Thriving as a Dominant-Type Leader: Deep on DiSC Part 1

Strengths, challenges, and keys to success for the Dominant-Type or D-Type personality

The Church Revitalization Podcast – Episode 136

A lot goes into being a high-impact leader—your skills, experience, education, emotional intelligence, and your calling all contribute to your success. But your temperament and personality play a major role in how you interact with people and influence them. Leadership happens at the intersection of a person’s influence, capacity, and character. Your temperament colors all three of these factors.

Therefore, it’s helpful to understand your personality type and how it positively and negatively affects your ability to lead. Your temperament is a tool; it’s inherently amoral. Your personality isn’t evil or benevolent, but it is part of God’s divine design for your life. 

There are a lot of helpful tools for understanding your personality. At The Malphurs Group, we regularly use the DiSC Assessment. The DiSC is fairly simple to grasp, and since no tool is perfect and since people are always more nuanced than any personality tool, it’s helpful to have a tool that’s easy to grasp. It’s OK to recognize that personality assessments have limitations, but still leverage them to help you become a better leader. 

In this multi-part article and podcast series, we are exploring the primary DiSC types and how they impact your leadership. 

In this first installment, you’ll learn the strengths, challenges, and keys to success for the D or Dominant type personality.

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The DiSC can be broken down into two key axes: a horizontal scale from task to people orientation (Left to Right) and a vertical scale from an introversion to extroversion orientation (Bottom to Top). The “D” type sits in the top left box with a task-orientation that is extroverted.

Strengths of Dominant Leaders

Makes Difficult, Risky Future-Focused Decisions

Many leaders struggle to take a risk because of who it might offend, or if there is a sense that there isn’t enough “buy-in.” But D-type leaders are not deterred by a lack of consensus. When a building is on fire, there’s no time to take a vote on an evacuation plan. To a D-type leader, the building is always on fire. They live and lead with a keen sense of urgency. 

Taking risks is a necessary aspect of leadership. If the way is clear and without obstruction, there is no need for a leader! There is a field near my house owned by a farmer. This particular field is home to a donkey. In the years that I’ve lived in the house, I’ve never seen the donkey move more than 50 feet from the same place near the fence row. There’s even a patch, six feet in diameter, that has no grass from where the donkey stands all day, every day.

Organizations have perverse incentives to act like the donkey. Not changing is easier than changing; presumably, it’s also safer. But God is calling the Church to raid the gates of hell! Churches need D-type leaders to stir up the passions of God’s people and re-instill a sense of urgency for the Kingdom.

Effective at Driving the Church in One Direction

D-type leaders know where they want to go, and cannot tolerate alternate visions for the future. As a result, they do everything they can to rally the church in a singular direction. These leaders become a guitar with just one string. There is only one direction, and it’s the one the D-type leader believes is God’s desired future for the church. 

This is a gift to the church because other leaders may languish with doubt about where the church should go. They may rely too heavily on broad input before they gain a sense of direction. Additionally, other leader types may genuinely struggle with envisioning the future in their own minds. Not the D-type leader. The future is as clear in their brains as a 4k image. With that degree of clarity, they feel compelled to drive everyone forward.

Pushes Leaders to Give Their Best

Some leaders will tolerate poor performance. The D-type leader cannot suffer incompetence. For the Dominant leader, winning is everything. They want to be on a winning team, and will push the people around them to give their best effort.

While this attitude can be exhausting, especially if the leader doesn’t hold himself accountable to the same standards, the impulse for excellence is good. When God created the world, He said it was “good,” and when He made man, it was “very good.” Chasing excellence in our work is reflecting God’s image. So long as we do not idolize perfectionism or substitute our work for the work of Jesus on the Cross, a commitment to giving our best is God-honoring.

Challenges of Dominant Leaders

Inclination Toward Narcissism and Bullying

Find me a narcissistic leader in a church, and most of the time I’ll show you a D-type leader. Dominant personality types are prone to narcissism because they inherently believe that their goals are more important than people’s feelings. They’re likely to surround themselves with people who tell them what they want to hear. D-type leaders are prone to gaslighting the people around them and can develop a cult of personality.

These inclinations are not fated! Having an inclination does not mean a leader has to act on it. Additionally, having an awareness of your inclinations empowers you to put in safeguards against toxic behavior. I recommend that D-type leaders surround themselves with objective people (read: not connected to your church) that have the permission and perspective to call you out. This could be a friend, a therapist, a counselor, a coach, or a consultant. Simply be sure that you have a person in your life who has nothing to gain or lose by telling you the truth.

Myopic Leadership

Dominant leaders are likely to feel that their goals and objectives are the only things that matter. While they may have a handful of goals, they are unlikely to care about anything else. This myopathy in leadership can lead to gaps in ministry, people falling through the cracks, and long-term dysfunction. 

The solution is to include S-type (people-oriented, introverted) leaders who have a high degree of empathy. Give them permission to raise red flags, and be diligent to listen. While S-type leaders would much rather delay any decision that could hurt someone’s feelings indefinitely, the D-type leader can spare some time to carefully listen to concerns and weigh them against their goals. 

The spiritually mature Dominant leader will react to the relational needs for the sake of long-term health, even if that means going slower on their goals. The most effective Dominant leaders understand that leadership is like a vehicle: it has a gas pedal and gears. You need to know when to let off the gas, switch gears, etc. 

Confuse Your Need to Win With God’s Will

If God closes a door, get a crowbar. That’s the attitude that many D-type leaders take to leadership. A truly effective D-type leader must learn when to push and when to step away. In the book of Acts, Luke notes on multiple occasions that the Spirit prevented them from going to one place or another.

The maturing D-leader will not see every obstacle as a challenge. Be sensitive to the Spirit to discern when an obstacle is a sign that the Enemy is opposing you, or when it is the Spirit sending you a message. Remember that God is sovereign, and your need to control a situation is not always conducive to letting Jesus be the King. Maintain an active prayer life, and bring every challenge and obstacle to the Lord; listen when He speaks.

Key to Success

Maximizing your ability to set goals and drive your church towards them requires that you learn to love and empower people, not use them. Give a trusted group of people the permission to say hard things to you, and listen to them. But don’t abandon your risk-taking and goal-oriented leadership; the church needs these gifts.

BONUS: Watch this episode on YouTube.

Scott Ball is the Vice President and a Lead Guide with The Malphurs Group. He lives in East Tennessee with his wife and two children. (Email Scott).

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