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Affirming leaders: DiSC iS or Si style leadership

Affirming leaders are friendly, approachable, and nice to be around.
4 min read

The affirming dimension of leadership

The Everything DiSC®-based typology of leadership styles helps determine your or your client’s primary leadership dimension and identify areas for development. It can also help you consider what type of leadership style might be most effective to use during specific organizational challenges.

Even though great leaders use each of the eight dimensions of leadership, they tend to prefer one or find one easier to exhibit. Leaders who primarily use the affirming dimension tend to be positive, supportive, and approachable. It reflects their iS or Si DiSC style.

The affirming dimension has its potential failings, however. Their discomfort with conflict can make them hesitate to hold others accountable or give tough feedback. They can also take criticism too personally.

Affirming leadership

Who is an affirming leader?

This leadership style tends to be the most laid-back, patient, and supportive of their staff and colleagues. They often promote an informal collaborative culture. You’re likely to see them as easygoing and cheerful, warm and sincere, and easy to talk to. You might also notice their distaste for conflict and complex analysis.

Strengths of the affirming leader:

  • They tend to be friendly and approachable.
  • They’re often generous in their praise.
  • They’re able to consider the needs of different groups of people.
  • They’re less concerned with their own ego needs.
  • They tend to be optimistic.
  • They’re good at making people feel that they belong.
  • They’re able to see things from other perspectives.
  • They often come across as down-to-earth.

Goals: Ability to see good in others, warmth, approachability

Would increase effectiveness through: Acknowledging others’ flaws, confronting problems

Source: The 8 Dimensions of Leadership

Giving encouragement requires us to get close to people and show that we care. And because it’s more personal and positive than other forms of feedback, it’s more likely to accomplish something that other forms cannot: strengthening trust between leaders and constituents.
Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, The Leadership Challenge

What can we learn from affirming leaders?

You’re responsible for your people

If you want quality performance and results, you need to pay attention to the emotional variables in the workplace. Team members perform best when they feel a part of a team, not just an assembly of people assigned to a similar task. While personalities differ in how they want to be recognized, everyone wants to feel that their input and efforts were viewed and valued. A leader’s willingness to listen and project a warm exterior increases trust in the leader and the entire team. You don’t have to sugarcoat the truth, but rather pay attention to your tone and how constructive your feedback is.

The most genuine way to demonstrate that you care and are concerned about other people as human beings is to spend time with them. This shouldn’t be yet another business meeting; instead, plan on unstructured time. . . .
Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, The Leadership Challenge

People want to work for more than a paycheck

You know you should let your team know that you value them and their contributions. But how? Some people will be satisfied with a quick personal note, others will want a bonus check or public recognition. Learning how individuals are motivated will make you a better-informed leader. Your best employees/associates/team members will appreciate your curiosity; as you engage with them, they will engage more with their work. Help the people around you find meaning in their work. Make your vision, the organization’s mission, and its core values obviously relevant to their work.

Great leadership teams in the new economy have a deep and restless curiosity. They are curious not only about driving customer and user community value, but about clarifying and pursuing their organizations’ social value as well. They ask themselves, “What do we offer that the world actually needs?”
David Schmittlein, MIT Sloan School of Management

People act on their own priorities, not yours

Affirming leaders understand that not everyone will (or should) see things their way. It can be difficult for leaders to see someone doing something differently than they would and ask about that choice before making a judgment on it. As a leader, if you have a strong feel for how things should be done and insist on your way, you might be stifling innovation and creativity. How can you provide direction and inspiration without micromanaging? How can you grow more leadership within your organization while empowering others to build their own problem-solving skills and giving them some autonomy?

Encourage people to listen to advice, and choose their own path.
Jane Finette, founder of The Coaching Fellowship

The pitfalls of affirming-only leadership

Because they have an aversion to conflict, affirming leaders often struggle with challenging others or giving tough feedback. They are inclined toward taking on the role of peacemaker although they may lack the assertiveness to really command the attention of people truly angry with each other. They prefer to seek consensus and can have trouble pushing people toward a commitment.

Focusing on the positive can mean putting off dealing with difficulties and demanding challenges. It is difficult for the affirming leader to invite tension into relationships by initiating major changes in the workplace. In their own lives, they may turn to a familiar and enjoyable task rather than struggle to learn a new skill or tackle what seems like an intractable problem.

In-depth analysis is not an activity the affirming leader looks forward to. Extended periods of focused attention on something other than people and activities can be a real struggle. There might be excitement once the data reveals something new, but the ambiguity and focus it takes to get there can be a hard slog.

Related reading

You’re responsible for your people

People want to work for more than a paycheck

People act on their own priorities, not yours


Kristeen Bullwinkle

Steeped in Everything DiSC since 2010. Strongly inclined CD style. Leadership style and EQ mindset: resolute. Believes strongly in the serial comma.

Certifications from Wiley:
Everything DiSC, The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team

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