Affirming leaders (and Everything DiSC)

Affirming leaders (and Everything DiSC)

Updated August 2021

Continuing our examination of the 8 dimensions of leadership, we have reached the affirming  leader. We hope this listing of additional readings can extend your training and conversations through assignments, book groups, or lunch discussions about leadership. No matter what our own style of leadership, we all have something to learn from the styles that come more easily to others.

Affirming leadersWhat is an affirming leader?

As would be expected from the DiSC leadership label for this type, they tend to be positive, supportive, and approachable. You’re likely to see them as easy-going 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

What can we learn from affirming leaders?

cartCurious about your own style? Take this quick leadership assessment.

What business leaders and researchers say about the affirming leadership style

“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 …”

“It’s part of the leader’s job to show appreciation for people’s contributions and to create a culture of celebration.”

“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.”
— The Leadership Challenge, by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner

“When conflicts arise, they deal with employees’ feelings as well as the technical aspects of the issue. They stay approachable.”
— The Handbook for Leaders
, by Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman

“Making a personal connection has nothing to do with style. You don’t have to be charismatic or a salesperson. I don’t care what your personality is. But you need to show up with an open mind and a positive demeanor. Be informal, and have a sense of humor.”
— Execution: The discipline of getting things done, by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan

“Finally, good leaders recognize and reward success, which not only gives people a sense of accomplishment but also makes them feel like they belong to an organization that cares about them. When this is done, the work itself becomes intrinsically motivating.”
— “What Leaders Really Do” by John Kottor

Rule #8 is “Leaders celebrate.”
— Winning, by Jack Welch

“Imagine people at their best and help them visualize their potential. Assume that others are acting with the highest motives.”
— Successful Executive’s Handbook, by Susan Gebelein, et al

Additional readings

Encouraging the Heart: A Leader’s Guide to Rewarding and Recognizing Others, by James M. Kouzes, Barry Z. Posner

Three Successful Ways To Practice Empathetic Leadership In The Workplace, Forbes
“While company leaders say they value empathy, only 68% of CEOs believe their companies are empathetic, and only 48% of employees found their organization’s level of empathy sufficient.”

5 Habits of Genuinely Appreciative Leaders, FastCompany
“The most grateful leaders have deep memories and grand ambitions, but they don’t sell the present moment short.”

Why the Empathetic Leader Is the Best Leader,
“Empathy—the ability to recognize and share other people’s feelings—is the most important instrument in a leader’s toolbox, Sinek believes. It can be expressed in the simple words, ‘Is everything OK’”

Three Ways Leaders Can Listen with More Empathy, Harvard Business Review
“Among its benefits, empathetic listening builds trust and respect, enables people to reveal their emotions–including tensions, facilitates openness of information sharing, and creates an environment that encourages collaborative problem-solving.”

Why Empathy Is The Force That Moves Business Forward, Forbes
“Without growth and innovation, businesses stagnate and eventually fade away. Those with staying power, however, have mastered an intangible, often overlooked factor that allows them to focus on the future with clarity: empathy.”

Readings to challenge the affirming leader

Stop Softening Tough Feedback, Harvard Business Review

Weighing Your Analytical And Emotional Intelligence Balance, Forbes

When Your Boss Is Too Nice and The Problem with Being Too Nice, Harvard Business Review


Do you have any additional readings to add to this list?


by Kristeen Bullwinkle and the team
Updated October 2018



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