What Wonder Woman and Workplace Assessment Have in Common

Wonder Woman had a complex personality. So might you — and that perspective can help you as an independent school leader.

Apr 5, 2022  |  By Jeffrey Shields, NBOA

Jeffrey Shields, FASAE, CAE
NBOA President and CEO

Those of you who know me may know that I have a lifelong interest in DC Comics. This largely stems from many Saturday mornings watching Hanna-Barbera’s “Super Friends” while growing up. And those of you who have seen me present at NBOA’s Business Officer Institute, a week-long seminar for professionals new or newer to the business office, know that I have an abiding interest in the DiSC workplace assessment tool and that I present on it every year at that event. We’ve also used DiSC internally with the NBOA staff to better understand and improve workplace dynamics. I was therefore surprised when I discovered, thanks to NBOA’s manager of editorial content, Tara Kosowski, that the same person who created DiSC also created DC Comic’s Wonder Woman. It seemed too good to be true. Was this another example of internet misinformation?

Though Women’s History Month is just now behind us, it’s not too late to take a closer look at Wonder Woman, one of the most influential and recognizable superheroes in comics

In fact, no. And though Women’s History Month is just now behind us, it’s not too late to take a closer look at Wonder Woman, one of the most influential and recognizable superheroes in comics. Far from the damsel in distress archetype, Wonder Woman was created as a model of feminist strength in 1941 by Dr. William Moulton Marston and his wife Elizabeth Holloway Marston.

Marston was a physiological psychologist who created the DiSC behavior assessment tool for the study of personality nearly 20 years before the first published issue of “Wonder Woman.” He first wrote about the DiSC model in his 1928 book, “Emotions of Normal People,” in which he described people’s attention as either passive or active and their perception of their environment as either favorable or antagonistic. This became the foundation of today’s DiSC model, which today is used by organizations all over the world to help employees identify how they act and interact in the workplace, and leverage their perspective. Today’s version breaks down the following four essential personality types:

  • Dominance: You shape the environment by overcoming opposition to accomplish results. This personality trait predominates in tenacious and self-confident people who focus on achieving their goals.
  • Influence: You shape the environment by influencing or persuading others. This personality trait tends to be found in extroverted and enthusiastic people. In the workplace, influencers can be relied on to creating a motivational environment, entertain people and participate in a group.
  • Steadiness: You’re committed to “doing the right thing.” People with the steadiness personality trait are skilled at demonstrating patience, developing specialized skills and helping others.
  • Conscientiousness: You work conscientiously within existing circumstances to ensure quality. This personality trait tends to be seen with people who are diplomatic, analytical thinkers and patient.

Apparently Wonder Woman was meant to embody all four personality types and be a superhero who was not only inspiring but also complex. She embodied dualities. For example, she was sometimes depicted as powerless and in chains to show the restraints on women, and at other times as superhuman and making incredible change for the good. Marston seems to be saying that the most talented among us might draw on different strengths at the right time to optimize our contributions – and that none of us are invulnerable. Wonder Woman is, in Marston’s own words, “psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who, I believe, should rule the world,” according to Smithsonian magazine.

As someone who frequently facilitates DiSC and has been doing so for nearly 15 years, I find it to be an effective tool in helping school leaders better understand how their behavior impacts others. The first step to being a great leader is understanding the type of leader you are. This means understanding which style you tend to gravitate toward, that most influences what role you have within the team and whether your values align with the team’s. You may think that there is a single style that reflects the NBOA membership, but every single time I have facilitated this program within the NBOA community, all four dominant styles were present in the audience.

For those of you who are new or newer to the business office and would like a week-long introduction to the field at this one-of-a-kind program for business officers and business operations staff, consider registering for the upcoming NBOA Business Officer Institute, which will be held in person for the first time since 2019. It will take place on June 13-16 at Georgetown Day School in Washington, DC. The DiSC assessment is delivered on the first day, but it is just one part of a broad program that provides the information and resources you need to succeed in independent school finance, human resources, governance, risk management, key partnerships and more areas of strategic importance. And for any of you who are also lifelong DC superhero fans, it’s nice to know that behind those entertaining Saturday morning cartoons, there were some great minds that can continue to help us think through problems and solutions today in our leadership roles.

Follow  President and CEO Jeff Shields @shieldsNBOA.

From Net Assets NOW, April 5, 2022. Read past issues of CEO Notebook.



Jeffrey Shields, FASAE, CAE

President and CEO

National Business Officers Association (NBOA)

Washington, DC

Jeffrey Shields, FASAE, CAE, has served as president and CEO of the National Business Officers Association (NBOA) since 2010. He currently serves as a member of the American Society of Association Executives’ (ASAE) board of directors as well as a trustee for the Enrollment Management Association (EMA). Previously, he served as a trustee for One Schoolhouse, an innovative online school offering supplemental education to independent schools, and Georgetown Day School in Washington, DC. Prior to his current role, Shields was senior vice president and chief planning officer at the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO), where he worked for nearly 10 years.

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