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What does a CEO do all day ? Exploring the CEO Roles & Responsibilities

Do you have these essential CEO skills ?

If you are a CEO, what would you do ?

If you are a CEO, you’re into a difficult, but big game. Both for you and your team. Difficult because you are being watched all the time and imitated in both style and purpose. Every word you speak or write represents the values of the company – so you speak with caution. 

A host of people trust your decisions for their careers. And boy ! What ugly decisions are those ? Your team has dibs on all the simple ones. Leaving you with only the most hated calls. 

Elon musk on Role of CEO

Let’s accept it  – Being a CEO is not a bed of roses.. 

But your decisions as a CEO make a difference in the wins or losses of your company. How you manage your time impacts the company valuation directly. Such is the impact of a change in CEO that it is frequently associated with stock price movement of public companies. 

This article will help you understand the CEO profiles better. So you know what skills and stories you need to work upon for your resume if you intend to assume this impactful role. 

So, What does a CEO do ? The CEO Roles and Responsibilities

Well – it depends. A CEO has possibly the most unclear job responsibilities, and yet a very simple and clear goal – to grow the company into a good shape. 

He is probably the chief architect of the company’s image in the market.

And so, his day to day schedule can vary with the size and condition of the organization. For the CEO of a young startup, growing revenues may be all that’s needed, while for a stable organization, the CEO may be more focussed on profitability, sustainability, and culture. 

Irrespective of the nature of orgs, there are some common responsibilities that are shared by all CEOs at all levels. 

Setting the Direction

A CEO understands the shareholder’s needs and expectations more than anyone else. He was probably detailed about the expectations even before joining the role. He is required to convert those into daily activities and goals, that he then further distributes to his team. The sharper he is on breaking down and delegating the goal and activities leading to a particular vision, the more are his chances of success.

Hiring a high performance team

A CEO is always hiring (that is, when he is not firing) . If the org is stable or growing, hiring is the primary activity of a CEO. A CEO is bound by the long term growth of the organization, and so continuously finding people who share the vision is one of his top responsibilities. 

The CEO may hire the Chief Financial Officer, Chief Operations Officer, Chief Technology Officer, Product Head, HR Head. He then assigns them specific KPIs based on organizations overall plan briefing every individual their role in the plan.

Daily Decision and Problem Solving

If the above is in place, all that the CEO has to do is make decisions that move the organization towards the goal. All those meetings that CEOs are a part of, are being held to decide on a particular issue or policy. The CEOs are typically faced with the toughest decisions of the organization. These are the ones that no one wants to touch, or are considered ‘too risky’ by their subordinates. 

If there is one thing that can justify the high pay scales of CEOs, it is these decisions. A CEO is putting their reputation on the line when making a call on an issue. If it goes right, there are many takers who would be credited. If it falls, the CEO has to take the brunt. 

Insights into the Daily Tasks and Priorities of a CEO

Monitoring the Organization Health

To kick off the day, a CEO typically begins by delving into key performance metrics and financial reports to evaluate the overall health of the company. This is to see if the shop is running fine since the last day we checked. This quick sneak peek may be around Sales, Marketing, Operations, Customer Service Issues, PR and Branding, Finance, or HR related issues. 

This sets the tone for the day – checking for leakages ensures there are no priorities that overrule the current ones. 

Priority Meetings

Next come the meetings to solve top priority issues facing the organization. This is subjective. For a particular organization, fundraising and finance may dominate these discussions, while for the other, the top priorities may be hiring plans, or branding and PR strategies. 

Depending on the time and current scope of the organization goal plan, the CEO spends his time making decisions on the most important issues so his team may start implementation. 

Meetings with Department Heads and KPI Check

Subsequently, they dive into crucial meetings with department heads and executives, facilitating strategic decision-making and monitoring progress across various segments of the business. Strategic planning and establishing long-term company objectives form the cornerstone of a CEO’s responsibilities, occupying a substantial portion of their daily agenda.

Meetings with External Stakeholders

Engaging with external stakeholders, including investors, partners, and customers, is also an integral part of a CEO’s role. These meetings are more about CEOs’ individual tasks like media interviews, board briefing, investor presentations, fundraising talks etc. 

A CEO schedule is tight and packed. If you are a CEO, you must be a time management expert. 

What are some other skills that may be needed for the CEO role.

How much do CEOs make – The CEO Salary

The CEO compensation can be life changing for any individual. Though the base salary alone would not answer the question “How much do CEOs earn” appropriately.

At most companies, the CEOs are granted substantial Employee Stock Options (ESOPs) the value of which can become lucrative in event of a takeover or IPO. Even in listed companies, the CEO ESOPs share far undervalues the base salary as the company wants the CEO to retain for as long as possible.

That said, the average salary may not be a right measure for assessing a CEO salary. As per Glassdoor, the average salary of an Indian CEO is ₹30,26,922 per year. But of course the top CEOs would not be submitting responses to Glassdoor. You can find dependable values by checking the CEO compensation of listed companies in their annual reports.

Top CEO Salaries in India

Top CEO Salaries in India

Skills needed for the CEO Role

Becoming a successful CEO requires a unique set of skills that go beyond industry knowledge and technical expertise. As the highest-ranking executive in an organization, a CEO must navigate complexities, inspire teams, and drive the company toward its strategic goals. Some key skills needed for the CEO role are:

Leadership

Visionary Leadership

CEOs must articulate a compelling vision for the future, aligning it with the organization’s mission and values. 

In my personal experience, I have a particular CEO envisaging the organization structure at a particular scale even when the company was just a third of that level. Envisioning the figure helps CEOs align the long term and short term plans for the company. 

Strategic Thinking

The ability to think long-term, set strategic objectives, and make decisions that contribute to the company’s growth and sustainability is a key skill requirement of a CEO.

Communication & Storytelling

Effective Communication

CEOs must convey their vision and goals clearly to stakeholders, employees, and the public. The ability to use data to build compelling stories that connect the dots towards their vision is a key success factor in a CEO role. A CEO is a master storyteller who is able to attract investors, employees, customers alike through the power of his words.

Listening Skills

Actively listening to diverse perspectives fosters a collaborative culture and helps in making informed decisions.

Decision-Making

Decisiveness

CEOs need to make tough decisions in a timely manner, balancing risks and benefits. Apart from data, they frequently have to trust their gut and experience to make radical calls that can turn around the company performance.

Data-Driven Decision-Making

Using data and analytics to inform decisions and drive organizational success is an important skill for a CEO. In briefing meetings that span not more than 15-30 min, a CEO is expected to both understand that data ( that probably took his team weeks to compile) and make reasoned calls on the subject matter. 

Adaptability

Agility

CEOs must be adaptable to changing market conditions, technological advancements, and evolving business landscapes. The CEOs who fail to adapt and understand the market advancements quickly steer their ships in a downward spiral. 

Innovation

CEOs must foster a culture of innovation and embrace change to stay ahead in the competitive landscape. Ability to innovate and adapt quickly helps the CEOs make the best use of environmental factors to their advantage. This is best evident in challenging situations like financial crises, epidemics like Covid-19, when the organizations that innovated their culture and practices emerged successful, sometimes even turning the situation to their favor.

Interpersonal Skills

Relationship Building

Developing and maintaining relationships with key stakeholders, including investors, customers, and partners is a key skill a CEO must possess. The CEO is like a king ( or queen) who not only has to take care of his kingdom, but also build allies who support his / her mission.

Empathy

Understanding the needs and concerns of employees and stakeholders to build a positive and inclusive work environment is pertinent to a CEO’s role. Quite frequently, a simple change in CEO directly links to an increase or decrease in attrition. Such is the impact of leadership.

Financial Acumen

A CEO’s ultimate goal is to increase shareholder’s value. The success of all the organization activities is eventually assessed by its profit. A strong understanding of financial principles, budgeting, and fiscal responsibility is a basic prerequisite for one to become a CEO. Assessing and managing financial and operational risks to ensure the company’s stability and growth is almost his second nature.

Team Building

Attracting, retaining, and developing top talent to build a high-performing executive team is another primary task of a CEO. A CEO is only as strong as the team he builds. Effectively assigning tasks and responsibilities to the right individuals to maximize team performance is a key component of the CEO skill set. 

Crisis Management

Resilience

The ability to remain composed and make strategic decisions during crises and challenging times  is much desirable for a CEO role. It not only helps the CEO take better calls, but also keeps his team from panicking.

Problem-Solving

A proactive approach to identifying and addressing issues before they escalate is found in many CEOs. A top CEO who I worked with once remarked. 

“ We need to identify the pebble before it becomes a stone, and the stone before it becomes a rock.”

Global Perspective

Understanding global markets, geopolitical factors, and cultural nuances in a highly interconnected business environment is a great skill for a CEO, especially if the organization is spread globally.

Ethical Leadership

Leading with honesty and ethical conduct, setting a standard for the organization’s values, helps the CEO gain trust from his team. A leader who is well respected and trusted by the team is more likely to succeed in a 

CEOs who continually develop and refine these skills can navigate the dynamic business landscape, lead their organizations to success, and inspire a culture of excellence among their teams.

Today we discussed the CEO roles and responsibilities while sharing some of the experiences and thoughts of people operating in these roles. I am  eager to hear your stories and understanding of the CEO role. Do share your anecdotes in the comments.

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Gaurav
Gaurav
With a trajectory spanning from engineer to Ex-President of Sales at Whitehat Jr, Gaurav Yadav is a dynamic leader and startup consultant. Armed with an MBA from the Indian School of Business, he scaled organizations to 5X+ multiples, hiring over 4000 team members. A strategic mind and influential CXO, Gaurav passionately guides careers and shapes startup growth strategies, leaving an indelible mark on every venture he touches.

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