In today’s business environment, it is essential for all business managers to be able to speak the same language and collaborate across functional lines. Security management is a niche field that is tasked with safeguarding an organization from risk. In most cases many organizational leaders do not have direct experience in security or risk, and hire those with experience to provide the skills necessary to provide insight to affect business outcomes mitigating risk throughout the organization. Security leaders are more often acting as an internal consultant to deliver service. In order for their efforts to be accepted, it is important to establish trust, and show the value of the security program throughout an organization. To establish relationships, an internal consultant must develop trust with individual business leaders. A great tool in understanding how to develop relationships is to be aware of social styles.

Social styles are ways in which individuals interact interpersonally with others. Merrill and Reid (in their book Personal Styles & Effective Performance) suggest that assessing one’s assertiveness and responsiveness will yield one of four social styles (Find assessment here: These social styles are analytical, driver, amiable, and expressive. Accurate self-assessment allows a person to understand their tendencies, but more importantly understanding this assessment tool allows a consultant to quickly assess others’ styles so they can develop relationships by increasing trust.

Each social style is different, and individuals who identify with each have unique sets of strengths and challenge.

1.   “Analytical” is low responsive and low assertive. They tend to be serious, need a lot of data before making a decision, and can be seen as indecisive to others. To interact with an analytical, a consultant should listen, provide data and context, and be patient. An analytical’s basic need is to be correct. The easiest way to spoil a relationship with an analytical is to require them answer a question that they do not have the data to answer. In times of stress, an analytical will engage their back-up style: avoiding.

2.   A “driver” is low responsive and high assertive. Drivers are task-oriented, need defined goals, are risk takers and efficient. When interacting with a driver, be assertive, have a solution, and listen. A driver’s primary need is to be in control. A driver’s back-up style is autocratic.

3.   “Amiable” is high responsive and low assertive. They tend to be loyal, personable, risk adverse and dislike pressure. It is important to reassure, support and confirm commitment with an amiable. Their primary need is security. An amiable’s back-up style is acquiescing.

4.   “Expressive” is the fourth social style. Expressives are people-oriented, the center of attention, emotional and dramatic. An easy way to spot an expressive is by exaggerated body language. To interact with an expressive, it is important to allow them to gain composure and ask questions. Their primary need is to be recognized. An expressive’s back-up style is attacking.

The advantage to understanding social styles is that they can be determined by observable behaviors, allowing those who understand social styles an advantage in interacting with and developing work relationships with others more easily. The key is to develop trust so that an internal consultant can implement change, gain information and influence.

Why are social styles important when developing trust? In most cases risk and security topics are not familiar to business leaders. Security leaders within an organization must teach security or risk topics throughout the enterprise. Taking the time to understand how non-security leaders operate makes it easier to develop relationships thus developing trust. With any new topic in business, a certain level of uncertainty surrounds the topic, but taking the time to develop trust can mitigate many obstacles. Knowing social styles can aid to expedite this process by providing information in the way that the intended audience is comfortable with, and giving them the impression that the consultant is genuine.

Once a consultant is aware of their own social style, and the social style of others that they are interacting with, they will have a better idea of which way to flex. Flexing is the ability to diagnose others social styles and flex to provide them the information they need in the way they need it. It is important to value the way others interact so that consultants can develop trust and ultimately influence others.