Three Undeniable Traits of Effective Leaders


LEADERSHIP is the “how” of management and a skill of influence – 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 manipulation, bullying and good old fear tactics.  BUT, that is not the avenue for leaders who focus on the greater good for mankind.  Instead, we look to the Proverbs of the wisest leader from years ago, Solomon, for three undeniable leadership traits.

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” for 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.  Looking back on an extensive career in human resources (specifically employee relations), it is amazing how often manager and employee differences were rooted in misperceptions.  Oftentimes, 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.  Just a slight adjustment in approach could have yielded more collaborative relationships, leading to greater personal and organizational results.  As a manager, it is tempting to take the posture of being served – giving directives and managing resources, yet effective leaders dare to swim upstream.  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?”  Routinely integrating these questions into your discussions turns the organization hierarchy upside down and transforms the work environment.  Leaders who embrace a servant heart look for ways to assist team members (Proverbs 27:17).  They proactively remove barriers, provide resources, facilitate problem solving, establish connections, build relationships and more, positioning 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 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 jellylike liquid.  However, to fit in with his surroundings, he would typically appear in a human form, although he had the capability to take on any shape, turning himself into a chair, a lamp, an animal or other object.  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 – effective 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 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.  Imagine being greeted in the hallways consistently with eye contact and a smile, genuinely engaged in conversation and not feeling rushed to “get to the end,” being intently listened to without judgment, and being offered support and coaching (and at time course correction) 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 overall 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 is a coach, consultant, and women’s leadership strategist. Her leadership program, Maximize Her LeadershipSM, guides women in bringing together their talents, strengths, and executive presence to experience a thriving career.

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.