The Five Roles of a CEO

When I work with management teams throughout Australia delivering quarterly and annual planning workshops, there comes a point where we look to the leader in the room and ask an interesting question. The reaction from attendees other than the leader is always the same – some giggling, fidgeting in seats and anticipation, we all want to know what the CEO does, and what are their KPI’s? What is the role of the CEO?

Of course pretty quickly we get a response like “Net Profit” or “Return on Assets”, perhaps a “Revenue Driver” but if we were to really distill what a great CEO does, and can do each and every week to provide both short and long term value, we must look to these 5 key roles of a CEO.

AS - clock pointing to the word leadership

1. Accountability

Finding the right metrics for each department and person and then holding them accountable to achieve these numbers is critical in getting the best from an organization.

Developing accountability where people know their performance using the Red, Amber, Green & Supergreen to measure the level of their success, and having them bring the numbers to the leader (rather than getting a report or worse if they need to go looking for them) creates a team driven to achieve its metrics.

2. Ambassador

No matter the size, the business must have an ambassador to represent the business at a ‘ceremonial level’. It is not possible to abdicate this role and ask your sales manager or COO to attend to important events such as signing a new major client, winning an award or fronting the media. The CEO is the ambassador and should use every ambassadorial opportunity to raise and reinforce the company’s Core Values.

3. Culture

I was working with the General Manager of a large facility in our city last week and she said that during an exit interview, a departing manager said ‘our business does not have a culture’. In fact every business has a culture and the role of the CEO is to develop what I call a ‘Conscious Culture’. When a business develops its Core Values (which are existing in the business already) we work with businesses to reinforce the Core Values during both reward and discipline of staff. We want to use the Core Values along with other team building initiatives and workshops to consciously build a culture over time, and not let it simply evolve without our direction.

4. Strategy

Having an effective strategy will compel customers to buy your products and services thereby driving revenues and market share to you from the competition. More than any of the other four roles of the CEO, this is driven through strategic thinking and execution planning sessions initiated by the CEO with the management team. These quarterly and annual planning sessions provide more value to the organization than any other activities when performed in a structured format such as the Gazelles One Page plan.

5. Succession planning

In this role, the CEO must not only look at how do we replace the person in role X if they leave, but look at succession planning from a product, supplier and customer perspective. Build resilience and a ‘plan B’ not only into each of the key roles (our Topgrading virtual bench), but who can be a substitute supplier, what if we lose our largest account and what if we need to find a new product to sell.

Outside these five roles of a CEO, what are you or your CEO doing? If you devoted most of your time to these five elements, what impact would this have on your business?

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