What is a CEO? (Overview, Roles, and Responsibilities)

  • By: Adam Wire
  • January 31, 2024
Reading Time: 3 minutes

The title of CEO (Chief Executive Officer) carries significant weight in the business world. We often hear about CEOs making strategic decisions, leading their organizations to success, and influencing the direction of entire industries. But what exactly is a CEO, and what does this role entail? 

Executive leaders serve in a variety of leadership positions and rankings, which can be difficult to differentiate, such as a CEO versus owner

Read on to learn about the chief executive officer role, discover some noteworthy CEO’s, and find out how board management software helps executive teams thrive in a fast-paced business climate.

What is a CEO?

As the highest-ranking executive, the CEO provides leadership, makes high-stakes decisions, sets the overall direction for the organization, and manages resources and departments to maximize profitability. 

The CEO reports to the board of directors and plays a crucial role in setting the company’s strategy and vision.

Product Overview

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CEO Roles and Responsibilities

Efficient CEOs can navigate challenges professionally, understand and adapt to market dynamics, and implement changes seamlessly. These qualities are important, as they help inspire and guide their teams. CEOs typically take on the following roles and responsibilities.

Setting Strategy and Vision

CEOs are often tasked with setting a clear direction for how the organization will achieve long-term goals. CEOs must consider factors like market dynamics and outside competition, as well as internal influences on employee performance. Their vision must articulate the desired future state of the company. Both strategy and vision provide a roadmap for decision-making, resource allocation, and other organizational matters.

Decision-Making and Leadership

Being able to make smart and quick decisions is paramount for CEOs, as it shapes the course of the company and everyone involved. Decisive leadership inspires confidence in managing directors, employees, and stakeholders. 

Resource Allocation and Management

Resource allocation and management involve distributing and overseeing financial assets, talent, and technological tools. CEOs must optimize the use of these resources and ensure they align with the organization’s goals. 

Stakeholder Management

A CEO must foster positive relationships with all parties invested in the company. This includes employees, customers, shareholders, and other leadership positions, such as the CFO, executive chairman, and business owner. With such diverse skills and backgrounds, a CEO must be capable of balancing their differing views and interests. This involves remaining transparent with communication and managing expectations. By understanding and addressing the concerns of these stakeholders, the company can thrive in a socially conscious and interconnected environment.

Risk Management and Adaptation

Risk management is the methodical process of identifying, assessing, and mitigating uncertainties that could impact an organization’s objectives. It involves analyzing internal risk factors such as finances and operations, as well as external risk factors such as supply chain disruptions.

Examples of CEOs

Qualities of successful CEOs typically include: embracing innovation, decisiveness, leadership skills, resiliency, and strong communication skills. To gain a better idea of how CEOs shape a company,  consider the following world-renowned CEOs.

Tim Cook

Succeeding Steve Jobs in 2011, Tim Cook is currently the CEO of Apple Inc. He has played a pivotal role in Apple’s continued success by expanding its product line, introducing new technologies, and achieving financial growth. Cook is known for his inclusive management style and for encouraging employees to collaborate and share ideas. 

Satya Nadella

Appointed in 2014, Satya Nadella is currently the CEO of Microsoft. He’s known for possessing strategic vision and understands the importance of artificial intelligence and cloud computing in a rapidly evolving technology landscape. Microsoft has made over $1 billion in acquisitions due to Nadella and his motivation to adapt to technological advances and ability to allocate resources. 

Mary Barra

Since 2014, Mary Barra has been the CEO of General Motors, even adding another role as Chair to her title. She’s infamously known for reducing GM’s long employee dress code memo to two words: “dress appropriately.” This was due to her strategic vision that trusting employees also empowers them. Overall, Barra’s management style reflects a healthy balance between a people-oriented approach with long-term strategic goals.

OnBoard Powers Effective Boards

Due to the demanding nature of the role, CEOs often leverage board management software to work smarter and improve transparency. As a leading board intelligence platform, OnBoard optimizes time management, facilitates decision-making and voting, and enhances collaboration. 

OnBoard software includes intuitive features to enhance governance, such as: 

  • Real-time meeting analytics and progress tracking
  • A secure messaging system
  • Zoom and Microsoft Teams integration
  • Detailed diversity reporting
  • 24/7 customer support
  • Security provided by Microsoft Azure

Download our free Board Meeting Minutes Template to learn how OnBoard helps organizations improve transparency, reduce manual processes, and improve board operations. 

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About The Author

Adam Wire
Adam Wire
Adam Wire is a Content Marketing Manager at OnBoard who joined the company in 2021. A Ball State University graduate, Adam worked in various content marketing roles at Angi, USA Football, and Adult & Child Health following a 12-year career in newspapers. His favorite part of the job is problem-solving and helping teammates achieve their goals. He lives in Indianapolis with his wife and two dogs. He’s an avid sports fan and foodie who also enjoys lawn and yard work and running.