What Is The Social Style Model? The Social Style Model In A Nutshell

Social style as a concept is based on the work of industrial psychologists David Merrill and Roger Reid in the early 1960s. Merrill and Reid wanted to determine whether they could predict managerial, sales, and leadership performance based on how people behaved in social situations. The social style model is a means of categorizing people based on their personality traits and interactions with others in the workplace.

ElementDescriptionAnalysisImplicationsBenefitsChallengesUse CasesExamples
Social StylesThe model categorizes individuals into four social styles based on their assertiveness and responsiveness: Driver, Analytical, Amiable, and Expressive.Understanding an individual’s social style can help in communication and interaction strategies.Effective communication and collaboration are more likely when you adapt your style to match or complement others.Improved interpersonal relationships.Oversimplification of complex human behavior.Team dynamics, leadership development.Adapting communication style in a cross-functional team.
Behavioral CharacteristicsEach social style is associated with specific behavioral traits and preferences, such as communication style, decision-making approach, and conflict resolution style.Identifying these characteristics aids in predicting and understanding how individuals may react in various situations.Anticipating and addressing potential conflicts and misunderstandings based on each style’s tendencies.Enhanced teamwork and reduced conflicts.Risk of stereotyping individuals based on style.Conflict resolution, team building.Resolving conflicts between a Driver and an Amiable team member.
Communication StrategiesThe model suggests tailored communication strategies for each social style, such as being direct and concise with Drivers or providing a supportive environment for Amiable individuals.Adapting communication to the social style can lead to more effective interactions and reduced miscommunication.Improved understanding and rapport with others, leading to smoother collaboration and cooperation.Clearer communication and reduced misunderstandings.Requires awareness and practice to apply effectively.Sales, negotiation, team meetings.Salesperson adapting their pitch to the social style of a client.
Leadership StylesThe model proposes that effective leaders should be able to flex their leadership style to match or complement the social styles of their team members.Leadership flexibility can lead to better team dynamics, motivation, and productivity.Leaders who adapt their style to their team’s social styles are more likely to achieve desired outcomes and engagement.Improved team performance and morale.Leadership challenges when dealing with diverse teams.Leadership development, team leadership.A manager adjusting their leadership approach for a diverse team.
Conflict ResolutionUnderstanding the social styles of conflicting parties can aid in selecting appropriate conflict resolution strategies, such as compromise or collaboration.Tailored conflict resolution strategies can lead to quicker and more satisfactory resolutions.More effective conflict resolution, reduced escalation, and increased cooperation after conflicts.Enhanced workplace harmony and problem-solving.Limited effectiveness if parties are unwilling to adapt.Mediation, dispute resolution.HR manager facilitating a resolution between two team members.

Understanding the social style model

Through the research, the pair discovered that the behavior of an individual could be measured along two continua:


Or the degree to which an individual prefers to ask questions over making statements.

High assertiveness is associated with making demands, while low assertiveness is associated with making requests.


Referring to the way people express emotions.

Responsiveness is positively correlated with emotional expressiveness and empathy.

The social style model itself was later developed by TRACOM Group, a leader in corporate soft skill training programs and social intelligence.

True to its origins, the model maintains a focus on the outer behavior of the individual and not on their internal thoughts or processes.

Understanding the social style model means managers can treat each of their subordinates as individuals, maximizing their unique strengths while minimizing their weaknesses.

Social styles also provide clarity on the particular way an employee prefers to work.

This reduces workplace dissatisfaction and conflict and increases team cohesion.

The four social styles of the social style model

Plotting the two dimensions of assertiveness and responsiveness on a grid yields four different social styles:

Driver (high assertiveness/low responsiveness)

Divers are less worried about how others react to them and more worried about getting results, which means they can be more independent and candid.

Their pragmatic nature means they tend to be poor collaborators and can upset others with their words or actions.

Expressive (high assertiveness/high responsiveness)

These individuals are articulate, intuitive, creative, enthusiastic, extroverted, and visionary.

They have highly developed persuasive skills and can motivate others.

However, their high assertiveness means they are poor listeners and easily become distracted and impatient.

They also fear being rejected or ignored by others.

Amiable (low assertiveness/high responsiveness)

People with an amiable social style are comfortable sharing their feelings with others and are generally more agreeable.

Without an innate need to lead, they are steady and reliable workers.

However, this passiveness can lead to conflict avoidance, carelessness, low motivation, and a fear of change.

Analytical (low assertiveness/low responsiveness)

These individuals are described by others are quiet, logical, reserved, and cautious.

To a greater degree than the other styles, analytical people keep their emotions in check and communicate only when they feel the need to do so.

They are task-oriented and prefer to work by themselves, with their prudent and systematic nature ideally suited to complex analytical work.

Under stress, however, analytical individuals can withdraw, become overly critical, or hesitate in making important decisions.

Case Studies

Driver (high assertiveness/low responsiveness):

  • Entrepreneur: An entrepreneur who is highly assertive in making business decisions and setting ambitious goals but may not be very emotionally expressive when dealing with setbacks.
  • Military Commander: A military leader who gives clear orders and expects strict adherence to them but may not always show empathy towards subordinates.

Expressive (high assertiveness/high responsiveness):

  • Motivational Speaker: A speaker who is charismatic, enthusiastic, and persuasive, often inspiring others with their vision and energy. However, they may not always listen effectively to audience feedback.
  • Marketing Director: A marketing director who is creative and passionate about their campaigns, but may have difficulty paying attention to the details of data analysis.
  • Life Coach: A coach who is highly responsive to clients’ emotional needs and provides emotional support and encouragement, but may struggle with setting firm boundaries.

Amiable (low assertiveness/high responsiveness):

  • Customer Service Representative: A representative who is friendly, patient, and empathetic when dealing with customer inquiries but may avoid addressing conflicts directly.
  • School Counselor: A school counselor who is approachable and supportive, providing a safe space for students to express their feelings and concerns. However, they may hesitate to implement strict disciplinary actions when needed.
  • Nurse: A nurse who is caring and attentive to patients’ emotional well-being, offering comfort and empathy, but may find it challenging to assertively advocate for changes in patient care protocols.

Analytical (low assertiveness/low responsiveness):

  • Research Scientist: A scientist who is methodical, logical, and precise in their research but may not readily share their findings or emotions with colleagues.
  • Financial Analyst: An analyst who is meticulous and detail-oriented when analyzing financial data but may have difficulty communicating their insights effectively in team meetings.
  • Librarian: A librarian who is quiet, focused on organizing information, and prefers working independently but may appear reserved and less emotionally expressive in social interactions.

Key takeaways:

  • The social style model is a means of categorizing people based on their personality traits and interactions with others in the workplace. The model is based on the work of psychologists David Merrill and Roger Reid in the early 1960s.
  • The social style model suggests the outward behavior of individuals in a social workplace setting falls along two continua. The first is assertiveness, or the extent to which an individual asks questions or makes demands. The second is assertiveness, which is positively correlated with emotional responsiveness and empathy.
  • The social style model represents assertiveness and responsiveness on a grid with four quadrants: driver, expressive, amiable, and analytical. Each quadrant represents a predominant social style that can be used in employee management.

Key Highlights:

  • Introduction to Social Style: The concept of social style emerged from the work of industrial psychologists David Merrill and Roger Reid in the early 1960s. Their goal was to predict performance in managerial, sales, and leadership roles based on individuals’ behavior in social situations. The social style model categorizes people based on personality traits and interactions within the workplace.
  • Dimensions of Social Style: Merrill and Reid’s research identified two key dimensions along which individuals’ behavior can be measured:
    • Assertiveness: The inclination to ask questions versus making statements. High assertiveness involves making demands, while low assertiveness involves making requests.
    • Responsiveness: The expression of emotions. High responsiveness correlates with emotional expressiveness and empathy.
  • Development of the Social Style Model: The social style model was further developed by the TRACOM Group, a leader in soft skills training and social intelligence programs. This model focuses on individuals’ outward behavior, emphasizing their interactions with others rather than their internal thoughts.
  • Benefits of Understanding Social Style: Understanding social style enables managers to treat employees as individuals, leveraging their strengths while minimizing weaknesses. It also enhances clarity about employees’ preferred working methods, leading to reduced conflict and increased team cohesion.
  • Four Social Styles in the Model:
    • Driver (high assertiveness/low responsiveness): Independent and results-oriented, but may lack collaboration skills.
    • Expressive (high assertiveness/high responsiveness): Creative and enthusiastic communicators, but may struggle with active listening and impatience.
    • Amiable (low assertiveness/high responsiveness): Agreeable and steady workers, but may avoid conflict, show carelessness, and fear change.
    • Analytical (low assertiveness/low responsiveness): Logical and reserved, suited for complex analytical tasks, but may withdraw under stress or become overly critical.

Other Business Matrices

Skill Will Matrix

The skill will matrix was created by behavioral scientist Paul Hersey and business consultant Ken Blanchard in the 1970s. The skill will matrix is a tool used to assess the skill level and willingness of an individual to perform a specific task based on four key profiles: Guide (high will/low skill), Delegate (high will/high skill), Direct (low will/low skill), Excite (low will/high skill).

SFA Matrix

The SFA matrix is a framework that helps businesses evaluate strategic options. Gerry Johnson and Kevan Scholes created the SFA matrix to help businesses evaluate their strategic options before committing. Evaluation of strategic opportunities is performed by considering three criteria that make up the SFA acronym: suitability, feasibility, and acceptability.

Hoshin Kanri X-Matrix

The Hoshin Kanri X-Matrix is a strategy deployment tool that helps businesses achieve goals over the short and long term. Hoshin Kanri is a method that seeks to bridge the gap between strategy and execution. Strategic objectives are clearly defined and the goals of every level of the organization are aligned. With everyone moving in the same direction, process coordination and decision-making ability are strengthened.

Kepner-Tregoe Matrix

The Kepner-Tregoe matrix was created by management consultants Charles H. Kepner and Benjamin B. Tregoe in the 1960s, developed to help businesses navigate the decisions they make daily, the Kepner-Tregoe matrix is a root cause analysis used in organizational decision making.

Eisenhower Matrix

The Eisenhower Matrix is a tool that helps businesses prioritize tasks based on their urgency and importance, named after Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the United States from 1953 to 1961, the matrix helps businesses and individuals differentiate between the urgent and important to prevent urgent things (seemingly useful in the short-term) cannibalize important things (critical for long-term success).

Decision Matrix

A decision matrix is a decision-making tool that evaluates and prioritizes a list of options. Decision matrices are useful when: A list of options must be trimmed to a single choice. A decision must be made based on several criteria. A list of criteria has been made manageable through the process of elimination.

Action Priority Matrix

An action priority matrix is a productivity tool that helps businesses prioritize certain tasks and objectives over others. The matrix itself is represented by four quadrants on a typical cartesian graph. These quadrants are plotted against the effort required to complete a task (x-axis) and the impact (benefit) that each task brings once completed (y-axis). This matrix helps assess what projects need to be undertaken and the potential impact for each.

TOWS Matrix

The TOWS Matrix is an acronym for Threats, Opportunities, Weaknesses, and Strengths. The matrix is a variation on the SWOT Analysis, and it seeks to address criticisms of the SWOT Analysis regarding its inability to show relationships between the various categories.

GE McKinsey Matrix

The GE McKinsey Matrix was developed in the 1970s after General Electric asked its consultant McKinsey to develop a portfolio management model. This matrix is a strategy tool that provides guidance on how a corporation should prioritize its investments among its business units, leading to three possible scenarios: invest, protect, harvest, and divest.

BCG Matrix

In the 1970s, Bruce D. Henderson, founder of the Boston Consulting Group, came up with The Product Portfolio (aka BCG Matrix, or Growth-share Matrix), which would look at a successful business product portfolio based on potential growth and market shares. It divided products into four main categories: cash cows, pets (dogs), question marks, and stars.

Growth Matrix

In the FourWeekMBA growth matrix, you can apply growth for existing customers by tackling the same problems (gain mode). Or by tackling existing problems, for new customers (expand mode). Or by tackling new problems for existing customers (extend mode). Or perhaps by tackling whole new problems for new customers (reinvent mode).

Ansoff Matrix

You can use the Ansoff Matrix as a strategic framework to understand what growth strategy is more suited based on the market context. Developed by mathematician and business manager Igor Ansoff, it assumes a growth strategy can be derived by whether the market is new or existing, and the product is new or existing.

Additional Related Concepts

Agile Leadership

Agile leadership is the embodiment of agile manifesto principles by a manager or management team. Agile leadership impacts two important levels of a business. The structural level defines the roles, responsibilities, and key performance indicators. The behavioral level describes the actions leaders exhibit to others based on agile principles. 

Adaptive Leadership

Adaptive leadership is a model used by leaders to help individuals adapt to complex or rapidly changing environments. Adaptive leadership is defined by three core components (precious or expendable, experimentation and smart risks, disciplined assessment). Growth occurs when an organization discards ineffective ways of operating. Then, active leaders implement new initiatives and monitor their impact.

Delegative Leadership

Developed by business consultants Kenneth Blanchard and Paul Hersey in the 1960s, delegative leadership is a leadership style where authority figures empower subordinates to exercise autonomy. For this reason, it is also called laissez-faire leadership. In some cases, this type of leadership can lead to increases in work quality and decision-making. In a few other cases, this type of leadership needs to be balanced out to prevent a lack of direction and cohesiveness of the team.

Distributed Leadership

Distributed leadership is based on the premise that leadership responsibilities and accountability are shared by those with the relevant skills or expertise so that the shared responsibility and accountability of multiple individuals within a workplace, bulds up as a fluid and emergent property (not controlled or held by one individual). Distributed leadership is based on eight hallmarks, or principles: shared responsibility, shared power, synergy, leadership capacity, organizational learning, equitable and ethical climate, democratic and investigative culture, and macro-community engagement.


Micromanagement is about tightly controlling or observing employees’ work. Although in some cases, this management style might be understood, especially for small-scale projects, generally speaking, micromanagement has a negative connotation mainly because it shows a lack of trust and freedom in the workplace, which leads to adverse outcomes.

RASCI Matrix

A RASCI matrix is used to assign and then display the various roles and responsibilities in a project, service, or process. It is sometimes called a RASCI Responsibility Matrix. The RASCI matrix is essentially a project management tool that provides important clarification for organizations involved in complex projects.

Organizational Structure

An organizational structure allows companies to shape their business model according to several criteria (like products, segments, geography and so on) that would enable information to flow through the organizational layers for better decision-making, cultural development, and goals alignment across employees, managers, and executives. 

Tactical Management

Tactical management involves choosing an appropriate course of action to achieve a strategic plan or objective. Therefore, tactical management comprises the set of daily operations that support long strategy delivery. It may involve risk management, regular meetings, conflict resolution, and problem-solving.

High-Performance Management

High-performance management involves the implementation of HR practices that are internally consistent and aligned with organizational strategy. Importantly, high-performance management is a continual process where several different but integrated activities create a performance management cycle. It is not a process that should be performed once a year and then hidden in a filing cabinet.

Scientific Management

Scientific Management Theory was created by Frederick Winslow Taylor in 1911 as a means of encouraging industrial companies to switch to mass production. With a background in mechanical engineering, he applied engineering principles to workplace productivity on the factory floor. Scientific Management Theory seeks to find the most efficient way of performing a job in the workplace.

Change Management


TQM Framework

The Total Quality Management (TQM) framework is a technique based on the premise that employees continuously work on their ability to provide value to customers. Importantly, the word “total” means that all employees are involved in the process – regardless of whether they work in development, production, or fulfillment.

Agile Project Management

Agile Management
Agile Project Management (AgilePM) seeks to bring order to chaotic corporate environments using several tools, techniques, and elements of the project lifecycle. Fundamentally, agile project management aims to deliver maximum value according to specific business priorities in the time and budget allocated. AgilePM is particularly useful in situations where the drive to deliver is greater than the perceived risk.

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