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Humble leaders: DiSC SC or CS style leadership

We describe humble leaders as more than being soft-spoken, fair-minded, and appreciative of others’ strengths.
4 min read

The humble dimension of leadership

Humility in leadership, or servant leadership, has been a popular topic in the past few years. Headlines like “Humility: The Key Leadership Attribute Behind A Healthy Workplace Culture” and “How humble leadership fosters employee innovation behavior” have been appearing in respected magazines and research reports. What do we mean by humble leadership?

We describe humble leaders as more than being soft-spoken, fair-minded, and appreciative of others’ strengths. We also see these leaders as precise, methodical, and consistent. They model follow-through and diligence. They are better able to maintain their composure and keep their personal egos in check than leaders strong in the other dimensions. Their leadership reflects their SC or CS DiSC® style.

The x-factor of great leadership is not personality, it’s humility.
Jim Collins, American researcher, author, speaker, and consultant

Who is a humble leader?

Leaders tend to use one of eight dimensions of leadership primarily. Humble leadership is one of these eight and reflects SC or CS styles on the DiSC scale.

Humble leaders tend to be a bit on the cautious side, self-controlled, and soft-spoken. They are fair-minded, practical, and often able to discern what systems and structures would meet other people’s needs.

If you’re a humble leader, you might be motivated by a desire to be reliable and to avoid trouble. These two traits might make you prone to inaction since you don’t want to make mistakes that will affect others. You have a low level of self-serving ambition and the ability to keep things in perspective.

Strengths of the humble leader:

  • They’re often able to head off potential problems with careful planning.
  • They provide others with the tools necessary to do their work.
  • They’re able to create a stable environment.
  • They maintain their composure, even under stress.
  • They’re conscientious about reaching closure on projects and initiatives.
  • They model a steady work ethic.
  • They expect themselves and others to deliver accurate outcomes.

Goals: Stability, reliable outcomes, calm environment

Would increase effectiveness through: Being decisive, showing urgency, initiating change, speaking up

Source: The 8 Dimensions of Leadership

Humble leadership

What can we learn from humble leaders?

People need leaders to stay calm under fire

The last thing you need to see during challenging times is your leader freaking out. It’s hard to have faith in someone who is letting their emotions control them. Humble leaders know how to keep things in perspective—to take time to breathe and make thoughtful decisions. They can take a step back from a problem to look at the bigger picture, to look back and around for a better perspective, and to see things from another’s viewpoint. They give themselves the space to make better decisions based on more than an emotional reaction.

Some leaders filter their feelings through a trusted colleague, by getting fresh air or exercise, through meditation, or by journaling. They acknowledge their fears and check them against reality. They recruit help when and where appropriate. They are uncomfortable with conflict so they may have difficulty showing strength when their decisions are unpopular.

Whoever is providing leadership needs to be as fresh and thoughtful and reflective as possible to make the very best fight.
Faye Wattleton, president of the Center for the Advancement of Women

You need other people more than you think

Is your communication only one-directional? Humble leaders know that they must listen to those around them, even those in much lower-level positions. Great leaders take the time to elicit communication from others. They empower others by showing that they and their opinions are valued. Plus, they learn valuable information that wouldn’t surface otherwise. They aren’t the last to know that trouble is brewing somewhere in the organization.

Leadership is being bold enough to have vision and humble enough to recognize achieving it will take the efforts of many.
Kathy Heasley, founder and president, Heasley & Partners

Other people have needs that differ from your own

One of the major lessons from DiSC is that the golden rule doesn’t always work because we aren’t all wired the same. What motivates me, my fears, and my priorities are likely not the same as yours. Humble leaders don’t try to drag their followers along on their ride. They know that to get the best from their people they need to pay attention to everyone’s needs. They check on the emotional pulse of the people they lead. They concern themselves with employee engagement levels.

When using the humble dimension of leadership, leaders strive to appreciate different styles and perspectives. They work hard to balance the needs of the people under them. They plan their communications to cover the concerns of others. They know that when people seem to be agreeing, they might still have reservations that need to be addressed.

Leadership is a process that emerges from a relationship between leaders and followers who are bound together by their understanding that they are members of the same social group.
Kim Peters and Alex Haslam in Research: To Be a Good Leader, Start By Being a Good Follower

The pitfalls of humble-only leadership

The desire to be seen as reliable and have everything “just so” can hinder a leader in times of rapid change or during a major disruption that needs immediate attention. The humble leader has to expend extra effort to take risks; it’s more natural for them to try to avoid trouble. They sometimes respect rules and traditions so much that they expand them to cover areas that weren’t initially intended. Humble leaders need to learn how to stretch their boundaries and be more adventurous in looking for new opportunities.

While gaining input from others and focusing on the needs of the team are important, it’s also important for a leader to show passion and confidence. Humble leaders tend toward emotional restraint and can have a hard time rallying people through their own energy and enthusiasm. Their low need for ego gratification and a desire to be inconspicuous can hide their leadership skills from those looking for more charisma and self-promotion.


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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