It's impossible to be an effective leader and solve for people problems if we are not in tune with ourselves and have a clear understanding of the role our perception plays in how we interact, behave, and influence others. The first trait of being an MVL is developing a high level of self-awareness.
Developing awareness alone has immense benefits like,
Being able to understand better and manage your emotions
Improve your relationships
Experience higher levels of happiness
Stronger communication skills
Higher level of confidence
More likely to make better choices
More empathetic towards others
Improved listening skills
Increased ability to change habits or deal with change
There are several ways we can develop our level of awareness:
Bringing attention to our five senses.
Practicing mindfulness—living in the present moment.
Identifying our emotions and the origins of those emotions
Taking the time to be still with our thoughts, noticing our internal dialogue, and asking ourselves:
“How are my actions related to my thoughts and beliefs?”
“Are they serving me and others, or just me?”
Additionally, 360 feedback is helpful if we understand how others perceive us. These are just a few things we can do to develop our awareness.
Of course, we don't want to stop at awareness. That would be like reading a how-to manual without applying what we learned. The act of application leads us back to the other five traits of an MVL.
Adaptability - Your ability to be flexible and resourceful
Many leaders say they are adaptable, but they mean to say, "I am open to new ideas if it fits within my ideal framework." That is not adaptability.
Adaptability is about getting uncomfortable and exploring new perspectives and ways of doing things. We can become more adaptable by:
Realizing that we don't know everything—awareness.
Adopting a growth versus fixed mindset.
Be genuinely open to new ideas—listening 80% of the time and asking insightful questions.
Seek to learn from others in our field who are bold and innovative. What is working for them? What sets them apart?
Evoking child-like curiosity.
Support (assists) - making it about the success of all and not simply the self. We’re all in this together.
As with being an MVP in sports, supporting others is essential to winning individually and collectively. If we are too focused on being the one who makes the winning ‘shot,’ so to speak, we risk defeat for the entire team or organization.
Leaders who have developed their emotional intelligence aren't ‘ball hogs.’ They know that while they have strengths, they also have weaknesses, and they empower and partner with those who are well versed in areas they are not. This takes self-awareness, self-confidence, and humility.
We can better support others by asking how we can help them succeed and follow through. Remember, words are weak; actions are proof. Does your team or employees currently feel that you empower them, or do they feel like they are just cogs in your machine?
Servant leadership - done right, leadership is an intricate art.
Unfortunately, many people have not mastered the art of leadership. They believe that they must rule by fear and act like a drill sergeant to maintain control. Sometimes these same individuals believe that THEY are the brains of the organization. However, influential and beloved leaders see themselves as servants and ensure that everyone has the resources to be the best they can be. Organizations with this form of emotionally intelligent leadership thrive. Not only regarding their bottom line, but they have a healthy culture.
Despite the norm, an organization’s culture is not defined by written values and a nice mission statement. An organization’s culture and values are determined by how it operates. Organizations with exceptional leadership have higher retention, exceptional customer satisfaction, and service, are innovative and are at the top of their game because of how they lead.
One thing all exceptional leaders have in common is high emotional intelligence:
Emotionally intelligent leaders know how the lead under pressure, which takes emotional resilience. It doesn't matter how well studied, or ambitious someone is; if they cannot regulate their emotions during stressful situations, they're practically worthless—in those moments.
While someone may say they perform better under pressure, for them to do that effectively, they must embody emotional resilience because our rational brain shuts down when we are in highly stressful situations. Unless we know how to channel that energy effectively, we can exacerbate an issue.
Emotionally intelligent leaders also can identify and see the value in every personality and behavioral type. Not everyone communicates the same way or is motivated by the same things. Being able to pick up on these differences and alter how we communicate and appeal to each person’s needs is invaluable.
A common trait among many ambitious entrepreneurs is their high expectations of themselves and others. They may become frustrated when people aren't as driven and ambitious as they are. An emotionally intelligent leader realizes is that everybody's 100% (meaning the energy and drive, as well as what motivations) are different. Instead of these leaders imposing their expectations and motivations onto others, they use the traits of an MVL to help others reach their full potential by finding what motivates them personally.
If we want to be an MVL, we have to get to know the people we work with and their needs, desires, strengths, and weaknesses and become familiar with our own.
Steadfast Commitment – Loyal to achieving results.
Doing what it takes to be an MVL is difficult. This is why only a small percentage of the population ever reaches a certain level of success, achievement, and fulfillment in their lifetime. One of the key elements of emotional intelligence is intrinsic motivation. The motivation is not fueled by punishment or reward but by passion, enjoyment, or the pursuit of a greater cause.
What do you do first when you have a laundry list of things to do, what do you do first? Do you knock out the small things first to get them out of your way and shorten the list? Or do you address the most challenging task or issues first?
Emotionally intelligent leaders start with the latter. They know that they will have less energy to deal with the more complex issues as the day goes on. Procrastination is not in their vocabulary.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself:
What motivates me to stay committed? Is it my passion, vision for my organization, or customers?
What keeps me going?
Endurance – pacing yourself through the highs and lows.
Commitment and endurance go hand in hand because endurance is the ability to withstand hardships or adversity. Energy management and mindset are critical to ensure we do not get lost in the doubt that may arise with challenges. The rollercoaster of emotions and the ups and downs of business is REAL. One minute, you can be on cloud nine, and soon after, you feel you have hit rock bottom.
How do you survey your life and business? From up close (present moment to weeks out) or from afar (months to years out)? Depending on your answer, you may be more or less optimistic about the future.
What’s lovely about emotional intelligence is that it teaches us to see things from various angles and not get fixated on the wins or losses. Polarization of any kind is dangerous. Having our head in the clouds or buried in the sand prevent us from being level-headed and focused.
This is not to say you shouldn't celebrate your wins and reflect on your mistakes. However, do not allow temporary highs or lows to slow you down. Be mindful of them, learn from them, but don't dwell on them.
While these six traits are the makings of an MVL, that is not to say you need all of them to be valuable. It is much better to put your energy into developing one trait at a time than trying to be all things to all people at once. Self-awareness is always a great place to start.