What Does a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

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The Chief Executive Officer (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.  

It is also the responsibility of the CEO to ensure that the organization's leadership maintains constant awareness of both the external and internal competitive landscape, opportunities for expansion, customer base, markets, new industry developments and standards, and so forth.

Hugo Lin. © The Balance 2018

CEO Duties & Responsibilities

The job duties of a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in a company or organization vary depending on the organization's mission, product, goals, and operational needs to stay profitable. Duties also vary depending on the size of the organization and the number of employees, among other factors. In general, these responsibilities include:

  • Creating, communicating, and implementing the organization's vision, mission, and overall direction
  • Leading the development and implementation of the overall organization's strategy
  • 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.
  • Overseeing the complete operation of an organization in accordance with the direction established in the strategic plans
  • Evaluating the success of the organization in reaching its goals
  • 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
  • Participating in industry-related events or associations that will enhance the CEO's leadership skills, the organization's reputation, and the organization's potential for success.  

The CEO is always the highest-ranking executive manager in an organization and has responsibility for the overall success of the organization, and is the ultimate decision-maker for a business. And, while the daily tasks of each chief executive vary, it is the overall vision of the position that provides the framework for the functionality of all departments.

Leading, guiding, directing, and evaluating the work of other executive leaders, including presidents, vice presidents, and directors, depending on the organization's reporting structure, is also part of the job. In the process of leading these senior leaders, the CEO makes certain that the strategic direction the CEO filters down through the organization to ensure its achievement.

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 fail to attain desired success and profitability.

CEO Salary

A CEO's salary can vary greatly depending on industry, location, experience, and employer. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) collects salary data for CEOs across the country:

  • Median Annual Salary: $189,600
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $208,000 
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $68,360 

Education, Training, & Certification

Education and training requirements vary greatly by employer and industry. Most employers prefer to hire CEOs with at least a bachelor’s degree and a considerable amount of work experience. Many companies prefer to hire from within the company rather than outside.

  • Experience: CEOs usually need extensive experience in management, usually with a progressive amount of responsibility with each new position. In addition, companies often expect CEOs to have experience in the industry that the company is in.
  • Training: Some companies require CEOs to complete training programs for executive development and leadership, as well as ongoing professional development.

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


CEO Skills & Competencies

To be successful in this role, you’ll generally need the following skills and qualities: 

  • Interpersonal skills: CEOs need to form good relationships with other leaders in the company and get significant input from the organization so that there is little pushback regarding strategic decisions and direction.
  • Analytical skills: CEOs must participate in evaluating the success of the organization in reaching its goals. They must make sure that each strategic goal is measurable.
  • Leadership skills: CEOs must demonstrate the leadership necessary to make the organization's mission a success. This includes providing vision direction, attracting followers, and all other aspects of successful leadership.
  • Management skills: The CEO is responsible for creating a culture of learning to help enhance and grow the skills and abilities of employees. Only if the significant players continue to learn and grow will the organization truly succeed.

Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment for CEOs will grow 8 percent through 2026, which slightly faster than the overall employment growth of 7 percent for all occupations in the country.

Work Environment

Top executives work in nearly every industry in big and small companies. Regardless of company industry or size, the job of a CEO can one of high stress and pressure because they're essentially responsible for the performance of a company—both good and bad.

Work Schedule

CEOs often work more than 40 hours per week, including on evenings and weekends. They also usually travel often for work.

How to Get the Job

The path to becoming a CEO is not usually an easy one, and there's not one way to do it. However, completing an executive development program can help ensure you get there. Here are three of the top-ranked executive development programs in the U.S.:

The Kellogg Executive MBA Program

This program is offered by the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Chicago Booth Executive MBA

The University of Chicago Booth School of Business offers this program, which it claims is the world's first executive program.

The Duke Global Executive MBA

The Fuqua School of Business at Duke University offers this program.

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