Lead From the Top: 5 Core Responsibilities of a CEO
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What are the responsibilities of a CEO?
This is something everyone at a company from an entry-level employee to the chief executive should know. After all, 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.
CEOs have five key responsibilities, no matter the company's size, industry or geography. Only the chief executive -- who has a holistic view of the firm -- can take on these duties:
1. Own the vision. A CEO should determine and communicate the organization’s strategic direction. Until that's settled, making decisions about anything else at the business is difficult. And 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 organization 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 guidance informing all key decisions.
2. Provide the proper resources. Only the CEO can perform the task of balancing resources -- the two most important ones being capital and people. The CEO must make both available in the proper quantities and at the right time for the company to succeed.
All executives have experience dealing with budgets and allocating resources. But the CEO's job involves keeping a proper balance of resources for all the disparate groups and initiatives, according to the company’s goals. Skill in making such decisions requires a deep understanding of all aspects of the business as well as a clear vision.
Putting the right people in the right positions with the right training is probably the single most important thing a CEO can do. With the right team, all things are possible. With the wrong team, nothing else matters.
3. Build the culture. Culture is the set of shared attitudes, goals, behaviors 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.
4. Make good decisions. 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 problem require a solution that will end up affecting multiple departments, and only the CEO is empowered to take such an action. Everyone else can pass the buck from time to time, but the CEO will make the final call when no one else will or can.
5. Oversee and deliver the company's performance. Everyone agrees that the CEO is ultimately responsible for a company’s performance. To be successful, he or she must take an active 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. “You get what you measure” is an apt adage. The CEO sets the bar for the level of performance to be reached, regardless of the company's size, type, circumstances or stakeholders.
Some CEOs might find be content to sit back and let the job arrive at their doorstep; after all, there are always tactical things that need to be done. But successful CEOs plan how they spend their time, according to the above responsibilities (and not just tend to urgent to-dos). 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.