The Strengths and Challenges of an “S” Personality in DiSC: Supportive, Steady...Submissive?

So you’ve taken the DISC assessment and have learned that your primary style is “S” (for Supportive).  How do you feel about that? Do you have mixed feelings? I know I did when I first took the DISC assessment.  S is sometimes seen as “Steady” and a whole bunch of “S” adjectives -- “Sweet”, “Shy”, “Sincere” … even “Submissive”.  At the time, I was in a leadership position and was concerned about what that said about me, what I was capable of, and whether it limited my options for my future.

Of course, as people often do, I wasn’t looking at the assessment or my results in the way that they were intended.  Assessments aren’t meant to define or limit you. They’re intended to give you a different perspective on the qualities and behaviors you exhibit.  Nothing is ever good or bad. It’s the perceptions that we apply to things that make them seem one or the other. It’s our responsibility to really understand our results and actively apply what we learn to put ourselves in the best scenarios and environments so that we can thrive.  So, let’s dive into some of the strengths and challenges for the “S” profile.

Strength: S’s are stabilizing forces

If you want to get something done with a minimal amount of hoopla and disruption, call a Supportive.  S’s pride themselves on stability, collaboration and accomplishing the tasks at hand. Ultimately, they want to deliver results, and they want to do it in a way that brings others together.  

This focused approach tends to put others at ease and helps foster a cooperative culture and productive environment.  It even inspires others to push forward the way that S’s do. Others tend to see S’s as dependable and trustworthy.

Strength: S’s are collaborative and diplomatic

They deeply dislike and, if possible, avoid unpredictable and volatile situations.  They perceive combative approaches as aggressive and unnecessary. Instead, they’re motivated by cooperation, stability and sincere appreciation for others. S types are undoubtedly people-oriented and oftentimes can read people and how they’re feeling in situations.  They tend to be warm and patient, so they have a calming and approachable nature about them.  

Since they value others and their contributions, S’s are often talented at making others feel seen and appreciated.  If ever there’s tension or conflict in a situation, a Supportive seeks to find harmony, points of agreement and an effective path forward.  So, they’re also going to try to forge a path where people feel safe, heard, and included. If ever you want to bring people or groups together, an S will earn the buy-in of others to help achieve unity.

Strength: S’s are the most desired partners and team-players

If you were to look at data on various DiSC pairings and teams, the S-profile is the most effective when paired with every other type.  They’re the ones that others tend to want to work with because they’re easy to get along with, they complement the qualities of others, they work long and hard, and they deliver results.  Leaning into your strengths as an S means you will always have opportunities available to you. 

Not everyone has the same sense of responsibility that you do, and that means you can be trusted to do things that others may not be able to do. Though you may usually approach things in a cooperative and supportive way, do not underestimate the power of your style.  Be sure to value your talents and contributions. Even if it’s not reflected in your title, at your best, you are a leader by example and inspire others.

Challenge: S’s can easily be taken for granted

One thing to keep in mind with S’s is their deep need for appreciation.  They’re willing to work harder than anyone else, they make the best out of any situation, and they make it look easy to do.  Unfortunately, there are others who take these qualities for granted. As a Supportive, you’ll find it incredibly disheartening when others fail to acknowledge your efforts and contributions. You’re not expecting a grandiose gesture or gift -- just a sincere, heartfelt appreciation every now and then. 

Friends, partners and coworkers of Supportives take note: make them feel seen! 

Sincere expressions of appreciation will fuel a Supportive to keep being helpful and caring towards others.  

As an S, ensure that you’re working with people who appreciate you and your contributions.  You’ve got good instincts and social skills, so hold out to work with people who are going to treat you right.

Challenge: S’s are overly willing to give and often put their own needs last

Fearing (and even avoiding) conflict makes it tough to set boundaries sometimes.  And if there are deadlines looming and people depending on you, it can be easy to sacrifice yourself to make sure you deliver and keep things steady and smooth.  But you’re human, and you need to be sure to take care of yourself.  

Over time, neglecting yourself will take its toll on you.  It will incrementally add up. At first, it can show up in small ways, like stress or irritability.  But it’ll increase until it gets your full attention. At worse, it can negatively impact your health.  As an S, you need to learn this lesson sooner than later.  

Get clear on what you need and ask for it.  Your kind demeanor makes it hard for others to read you (and they can’t read your mind).  They don’t have your ability to sense what others are feeling, so they’re not going to magically offer what you need.  It’s better to be diplomatic and direct in voicing your needs and limits sooner, instead of neglecting and seriously hurting yourself in the long run.

Challenge: S’s need to be in the right environment to thrive and shine

Supportives often (wrongly) assume that they’re best in supportive roles and are incapable of leadership or management levels.  Depending on local or organizational culture, people may expect leaders to be more outgoing, direct and unapologetically bold. As a result, people sometimes limit their own potential because they feel like they don’t fit a role or what a role should be. 

Yet, there are all types of leaders and leadership styles.  As an S, I’ve held leadership roles throughout my life – even starting in grade school.  I do acknowledge that I felt more confident, comfortable, and successful in some roles over others.  Looking back, I realized that it was a combination of the environment, the people I worked with, and the type of work that I was doing that most impacted my comfort and ultimately, my effectiveness.  

As an S, you don’t always adapt or follow other people’s lead.  Just be sure that what you’re choosing to do is something that you’re passionate about and truly fulfills you.  You’ll feel energized and clear on your path forward. And yes, you can be a highly effective leader in a collaborative and steady way.

Summary

Those with S-style as their primary DISC type tend to be easy-going, people-oriented, dependable, and make the best out of situations.  As a result, they’re highly sought after for collaborative projects. Their steady demeanor helps keep projects moving forward even when faced with challenges.  However, this same stability can easily be expected and taken for granted.

If you’re an S, know that your talents are highly desirable.  Others want collaborative, patient, and dependable colleagues and team players.  But for your own success, set yourself up in environments that are going to fuel and energize you:

  1. Because you’re motivated by cooperation, choose roles that allow you to collaborate with others.  Though you likely enjoy some introverted time, you won’t enjoy roles where you’re isolated or work alone.
  2. Choose environments that offer you some level of predictability and stability.  Because volatility causes you distress, high pressure, competitive, or combative environments may be alright for a while but the constant tension will drain you over time.
  3. Work with people who understand and appreciate you and your contributions.  Unlike other types, you need sincere appreciation to stay motivated, energized, and healthy.
  4. Consider roles where the goal is to unite others.  Your diplomatic and trustworthy nature will help you earn others’ respect and willingness to cooperate.
Elvira Marie Chang

Elvira is a trainer and coach who leads live workshops, creates online courses, and coaches individuals. She helps people connect with who they are, leverage their innate talents, and value their unique perspectives in order to transform their own lives from a clear and confident position. Originally from Miami, Elvira now lives in Boston, MA. Visit her at elviramariechang.com.

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