History of the Four Behavioral Styles

behavioral styles

Any history buffs out there? Any curious minds about the early origins of behavioral style models?  In this week’s story, Dr. Tony Alessandra gives us an introduction to the history of the four behavioral styles. Dr. Tony shines a light on the discussion and development of these styles through the centuries – from Hippocrates through Jung – we learn both the differences and the common threads of profiling people. Leading us up to the modern 4-style model – in particular, the popular DISC model. Dr. Tony also offers brief descriptions of each of the four styles: Dominance, Influencing, Steady, and Conscientious. Take a peek to get a better understanding of the history behind behavioral styles!

History of the Four Behavioral Styles
by Dr. Tony Alessandra

F or some, the “4 styles” model of human behavior is a new concept. However, you have probably run across this concept on more than one occasion. “Behavioral styles,” “personality types,” “temperament types,” etcetera are not new.

People have been fascinated with studying behavioral styles for thousands of years. Starting with the early astrologers, theorists have sought to identify these behavioral styles. In ancient Greece in 400 BC, for example, the physician Hippocrates outlined four temperaments: Sanguine, Phlegmatic, Melancholic, and Choleric. In 1921, famed psychologist Carl Jung (the first to study personal styles scientifically) labeled people as Intuitors, Thinkers, Feelers, and Sensors. Since then, psychologists have produced dozens of models of behavioral differences, some with sixteen or more possible behavioral blends. Some teachers have drawn metaphors (as teaching aids) to birds, animals, or even colors. This four-style model has enabled superbly skilled communicators to respect the dignity of others and adapt successfully to them and their needs for win-win outcomes for centuries. The most popular behavioral model of this kind, DISC, uses the four style terms: Dominance (High ‘D’ Style), Influence (High ‘I’ Style) Steadiness (High ‘S’ Style), and Conscientious (High ‘C’ Style). However, in the broadest sense, DISC embraces all methods of treating others the way they wish to be treated!

Note: DISC is based upon observable behaviors, NOT “personalities” or “temperaments.” This distinction is critical because human beings may change their behavior in the middle of a conversation. When you learn to adapt to the behavior that you are witnessing, you will stay in rapport with that person. People’s personalities are deeply ingrained and slow to change, but behaviors can change in the blink of an eye. The way a person is acting at each moment in time will dictate how you should be selling to them.

Dominance Styles

Dominance behavioral styles are driven by two governing needs: to control and achieve. Dominance Styles are goal-oriented go-getters who are most comfortable when they are in charge of people and situations. They want to accomplish many things-now-so they focus on no-nonsense approaches to bottom-line results.

Dominance Styles seek expedience and are not afraid to bend the rules. They figure it is easier to beg forgiveness than to ask permission. Dominance Styles accept challenges, take authority, and plunge head first into solving problems. They are fast-paced, task-oriented, and work quickly and impressively by themselves, which means they become annoyed with delays. They are driven and dominating, which can make them stubborn, impatient, and insensitive to others. Dominance Styles are so focused that they forget to take the time to smell the roses.

Influencing Styles



Influencing behavioral styles are friendly, enthusiastic “party-animals” who like to be where the action is. They thrive on the admiration, acknowledgment, and compliments that come with being in the limelight. Their primary strengths are enthusiasm, charm, persuasiveness, and warmth. They are idea-people and dreamers who excel at getting others excited about their vision. They are eternal optimists with an abundance of charisma. These qualities help them influence people and build alliances to accomplish their goals.

Influencing Styles do have their weaknesses: impatience, an aversion to being alone, and a short attention span. Interactive Styles are risk-takers who base many of their decisions on intuition, which is not inherently bad. Interactive Styles are not inclined to verify information; they are more likely to assume someone else will do it.

Steady Styles

Steadiness behavioral styles are warm and nurturing individuals. They are the most people-oriented of the four styles. Steadiness Styles are excellent listeners, devoted friends, and loyal employees. Their relaxed disposition makes them approachable and warm. They develop strong networks of people who are willing to be mutually supportive and reliable. Steadiness Styles are excellent team players.

Steadiness Styles are risk-averse. In fact, Steadiness Styles may tolerate unpleasant environments rather than risk change. They like the status quo and become distressed when disruptions are severe. When faced with change, they think it through, plan, and accept it into their world. Steadiness Styles-more than the other types-strive to maintain personal composure, stability, and balance.

In the office, Steadiness Styles are courteous, friendly, and willing to share responsibilities. They are good planners, persistent workers, and good with follow-through. They go along with others even when they do not agree because they do not want to rock the boat. They are slower decision-makers because of their need for security; their need to avoid risk; and their desire to include others in the decision-making process.

Conscientious Styles

Conscientious behavioral styles are analytical, persistent, systematic people who enjoy problem solving. Conscientious Styles are detail-oriented, which makes them more concerned with content than style. Conscientious Styles are task-oriented people who enjoy perfecting processes and working toward tangible results. They are always in control of their emotions and may become uncomfortable around people who are very outgoing, e.g., Interactive Styles.

Conscientious Styles have high expectations of themselves and others, which can make them over-critical. Their tendency toward perfectionism-taken to an extreme-can cause “paralysis by over-analysis.” Conscientious Styles are slow and deliberate decision-makers. They do research, make comparisons, determine risks, calculate margins of error, and then take action. Conscientious Styles become irritated by surprises and glitches, hence their cautious decision-making. Conscientious Styles are also skeptical, so they like to see promises in writing.


four behavioral styles
Dr. Tony Alessandra, Assessments 24×7 CVO/Founder

Dr. Tony Alessandra has a street-wise, college-smart perspective on business, having been raised in the housing projects of NYC to eventually realizing success as a graduate professor of marketing, internet entrepreneur, business author, and hall-of-fame keynote speaker. He earned a BBA from Notre Dame, a MBA from the Univ. of Connecticut and his PhD in marketing from Georgia State University (1976).Known as “Dr. Tony” he’s authored 30+ books and 100+ audio/video programs. He was inducted into the NSA Speakers Hall of Fame (1985) and Top Sales World’s Hall of Fame (2010). Meetings & Conventions Magazine has called him “one of America’s most electrifying speakers”.

Dr. Tony is also the Founder/CVO of Assessments 24×7. Assessments 24×7 is a global leader of online DISC assessments, delivered from easy-to-use online accounts popular with business coaches and Fortune 500 trainers around the world. Interested in learning more about these customized assessment accounts? Please contact us.

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