previous lesson that your style (any style) is not an excuse for behavior.  The whole key to this lesson is to be more aware of when these core needs/themes/assumptions are DRIVING our behavior, thoughts, and emotions and letting critical thinking occur after action instead of before. 

The “So What?” is to become consciously aware of them so that you can make decisions and choices in a more deliberate, intentional, and responsible fashion.

Now, go be a D Style.  The world needs more present, aware, and responsible D’s.

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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