Commanding leaders (and Everything DiSC)

Commanding leaders (and Everything DiSC)

Updated August 2021

The commanding leadership style is the last of our continuing examination of the 8 dimensions of leadership. No matter what our own style of leadership, we all have something to learn from the styles that come more easily to others.

Commanding leadershipWho is a commanding leader?

Commanding leaders tend to be competitive, driven, and assertive. Their confident style might be the one you first think of when you think “leader” and therefore be seen as a natural leader.

Commanding leaders are extremely motivated to get results. This can create a sense of positive urgency or a stamping on the feelings and needs of subordinates. They’re often seen as ambitious, assertive, and competitive. At their worst they’re seen as forceful and egotistical.

Strengths of the commanding leader:

  • They are able to set and stick to aggressive timelines.
  • They tend to be very goal-oriented.
  • They’re able to speak with conviction.
  • They’re not afraid to take some risks.
  • They’re comfortable stepping up to take charge when a group lacks direction.
  • They’re able to make tough decisions that may not be popular.
  • They set high expectations for themselves and others.

Goals: Bottom-line results, victory

Would increase effectiveness through: Patience, empathy

–Source: The 8 Dimensions of Leadership

What can we learn from the commanding leader?

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

What business leaders and researchers say about the commanding leadership style

“The primary purpose of a driving, demanding leadership style is to set the expectation that individuals and teams should achieve critical organizational goals in an efficient, effective, and timely manner.”
Successful Executives Handbook, Susan Gebelein, et al

“Extraordinary leaders wake up in the morning with a plan and put it into effect. They don‘t always wait for permission before moving ahead.”

“Leaders who tend to focus on results are in the driver‘s seat, with a foot on the accelerator—pressed to the floorboard most of the time.”
The Handbook for Leaders, by Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman

A Level 5 leader “demonstrates an unwavering resolve to do whatever must be done to produce the best long-term results, no matter how difficult.”
— Good to Great, Jim Collins

“Leaders have the courage to make unpopular decisions and gut calls.”
— Winning, Jack Welch

“Psychologically, leaders lead because they convince others that they understand the issues better than anyone else. People follow them because they speak about solutions with persuasive conviction, project confidence when others are uncertain, and act decisively.”
— “Peacetime Management and Wartime Leadership,” Judith Bardwick in The Leader of the Future

Additional readings

Why Confidence Is Always A Leader’s Best Friend, Forbes
“In hard or uncertain times, of which there are many, employees want to be guided by a leader who projects confidence. It send the right calming message, as do its close first cousins, resilience and optimism.”

Lessons from the generals: Decisive action amid the chaos of crisis, McKinsey & Company
“Many business leaders have already taken decisive actions in responding to the current crisis with speed and resourcefulness. Now they are increasingly shifting their attention to planning not just for the days ahead but also for an extended period of uncertainty—and potentially a very different world—after COVID-19.”

4 Bold Ways to Be a Confident Leader, Success
“2016 research from Cornell University found that when you’re in a stressful situation, reframing your distress as passion makes you seem more competent. In other words, shift your emotions from negative to positive.”

Leadership Language: Why Words Matter, Jenn Lofgren
“Words greatly influence our thinking and leaders must take great care in the words they use. They aren’t just words, they create emotions in response.”

Leaders, Stop Avoiding Hard Decisions, Harvard Business Review
“Whatever temporary pain you might incur from making a tough call should pale in comparison to the precedent you set that it’s important to put the organization’s success first.”

7 Powerful Habits That Make You More Assertive, Lolly Daskal
“If you learn to be assertive, you can express yourself without being passive or aggressive, and you will have a better chance of getting what you want.”

Readings to challenge the commanding leader

The Four Perils of Decisive Leadership, Terina Allen
“Too often organizations and executive boards say they want their top executives to be decisive leaders, and then they spend all kinds of time and money cleaning up the messes that these leaders make when they neglect to take the time or demonstrate the competence necessary to make the best decisions instead of just the fastest ones.”


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


by Kristeen Bullwinkle and the team


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