Leaders: What the Heck is DISC?

Personality Profile

This is the first in a series of blogs in which I will explain the most common personality survey on the market today.

DISC is the foundation of understanding for virtually every human personality type. Originally published by Dr. William Marston in 1928, the science of DISC is proven and trusted all over the world as the benchmark for all employee behavioural testing.

D.I.S.C. stands for:

  •       DOMINANCE
  •       INFLUENCE
  •       STEADINESS
  •       COMPLIANCE*

(Note that in some versions the “C” stands for Conscientiousness)

The elements of DISC are represented by a plethora of suppliers under a variety of aliases, including but not limited to colours, temperatures, seasons, bunnies and tigers and a variety of other pseudonyms. No matter what they are called, the elements of DISC are common to all personality types and vary in intensity from one person to another.

Here is a breakdown of what DOMINANCE, INFLUENCE, STEADINESS and COMPLIANCE mean in these surveys.


This is the element of an individual’s personality that indicates competitiveness, drive and a desire to win. Highly dominant people tend become angry more often than lower dominant types. Dominance is a task oriented trait so once a highly dominant person takes on a task, they become determined to see it through to the end.

These people often appear to be stern and severe. Once they have had an angry outburst, they forget the source of their anger quickly and move on to other things. Highly dominant people will often be seen as intimidating by others.


This is the element of an individual’s personality that indicates optimism, trust, and a sense of humour. Highly influencing people tend to joke around a lot, talk a lot, and use other people to get what they want out of life. Almost completely people-oriented, they need to be in the company of other human beings as often as possible.

Highly influencing people like flashy, expensive cars, clothing, houses and virtually anything else they can show off. They are optimistic to a fault and trust almost everyone a little too much.  Highly influencing people will often be seen as the life of the party by others.


This is the element of an individual’s personality that regulates the pace at which they do things. Highly steady people tend to hold off on decision making until they believe the decision is the right one. They like to do research and get the approval of others before they do almost anything.

They are people-oriented and will usually be very sociable with everyone they meet. Highly steady people will take longer to do their work, but because they are very thorough, the work they do is generally of very high quality. Others will often see them as logical, thoughtful members of the team.


This is the element of an individual’s personality that creates a need for rules and regulations in their lives. Highly compliant people tend to approach every challenge or project with caution and concern. Because they are task oriented, they tend not to fall for a sales pitch that is not accompanied by facts and figures.

They are fearful of not following rules to the point that if no rules exist, some will make up their own rules and insist that others follow them. They are often seen by others as overly careful, unbending and somewhat resistant to “outside the box” thinking.


It is important to understand that every personality has all of these elements in it to varying degrees. In other words, some will be highly dominant and low compliant, with a very low steady style and a moderate influencing style.

Understanding how the various elements of the DISC blend with each other is extremely important.  Hence, you should avoid referring to someone as HIGH DOMINANT or LOW COMPLIANT since all of the 4 elements will come into play in a variety of situations.

In future issues we will discuss DISC blending and the effects of intensity on overall behaviour.


Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today.
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Wayne Kehl is President and CCO at Dynamic Leadership Inc
He is author and behavioral analyst who lectures on leadership and motivation
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Web | Blog | Book | DISC 

Image Sources:  shrink4men.com


9 responses to “Leaders: What the Heck is DISC?

  1. When I took the DISC assessment in 2008, C stood for Conscientiousness not Compliance as was stated in the article. The description of a C in your article is very negative. I always understood Cs to be analytical, curious and detail-oriented not overly concerned with rules and inside-the-box thinking.


  2. Hi Lisa
    In the reports we use the “C” does not stand for conscientious. In fact as a Certified Behavioural Analyst, I have never heard of it being called that. However, there are quite a number of DISC reports on the market, so it is quite concievable that another company uses that monniker.
    My description would in fact have included analytical, curious and detail-oriented as you recommended if I had more words to work with. We are limited by word-count in these articles. Good catch! Thanks!
    By the way, nothing negative was intended. Some of my best friends are high-compliant and I admire them for the skills and behaviour they bring to every job.
    All the Best


    • Thanks TMast

      I use the TTI (Target Training International) Coaching report which includes a version of DISC that uses the term, compliance. However, thanks so much for sending the “everything disc classic validation” information. I found it very interesting. I also note that in the “everything disc” document it states that people on the high end of the “C” scale will be dutiful and rule conscious….which pretty well mirrors what I indicated in my article.

      As I indicated in the article there are a number of tools on the market that use essentially the same science with different names and interpretation methodologies. The important thing is to use them.

      Here is another link to another company that uses TTI: http://balancedworklife.com/blog/disc-test-crash-course/

      You can find TTI on this link: http://www.ttiassessments.com/


  3. Pingback: Leaders: What the Heck is DISC #3 (Blending Styles) « Linked 2 Leadership·

  4. Pingback: Leaders: What the Heck Is DISC #4 (Communication) « Linked 2 Leadership·

  5. I think it is also important that many would not agree with calling DISC a personality assessment. DISC measures behaviors. Personality is much more complex than that.

    It may also be important for your future posts to understand that not all DISC assessments are created equal. In fact, many of them have some serious flaws. Anyone choosing to use assessments for selection and development need to choose carefully.

    TTI is the leader in assessment-based business solutions. Their assessments are fully EEOC compliant and have never been challenged in court, which speak volumes as to the validity.

    It is an important consideration that to only be assessing Behaviors (DISC) in pre employment selection is like only calling one reference in a background check. You don\’t have a very complete picture of the candidate. There are assessments that provide a much clearer picture of a potential candidate.

    Check out the Hiring & Retaining Top Talent Kit for some additional white papers on the topic. http://tinyurl.com/bts63wk

    I hope this is helpful.

    Brent Wells


    • You are quite right, Brent. In my practice, I use the TTI Trimetrix assessment almost exclusively. In future blogs I will delve into the other areas of it, including personal interests, attitudes and values and the dimensional balance graph. I started with DISC because behaviour is the most obvious or easily identifiable indicator of personality. Stay tuned. All the best, Wayne


Please Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s