Three Undeniable Traits of Effective Leaders


LEADERSHIP is the “how” of management and a skill of influence. It is a compelling ability to engage, equip and empower others to think, speak and perform in ways that positively contribute to achieving desired goals and business results.  

– Lillian Davenport

Without a framework, there are endless possibilities of how leaders could bring this leadership definition to life, including bullying and other fear tactics. 

But, that is not the avenue for leaders who focus on the greater good of humanity. So, instead, we look to the Proverbs to gain insight from one of the wisest leaders from years ago, Solomon.

With rapid change and rising expectations, the need for leadership traits that withstand testing and scrutiny is constant. 

Not holding out that these are the only enduring effective leadership traits, they are the three undeniable leadership traits in this article – all focused on soft skills that some may consider passé and easily set aside in turbulent times.

Leaders are Servants. 

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” – Theodore Roosevelt. 

Misperceptions were often the root of the conflict between managers and employees during my corporate human resources career. 

A simple conversation could have closed the gaps.

Yet, setting the tone for an open, caring conversation rested with the manager, not the direct report.  A slight adjustment in approach could have yielded more collaborative relationships, leading to more significant personal and organizational results. 

As a manager, it is tempting to take the posture of being served – giving directives and managing resources, yet influential leaders dare to swim upstream. Instead, they demonstrate vulnerability from a position of strength, showing genuine interest in those they work with and even daring to “serve” those within their spheres of influence. 

When is the last time you asked your team members –

  • “How might I assist you?”  
  • “How can I help you?”
  • “How can I make it easier for you to perform in your role?”
  • “What would you like for me to do for you?” 

Integrating these questions into your discussions turns the organization hierarchy upside down and transforms the work environment. 

Leaders who embrace a servant’s heart look for ways to assist team members (Proverbs 27:17). 

These leaders proactively remove barriers, provide resources, facilitate problem-solving, establish connections, build relationships, and more. Doing so helps leaders multiply their impact and enables team members to soar in their environments as they pay it forward in serving others. 

An effective leader’s servant attitude becomes contagious, spreading throughout the organization and positively impacting customers and organizational results.

In what ways do you truly serve others in your organization?

Leaders are Authentic. 

If you are a sci-fi fan, you probably remember Star Trek: Deep Space 9’s character named Odo, an alien who is a shape-shifter or changeling. 

In his natural state, Odo was a jelly-like liquid.  However, to fit in with his surroundings, he would typically appear in a human form, although he could take on any shape, turning himself into a chair, a lamp, an animal, or other objects. 

What one thought was real could be a mere imitation, subject to change at any time. 

While how a leader navigates a situation may vary, the core of the leader’s nature is not malleable and subject to shape-shifting. 

An effective leader has a keen self-awareness of personal conduct, strengths, weaknesses, values, and convictions – bringing all together to create a compelling, consistent platform of communications and behaviors that inspire enduring trust and support. 

Not a changeling – influential leaders are genuine (Proverbs 4:23).  They show up the same today and tomorrow – no matter the audience or the situation.

How do you demonstrate authenticity as a leader?

Leaders are Generous. 

Leaders give more than they get – of their time and talents.  

Serving in the clergy offers a unique opportunity to demonstrate generosity, and a pastor on staff at a local church is generosity personified. 

In a mega church[i], it is easy to get lost in the crowd and become number 9708, the membership number assigned at the time of affiliating with the church. 

While there is an organizational infrastructure to make the large congregation seem smaller, leadership behaviors go a long way in personalizing the atmosphere. 

Pastor Grayson (as we will call him) exudes generosity. 

  • He consistently greeted parishoners in the hallways with eye contact and a smile.
  • He genuinely enaged in conversation, without making one feel rushed to “get to the end.”
  • He intently listened without judgment, and offered support and coaching (if appropriate) without any expectations of reciprocal behavior

Is demonstrating generosity time-consuming?  Yes! 

Is it worth the effort?  Most definitely! 

A leader who practices generosity refreshes others (Proverbs 11:25) and inspires a sense of esprit de corps that benefits the organization.

How are you demonstrating generosity in sharing your time, talents and resources?

Leadership is a journey of continuous learning and development.  Look for more Undeniable Traits of Effective Leaders in future articles.

[i] According to the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, a Protestant Christian church with 2,000 or more people in average weekly attendance.

Lillian Davenport, SPHR, SHRM – SCP, CTACC, Principal, End View Solutions, LLC

Lillian Davenport

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Lillian Davenport is a coach, consultant, and leadership strategist. Her signature program, M3 LeadershipSM, prepares you to enhance and develop your self-awareness, embrace your inner strength, and lead with confidence, courage, and impact.

Lillian’s career as a human resources leader includes roles at JPMorgan Chase & Co., Woodforest National Bank, and American International Group, Inc. (AIG), where she leveraged employee relations, and diversity, equity, and inclusion expertise in leadership development.