What Does a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Do?

Strategic Vision Is One of the Most Important Roles of a CEO

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Are you looking for information about the job duties of a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in a company or organization? The job varies depending on the organization's mission, product, goals and its need to operate profitably. It also varies depending on the size of the organization and the number of employees among other factors. 

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is the highest-ranking executive manager in a corporation or organization.

The CEO has responsibility for the overall success of an entire organization. The CEO has the ultimate authority to make the final decisions for an organization. He or she can ask for any input necessary but the authority to make the final call rests with the CEO.

The CEO has specific responsibilities depending on the needs of his or her organization. The job description of a CEO varies by organization. The daily tasks of a CEO vary but the overall vision for the position provides the framework that is consistent across organizations.

The Overall Framework for the CEO's Role

The CEO has overall responsibility for creating, planning, implementing and integrating the strategic direction of an organization. This includes responsibility for all components and departments of a business.

The CEO makes certain that the organization's leadership maintains constant awareness of both the external and internal competitive landscape, opportunities for expansion, customers, markets, new industry developments and standards, and so forth.

In a typical corporation, the CEO reports to the Board of Directors or in some non-profit settings, such as state government, the CEO may head up an agency or department and report to the office of the governor. The CEO serves at the discretion of the Board of Directors.

The CEO may also own the business, and may have founded the business, so his or her commitment to the business is significant.

He may also own a significant portion of the company or its stock. In these cases, a Board of Directors may exist, but its authority is nominal and advisory to the CEO.

Whether the top person is both the president and CEO or just the CEO, he or she is the top person in command in an organization and has specific responsibilities depending on the needs of his or her organization.

Thus, the CEO's job responsibilities can vary from organization to organization. As with any level of management in an organization, the CEO's role starts with the fundamental job responsibilities of a manager.

Because the role of the CEO bears significant responsibility, accountability, and authority within an organization, the CEO has these additional responsibilities as he or she leads the business.

Responsibilities of a CEO

The responsibilities of a CEO include:

  • Creating, communicating and implementing the organization's vision, mission, and overall direction. Leading the development and implementation of the overall organization's strategy.
  • Leading, guiding, directing, and evaluating the work of other executive leaders including presidents, vice presidents, and directors, depending on the organization's reporting structure. In the process of leading these senior leaders, the CEO makes certain that the strategic direction the CEO set filters down through the organization to ensure its achievement.
  • Soliciting advice and guidance, when appropriate, from a Board of Directors.
  • Formulating and implementing the strategic plan that guides the direction of the business or organization. Assuring that the plan creation involves significant input from the organization so that there is little push back on the complete implementation.
  • Overseeing the complete operation of an organization in accordance with the direction established in the strategic plans. This includes the design of the organization in a manner that facilitates and supports the operations.
  • Evaluating the success of the organization in reaching its goals. Making sure that each strategic goal is measurable or that the outcomes can be described so graphically that an agreed upon picture is shared by the team.
  • Maintaining awareness of both the external and the internal competitive landscape, opportunities for expansion, customers, markets, new industry developments and standards, and so forth. Looking at potential acquisitions or the sale of the company under circumstances that will enhance shareholder value.
  • Representing the organization for civic and professional association responsibilities and activities in the local community, the state, and at the national level. (Other senior leaders bear responsibility for these ventures as interested or assigned as well.)
  • Participating in industry-related events or associations that will enhance the CEO's leadership skills or the organization's reputation and potential for success. Making certain that staff members understand that these responsibilities are shared and that every employee is responsible for helping the organization maintain industry ties. 
  • Demonstrating the leadership necessary to make the organization's mission a success. This leadership includes providing leadership vision, leadership that attracts followers, and all other aspects of successful leadership.
  • Holding the organization members responsible and accountable for carrying out all aspects of the CEOs role. The CEO has to work with people who are competent to attain each component of his or her job description. To ensure organizational competency, the CEO must accomplish the following seriously important initiatives.
  • The CEO must create a learning organization that will continue to grow and flourish and enhance the skills and abilities of employees. Only if these significant players continue to learn and grow will the organization succeed at the level desired.
  • Additionally, the CEO must ensure that the organization's leaders experience the consequences of their actions whether through reward and recognition or performance coaching and disciplinary actions. Without responsibility and accountability that is actively expected and reinforced, the CEO will find that he or she is leading an organization that points fingers, assigns blame, and makes excuses for their failure to attain desired success and profitability—a shame and disgrace for all members of the organization.

The organization's CEO is a key player in whether and how well an organization will succeed. If they carry out these job responsibilities effectively and successfully, they will magnify the probability that their organization will experience the desired success. 

See more about ten additional factors that help a CEO succeed: 10 Secrets of Leadership Success.