5 Ways to Stay Grounded and Avoid Becoming a CEO Stereotype


By Marjorie Adams, president/CEO of Fourlane, the top financial technology consulting firm in the United States.

We all know this person: The unapproachable CEO who sees employees as simply numbers and posts about their many exciting (and expensive) adventures while their team works hard at hitting goals. They have lost touch with the day-to-day and don’t understand the culture brewing in their organization.

As your business grows and your wealth increases, it’s possible to unwittingly evolve into the kind of stereotype you never wanted to become.

Someone recently asked me how to stay grounded when CEO of a growing company. I often think about my behavior and how it might shape others’ perceptions of me. A few things help me to stay grounded as a successful CEO, and they may help you, too.

1. Be self-regulating.

As CEOs, we often feel pressure to move fast, crush to-do lists and maximize our efficiency. If we’re not in control of our emotional self-regulation, anyone who slows us down or creates road bumps may be at risk of an impulsive reaction. 

As we evolve, I take the adage to think before speaking more seriously. It’s best to take a moment to choose how I want to react to the other person and decide what they need to walk away from the conversation hearing. Making my reaction a quickly thought-out choice leaves me with fewer regrets post-meeting.

2. Be honest with yourself.

The blame game is one you don’t get to play when the buck stops with you. It’s not a good look–and if you’re being honest with yourself, there’s a good chance you may have contributed to the issue. 

When we hit a problem, I always point the finger back at myself first. How did I contribute to the problem? How could I have done better with that situation? You can only control yourself, not others, so take the time to learn through self-reflection.

3. Be a learner.

Speaking of learning, the best CEOs know they’re never the smartest person in the room. Instead, we should surround ourselves with talented, brilliant individuals. If you take away the pressure of being the smartest in the room, you can open the door to being a constant learner.

I always look for what I can learn from a situation, even when things aren’t going my way. I might take away do’s and don’ts for running my own business, a perspective I hadn’t considered, or a lesson in humility, patience or grace. Every experience creates a learning opportunity–if you’re open to finding it.

4. Be future-focused.

When things go wrong in business or life, it’s too easy to obsess over them. You can learn important things from a situation, but dwelling on mistakes or negative outcomes is often not the best use of our energy.

Instead of reliving the past, try to focus on the future. You can’t go back to change what happened, but you can always find the best way forward. Look at how to do it 1 percent better next time.

5. Be empathetic.

When something doesn’t go the way it should–whether it’s the driver who cuts you off in rush hour traffic, the chef who serves your steak well done instead of medium rare or the employee who offends an important client–it’s tempting to wield your power and influence to let others know exactly what you think about their competence.

What helps me stay grounded is considering how I would want someone to treat my family and me if they were on the other side. We all have special people in our lives, and we all have off days. Tap into your reserve of empathy to treat others the way you’d want the most precious people in your life to be treated.

Without conscious thought about your actions and attitudes, it can be too easy to change into someone you don’t recognize. Give some thought to whether you’re falling into an ugly CEO stereotype.

What does it take to show up as the kind of CEO you’d like to be perceived as? These tips may be the starting point for you to stay grounded as a successful CEO.

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

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