5 ways to stay grounded and avoid becoming a CEO stereotype

By Marjorie Adams, president/CEO of Fourlane, the largest financial technology consultancy in the United States.

We all know this person: the unapproachable CEO who sees employees as numbers and posts about their many exciting (and expensive) adventures as their team works hard to achieve goals. They have lost touch with daily practice and do not understand the culture that is brewing in their organization.

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

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

1. Be self-regulating.

As CEOs, we often feel pressured to act quickly, crush to-do lists and maximize our efficiency. If we don’t control our emotional self-regulation, anyone who slows us down or causes speed bumps is at risk of an impulsive response.

As we evolve, I take the adage to think before I speak more seriously. It’s best to take a moment to choose how I want to respond to the other person and decide what they need to walk away from the conversational hearing. By making my response a quick, thoughtful choice, I have fewer regrets after the meeting.

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2. Be honest with yourself.

The blame game is one that you are not allowed to play if the buck stops with you. It doesn’t look good – and if you’re honest with yourself, chances are you contributed to the problem.

When we encounter a problem, I always point the finger at myself first. How did I contribute to the problem? How could I have done better in 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 are never the smartest person in the room. Instead, we should surround ourselves with talented, brilliant individuals. Removing the pressure to be the smartest in the room can open the door to a constant learner.

I’m always looking for what I can learn from a situation, even when things don’t go the way I want. I could take away the dos and don’ts of 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 are open to finding it.

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4. Be future-oriented.

When things go wrong in business or in life, it’s too easy to become obsessed with 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 and change what happened, but you can always find the best way forward. See how you can do 1 percent better next time.

5. Be empathetic.

When something isn’t going as it should – whether it’s the driver cutting you off during rush hour, the chef serving your steak well-done instead of medium rare, or the employee insulting an important customer – it’s tempting to use your power and influence to let others know exactly what you think about their competence.

What helps me stay grounded is thinking about how I would like 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 a day off. Use your empathic reserve to treat others the way you would want the most precious people in your life to be treated.

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Without consciously thinking about your actions and attitudes, it can be too easy to turn into someone you don’t recognize. Think about whether you’re falling into an ugly CEO stereotype.

What does it take to appear as the kind of CEO you would like to be seen? These tips can be the starting point for you to stay grounded as a successful CEO.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not Inc.com’s.

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