DiSC Basics

William Moulton Marston created the DISC model in 1931.  The DISC is based on behavioral studies, dating back to the time of the Greek Doctor, Hippocrates (400 B.C.).  DISC is derived from two observations:

Observation #1: Some people are more OUTGOING, while others are more RESERVED.
Outgoing people are decisive.  They want quick results.  They readily adapt methods in order to achieve goals. These are “go-getters.” Outgoing people are involved in projects, civic clubs, PTA, church groups, and various organizations. They gravitate towards leadership.

On the other hand, reserve people are slower, more careful, studious and patient.   Reserved people are reluctant to get involved in too many activities. Socially they are less active. They are critical and attentive to quality.  They dig into fine details. While outgoing people wants quick results, the reserved people focus on quality output.

Observation # 2: Some people have TASK-FOCUS, while others have PEOPLE-FOCUS. Some people are focused on getting things done (tasks), whilst others are focused on the people around them, relationships, and feelings (people).

The DISC starts with a 24-question survey, probing people on these four tenancies (i.e., outgoing-versus-reserved, and tasks-versus-people).

Four Major Personality Traits:

Combinations of these traits create up to 41 different personality profiles.  Marston overlaid the two major vectors, to generate four quadrants with distinct personality types:

Dominant ‘D’ type: The ‘D’ is outgoing and task-oriented.  This person wants to get results as quickly as possible: ‘Make it happen!’ (You keys to building relationships with this person are  RESPECT and RESULTS.)

Inspiring ‘I’ type: This person is outgoing and thrives on social interaction.  They want to have fun. So, they care what others may think of then. They want to shine and be noticed. (The key insight in developing a relationship with this person is ADMIRATION and RECOGNITION.)

Supportive ‘S’ type: The ‘S’ is reserved and focused on people. They enjoy stable and harmonious relationships, helping others, and working in teams. They are the glue that holds a team together. (The key insight in developing a relationship with this person is FRIENDLINESS and SINCERE APPRECIATION.)

Cautious ‘C’ type:  The ‘C’ is reserved and task-oriented.  This personality type seeks value, consistency, and quality. Cautious people want to be correct, accurate, and they want to produce high-quality service and products. (The key insight in developing a relationship with this individual is TRUST and INTEGRITY.)

Yes, each person is a blend of all four traits.  Nevertheless, some traits are more dominant than others.  Understanding yourself is integral to improving your performance in all walks of life.

Implications of DISC:

Most psychologists say personality is formed early in life (indeed, Freud said it was anchored by the age of 5).  In any event, our personality does not change much, after we reach adulthood (though we are always learning).

The goal of DISC not to change personality.  Rather, DISC is diagnostic and prescriptive:  First, it tells us about our own personality. Second, it prescribes strategies to boost personal effectiveness, whilst working with others. So, DISC is a tool, helping people become the best possible version of themselves.

Peter Labrie



Marston, W.M. (1928). Emotions of Normal People. New York, N.Y., Kegan Paul Trench

Trubner And Company., Limited

Rohm, R.A., (2014). Positive Personality Profiles.  Atlanta, GA: Personality Insights Press

Sugerman, J., Scullard, M. & Wilhelm, E. (2011).  The Eight Dimensions of Leadership –

        DiSC Strategies for Becoming a Better Leader. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler

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