15 Most Important Personality Traits of Effective Leaders

15 Most Important Personality Traits of Effective Leaders

15 Most Important Personality Traits of Effective Leaders banner

The author of this blog, Dr. Craig Nathanson, is an adjunct professor for JWU CPS who recently received a Human Resources Professionals Award for 2023.

Close your eyes and imagine a leader. Did you think of a general? The president? It’s not unusual to associate leadership with power but to gauge effective leadership, I’d argue that power will only take you so far on the battlefield, in the Oval Office, and, yes, even in the workplace. In order to achieve sustainable success, managers need to embrace a humanistic model, which emphasizes compassion, the value of each individual, and respect.

Here are 15 personality traits that are key to effective leadership:


People appreciate and will react more positively when they feel they can trust their leader, communicate in an open way, and not fear saying the wrong thing. A strong leader is one that people feel comfortable interacting with, knowing they will get an honest answer.

The humanistic leader is sociable, easy to talk, and relatable.


All people respond well to others who are cheerful, nice, and seem to put others first. Developing kindness, even with people who are harder to get along with, makes a leader more effective.

The humanistic leader can be trusted.


People are able to enjoy their work more and, thus, are more productive when their leader respects and incorporates their views. Thinking of others and, often, putting their needs first helps a leader gain trust and loyalty.

The humanistic leader shows empathy and is able to put themselves into the shoes of the people they lead.


Emotions at work shift throughout the day, yet people expect leaders to be stable emotionally throughout the day. This, in turn, sparks emotional stability with the team members, and work gets done more effectively.

The humanistic leader is emotionally resilient.


People require new ideas and insight from their leaders to thrive at work. A creative mind that can think outside of the box is highly effective in the workplace.

Humanistic leaders are capable of thinking from different perspectives, systems thinkers, deep thinkers, and full of imagination and new possibilities!


People readily follow leaders who can clearly explain what they want and expect through written, spoken, and non-verbal communication avenues. Strong leaders are able to connect with people through clear and honest communication.

The humanistic leader knows how to state their goals in a way people can understand.


Being honest, reliable, and trustworthy are all critical to leaders because people are more likely to follow those they feel they can fully trust. Being a person of integrity means being someone who stands behind your word and shows up when you say you will—this trait shows the people under you that they can trust you not only professionally, but also personally.

The humanistic leader is truthful in every interaction with the people they lead, and this builds trust within teams.


To lead others, a leader must be aware of their own needs, strengths, and shortfalls, and demonstrates this by taking measures to improve when needed. Only through self-awareness will leaders be empowered to make changes to become stronger leaders. Others respond well to those who are aware of their own personality traits and how they affect others.

The humanistic leader is in touch with their own person, and they use that self-awareness to better impact others around them.


Being able to understand and respond to the emotions and experiences of others creates a strong, personable leader. Empathy is vital to building strong connections with team members, and those connections help the leader accomplish more.

Humanistic leaders respond to the emotions and experiences of others with empathetic understanding, and they use that empathy to make better decisions that affect the team.


An engaged leader is actively interacting with team members throughout the day. This leader knows what is happening in their people’s lives, how they are doing on their projects, and what could happen to make things flow more freely throughout the day.

The humanistic leader is an active and engaged participant in the work that is happening, and this leader is not afraid to get their hands dirty with the daily work.


Being too serious can be detrimental when leading a team. Laughter raises the spirits of people in an organization, even during stressful or challenging times. Humor allows a leader to see the bright side of anything that happens, even if something negative takes place. People respond well to appropriate humor.

Humanistic leaders understand and embrace the power of laughter through appropriate and timely humor, which can help lessen stress and improve overall morale.


Leaders who are passionate about their mission are able to communicate a clear vision to the people they lead. That passion can lead to a charismatic approach that people respond well to. They are excellent at communicating the purpose behind their actions, and that passion can spread to others.

Humanistic leaders have a strong passion for what they do, and they can convey that passion to the people they lead.


Respect is earned, and the integrity and passion of a strong leader is something that people will respect when it is delivered with openness and empathy. By embracing these character traits, leaders will gain the appreciation of those they lead. These leaders carry themselves in such a way that they demand and command respect from those around them.

In every action and reaction, humanistic leaders live a respectable life.


Leaders who excel at what they do understand the importance of holding themselves accountable for their actions. Either through others who are in leadership over them or with accountability to their own teams, good leaders will check in with others to ensure they are attaining their goals well.

Humanistic leaders understand the value of accountability, and they hold themselves, not just their teams, accountable for their own successes.


Ethical leaders believe in the dignity and value of others and will push to protect them throughout the work of the organization. Ethical behavior flows through every decision, and these leaders will push for actions that protect the common good.

Humanistic leaders have strong ethical values and use those values to drive their own decision-making.


Effective leadership is crucial for the success and growth of individuals, teams, organizations, and even entire societies. Here are some key reasons why effective leadership is essential:

  • Inspiring and motivating others: Effective leaders can motivate individuals to work towards a common goal. They provide a vision, set clear objectives, and communicate effectively to create a sense of purpose and enthusiasm among their team members. This helps boost morale, increase productivity, and foster a positive work environment.
  • Guiding and supporting teams: Leaders provide guidance, support, and direction to their teams. They help identify and utilize individuals’ strengths, assign tasks appropriately, and promote collaboration. Through their experience and expertise, they offer valuable insights and advice, ensuring that the team stays on track and overcomes obstacles.
  • Driving innovation and adaptation: Effective leaders encourage innovation and adaptability within their teams and organizations. They create an environment that embraces change and encourages the exploration of new ideas. By fostering a culture of creativity, experimentation, and continuous learning, leaders enable their teams to adapt to evolving challenges and seize new opportunities.
  • Building trust and fostering teamwork: Trust is fundamental to effective leadership. Leaders who demonstrate integrity, honesty, and transparency gain the confidence and respect of their team members. When trust is established, individuals feel safe to express their ideas, take risks, and collaborate openly. This leads to more vital teamwork, improved communication, and enhanced problem-solving capabilities.
  • Developing future leaders: Effective leaders invest in developing their team members and nurturing their skills and talents. They provide growth opportunities, delegate responsibilities, and offer guidance and feedback to help individuals reach their full potential. By cultivating new leaders, they ensure the continuity of effective leadership within the organization and contribute to long-term success.
  • Managing conflicts and challenges: In any organization, conflicts and challenges are bound to arise. Influential leaders possess strong interpersonal skills and the ability to manage and resolve disputes constructively. They act as mediators, facilitating communication and finding mutually beneficial solutions. Their calm demeanor and problem-solving approach help in maintaining harmony and minimizing disruptions.
  • Driving organizational success: Effective leadership is vital for achieving and driving organizational goals. Leaders are responsible for strategic decision-making, resource allocation, and managing the organization’s overall direction. By setting clear objectives, making informed decisions, and inspiring their teams, they drive performance and ensure the organization thrives in a competitive landscape.


If you want to be an effective leader, you need to be kind, thoughtful, creative, an effective communicator, self-aware, have integrity and empathy, engaged, passionate, ethical, and accountable.

You may already possess some of these personality traits, but others may require work to build these leadership traits so you can become a strong humanistic leader.


A humanistic leader is one who embraces the leadership traits that help them relate more effectively to others. If you are in a position of leadership and want to be successful, it is time to build these humanistic leadership traits. Start with this list and identify those areas where you need to improve. Then, take measures to improve each day, pushing for more openness, integrity, passion, or any other area in your work. While it may take time, by focusing on becoming a humanistic leader, you will become more effective in leading the people around you.


Humanistic leadership puts people first, but it is not natural to many leaders. It takes time and training to develop these leadership traits. JWU strives to create strong, humanistic leaders that will be effective in their chosen trades.

Learn about earning your MBA in Organizational Leadership online from JWU. For more information, complete the Request Info form, call 855-JWU-1881, or email [email protected].

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