A chief executive officer, or CEO, is the topmost member of a company's leadership team. The CEO sets the company's direction and is the first person people look to when critical strategic decisions must be made. CEOs set the tone for the company's organizational culture -- managers and other employees tend to model their business behavior based on what they see in their CEOs.
CEOs are responsible for strategy. After carefully assessing risks and opportunities, a CEO determines the best options for moving forward and gaining sustainable success. Some factors used in these assessments include the state of the economy, the state of the competition and the company's market position. Strategic decisions might drive the company to take actions to develop new products or discontinue existing ones, expand into new markets, move out of markets that have provided limited success, or enter into new business ventures.
Face of the Company
A CEO is the face of the company, and provides a linkage between internal company resources and external stakeholders such as customers and members of local communities where the company operates. The CEO functions like an ambassador and spokesperson. He might speak at business functions or community events to foster customer and vendor relationship management, as well as to promote the company's commitment to being a socially responsible corporate citizen.
CEOs manage leaders. While the CEO is the chief executive of the company, he needs a staff of other executives to lead specific functions. Executive staff positions often include chief operating, information and financial officers. Other chief executives, such as chief human resources, technology and sustainability officers, can also be added to the mix, particularly as companies grow in size. When forming the leadership team, a CEO must foster synergy between its members and make sure all leaders promote the same core values throughout the workplace.
CEOs are accountable for their actions and job responsibilities, just like every other employee. The CEO is accountable to the company’s board of directors and shareholders. The CEO's performance is measured based on things like profitability, brand image success and market position. If the performance of the company should decline, it is on the CEO's shoulders to determine why and then drive a turnaround. The CEO also holds his leadership team accountable for their actions, and makes sure they stand together to positively influence the organizational culture.