Last week I took the popular DISC personality test and it turns out I’m a high D. D is for dominance. The other personality types are Influencing, Steadiness, and Compliance. Here’s a summary of my report:
John perceives himself as being pioneering, competitive, positive, assertive, confident, and a winner. Under moderate pressure others may see him as demanding, egotistical, nervy, or aggressive. Under extreme pressure others may see him as abrasive, arbitrary, controlling or opinionated.
John adds value to the organization as a change agent who is forward-looking and innovative. He sometimes has no concept of problems that slower moving people may have with his style and he tends to be impulsive, changing for change’s sake.
I showed it to a manager who reports to me and he said, “You actually paid someone for this? It’s basically a twenty-five page report bashing you.” And to think I was proud of my D. Not only was I proud, I somehow thought only Ds could be effective leaders.
I realized how wrong I was when I saw the results of my classmates. In the management class where I took this test, among the group of thirty MBA students, we were evenly distributed between the four personality types. I thought a room full of aspiring managers would consist almost exclusively of high Ds. I know what you’re thinking, “Typical competitive and egotistical D.”
Tuesday night I watched a show called “The Lost Kennedy Home Movies,” which further disproved my foolish theory that only Ds can be great leaders. The two-hour documentary was filled with videos of President John F. Kennedy from his youth until his untimely death. I watched pictures of “Jack” as a young man at the family compound in Hyannis splashing in the pool with his family or dressed with a navy blazer and cashmere sweater over a shirt and tie, handsome, with friends at an equestrian event. His energy radiated and those close to him described him as light, breezy, attractive, magnetic, confident, and optimistic. This is a classic description of a high I.
This show reminded me the secret to great leadership is not what your type is, but how true you are to your type. We view Kennedy as one of the all-time great American leaders, a symbol of American drive, ambition and vigor because he was a genuine and authentic leader. I saw the same spirit in those home movies that I saw in his famous inaugural address. He still captivates us and his persona inspires us nearly fifty years after his death.
For me, the effectiveness of personality exercises, like DISC or the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (I’m an ENTJ), is the deeper level of self-understanding I get from studying my results. The better I understand myself the truer I can behave as a leader, and the more I can lead from a place of authenticity and genuineness.