Many times, a company’s employees do not have a clear idea of what their chief executive officer is responsible for, perhaps viewing the role as a figurehead that simply “puts out fires,” stepping in as needed. In truth, however, CEOs have duties of their own that they are uniquely qualified to perform, and expectations that they regularly address. Many of these particular duties are tied to the fact that the CEO is the one person in an organization that has a holistic view of it in its entirety.
The vast majority of CEOs’ time is spent in relationships with others – investors, customers, employees, boards – both in formal meetings and in informal interactions to keep abreast of what is going on with their companies. They meet with wholesalers and visit business sites to talk to customers and educate them, building relationships with key customers at a senior level.
The CEO acts as the link between the internal workings of his or her company and the external world of customers, the economy, the market, etc. With the ability to experience the impact of the external world on the whole company, the CEO then brings this knowledge to the company so that it can respond in a way that increases its success. The CEO is most likely the only person in the company that is both externally and internally focused.
A key responsibility of the chief executive is to set the organization’s strategy, both short-term and long-term, in order to set it up for future success and growth and ensure forward momentum. This requires identifying what the focus of the business is and should be, and, likewise, what it is not and should not be, a task that is the domain of the CEO because, again, only he or she has an overarching perspective of the entire organization. When there is conflict between investing in current projects versus riskier future endeavors, it is up to the CEO to make that judgement call, as he or she is ultimately the one accountable for the organization’s long-term success. The CEO must be able to put forth goals that are realistic for the company’s growth, including the allowance of resources for these goals.
Ensuring that the company has both material/financial and human resources is an important part of the CEO’s role. The demands of the various initiatives within an organization must be met, while ensuring that the overall goals of the company are also met – all while addressing the core vision that should guide all decision-making. For the company to meet with success, the right people must be in the right places; human resources must be allocated strategically, with an eye toward both current and future needs.
In order to help employees reach their potential, the CEO is also responsible for leading the development of the organization’s desired culture, ensuring that consistent values are in place throughout the entire organization. The CEO is challenged with blending the traditional values that have helped the organization become what it is with values that are relevant to where the organization is today. In addition, the CEO communicates the vision in an engaging manner, ensuring that it is understood and consistently applied throughout the organization, enabling all employees to be “on the same page,” and making sure that the vision underpins all of the organization’s work.
The chief executive alone wears the mantle of responsibility for the company’s performance. This means that he or she must have a finger on the pulse of the internal functioning of the business to be sure that tasks are being executed appropriately, as well as on the industry and the market. The CEO sets the bar for performance, and acts as a liaison between internal operations and external stakeholders, in order to understand the expectations of the stakeholders, translate these for the employees, and then accurately measure results. This is not always an easy task, as stakeholders often have standards or expectations of the company that do not align. In this and other areas, a CEO is charged with the task of making difficult decisions based on his or her own judgment, often in areas with which he or she is not an expert – the chief executive is “the final word.”
Throughout history, great leaders have acknowledged that “with great power comes great responsibility.” Along with being the captain of a company’s ship, the chief executive officer’s role is imbued with a number of great responsibilities. Understanding what these are may allow employees to better help their leaders lead their organizations to greatness.
Contributed by Holly Valovick -QLK