What does a CEO do?
In an earlier article we looked at what makes a high performing Pricing Manager. Now it's the turn of the CEO. Every type of business you can think of will have a Chief Executive Officer or Managing Director at the helm, and the specific tasks can vary according to the industry and the size of the company. However, put simply, a CEO does everything! Even if they aren't the person who actually does it, they are the person who has told someone to do it, or told someone who tells someone to do it. If you think of a business as a triangle, they're sat at the top, controlling everything below.
It's the CEO's job to direct and control the Company’s operations and to give strategic guidance and direction to the Board to ensure that the Company achieves its mission and objectives. In addition to high-powered meetings with the board of directors, senior management and other companies, a CEO will look after anything involved in the day-to-day running of the business.
The CEO is the highest-ranking executive manager in a corporation or organisation. The CEO has responsibility for the overall success of the entire organization and they have the ultimate authority to make final decisions for that organisation.
In a nutshell, the main responsibilities are to:
- Drive and control the direction, culture and profitability of the business.
- Prepare a corporate plan and annual business plan and monitor progress against these plans.
- Provide strategic advice and guidance to the Chairman and the members of the Board.
- Establish and maintain effective formal and informal links with major customers, relevant government departments and agencies, local authorities, key decision-makers and other stakeholders generally.
- Develop and maintain research and development programmes.
- Prepare, gain acceptance, and monitor the implementation of the annual budget.
- Develop and maintain an effective marketing and public relations strategy.
- Represent the Company in negotiations with customers, suppliers, government departments and other key contacts.
- Develop and maintain Total Quality Management systems throughout the Company.
- Develop, promote and direct the implementation of equal opportunities policies.
- Oversee the preparation of the Annual Report and Accounts of the Company and ensure their approval by the Board.
- Develop and direct the implementation of policies and procedures to ensure that the Company complies with all statutory regulations.
- Oversee employment and ensure there are enough staff (and the right people).
But how do you know if you're a high performing CEO? These are some of the traits you should have in abundance:
1. Provide Inspirational Leadership
Inspire an entire workforce as well as inspire confidence among the board of directors and possibly shareholders – and also demonstrate the leadership necessary to make the organisation's mission a success. This leadership includes providing vision and leadership that attracts followers.
2. Possess Excellent Organisation and Time Management Skills
There will be staff whose job is to make your life easier, but you have to be aware of what is going on across the entire business. Even a quick catch-up with a department head soon adds up once it's multiplied by all department heads.
3. Be A Confident Decision-Maker
A new CEO is often surprised by the breadth of issues confronting him or her. One minute the CEO is discussing a new product, the next a human resources issue - and then along comes a legal issue. It's impossible for anyone to be an expert in all aspects of the business, yet the CEO is the person tasked with making the decisions. Many problems require a solution that will end up affecting multiple departments, and only the CEO is empowered to take such an action. Skill in making the important decisions requires a deep understanding of all aspects of the business as well as a clear vision. Remember, there's no-one for the CEO to pass the buck to!
4. Possess Ambition
You need an extremely high level of ambition to constantly hit and generate new goals. If you start to falter, the whole company will quickly follow suit.
5. Be Passionate
You have to be passionate about the company and the market it sits in. A CEO needs the vision to react and initiate market trends, to live, breathe and dream the business.
6. Demonstrate Excellent Communication Skills
A CEO should determine and communicate the organisation’s strategic direction. Until that's settled, making decisions about anything else in the business is difficult. Without this, the company is merely a collection of people pursuing individual goals, guided by their own values.
While other people may help shape the strategic vision, the CEO must be able to describe it in a clear, engaging and exciting way for all stakeholders. All the players in the organisation should understand how this direction affects their job and daily responsibilities. Everything the CEO does should support this vision. Too many CEOs have allowed the strategic vision to be nothing more than slogans on a piece of paper rather than clear guidance informing all key decisions.
The CEO should also possess keen political and presentational skills with an appreciation of the demands of conflicting interests and of meeting statutory requirements.
7. Be a culture builder
Culture is the set of shared attitudes, goals, behaviours and values that characterize a group. It adds up to how things get done at a company and influences the entirety of the employee experience and thus the customer experience. Every organized group of individuals develops a culture - whether it's explicitly recognized or not - and the CEO must constantly observe and be involved to achieve the desired culture.
The most critical part of culture is values. The CEO ensures that those values are applied consistently from top to bottom, across all departments. A good culture makes people feel safe and respected, enabling them to perform at their best.
8. Be visible
Everyone agrees that the CEO is ultimately responsible for a company’s performance. To be successful, he or she must take an active and visible role in driving that performance. This requires maintaining a keen awareness of the firm's industry and market and being in touch with the core business functions to ensure the proper execution of tasks.
The CEO also serves as the interface between internal operations and external stakeholders. He or she needs to ascertain how different stakeholders expect the company to perform, interpret this for internal teams and then be sure the proper metrics accurately gauge performance.
The CEO sets the bar for the level of performance to be reached, regardless of the company's size, type, circumstances or stakeholders. To successfully grow a company, the CEO should have a clear picture of how to fulfill these functions that only he or she can do, prioritize them and find balance when dealing with the onslaught of issues that will come his or her way.
Understanding what is required of a CEO helps him or her set the stage for the success of the enterprise. It also helps employees better understand what the CEO is trying to accomplish, how they can be in support and what they should aspire to accomplish.
Any organization's CEO is a key player in whether and how well an organization will succeed. If they carry out their job responsibilities effectively, the CEO will magnify the probability that their organisation will experience success today and a glowing future.
Why CEOs Fail: the 11 behaviors that can de-rail your climb to the top – and how to manage them, by David L. Dotlich and Peter C Cairo, 2003
The Hard Thing about Hard Things by Ben Horowitz, 2014
From the CEO's Perspective:leadership in their own words, by Teri Citterman 2014
The CEO's Secret Weapon by Jan Jones, 2015