Apparently, I am a sheepdog! At least, this is what a former head of my faculty called me. It wasn’t a derogatory remark, although I am not quite sure that it was a complement either. What she was referring to was, in fact, my characteristic of being reserved and people focused. I am a supportive personality type, and it shows up in all sorts of ways, including leadership.
A couple of weeks ago, discussing the D Type personality, I commented that leading from the front was only one place from which to lead. I didn’t come back to that when talking about the I Type, although I might have reflected on their tendency to lead from the middle, to gather people around them rather than behind them. People like me tend to lead from the back, to shepherd people in a direction. (Any chance, if you have been reading along in this series, that you are beginning to see something useful for constructing leadership teams?)
Typical characteristics of the S Type are loyalty and patience. Which is good, and sometimes not so much. Certainly, it is good to practise loyalty, to maintain fidelity in relationships. And patience is a virtue, is it not? Even in high-paced environments, being able to be patient with others and ourselves is beneficial.
The down side is remaining loyal in abusive contexts or being so patient that there are no boundaries to behaviour. Neither of these scenarios are useful in relationships of any sort. They are particularly fraught in parenting, and the likelihood that two parents probably sit opposite one another on the quadrants formed by the pace and task/people axes can lead to serious conflict over the right way to go about raising children, if there isn’t an understanding of the basic motivations out of which each parent is operating. Another reason I think DISC is such a powerful tool.
S Type personalities can often be risk-averse. Again, this can be positive in that they are unlikely to react rashly. But is can also mean they are unreasonably stubborn when it comes to change. And please, don’t think they will necessarily be thrilled by a surprise party. They like to plan and to have a good understanding of what is happening in their lives. The D Type can love change for the sake of change. The S Type finds change stressful or acts out stress through change. My wife used to observe that she always knew when I was particularly stressed; she’d come home and find me rearranging furniture.
This doesn’t mean that the S Type won’t do things that appear risky. For example, I really like abseiling. Many people react, but that’s really risky. Well, I don’t think so. So arguably I am not taking a risk. We spent a lot of our lives working with NGOs wandering around the world dragging our children along. (Well, my wife was out in front and I was shepherding from behind.) Risky? Lots of people thought so. My wife was out for an adventure and I went along for the relationships.
OK, over-simplified. But my point here is that we must beware of judging others from our perspective. This is particularly true when assessing motivations. And don’t use this sort of tool to put someone, or yourself, in a box. We are way too complex for that little game.