I have found throughout my career as a CEO coach that most CEOs don’t really know what the job functions of the Chief Executive are. Of course, we all know that the CEO sets the vision for the organization, but what else is he/she supposed to do? I am often asked this question, and I have been able to answer it thanks to the insights I received from someone else.
Last year, the question was answered when Larry King (not the one from CNN, but CEO of King Strategic Development) spoke at a conference I attended. Larry was clear that he believes CEOs have six distinct roles. They are: strategist, ambassador, inventor, coach, investor, and student. After listening to Larry, here is my understanding of each:
- Strategist – Setting the future direction of the company. Determining where future profit margins come from? What markets to be in? etc.
- Ambassador – Calling on your important clients in a role other than a sales call. Giving them “free” information. Letting them experience you as a real human being. Becoming their trusted adviser. Asking things like “Where do you see your organization going in the next 18 months, and what problems do you see” (without immediately going into sales mode…instead, helping themfigure it out).
- Inventor – Figuring out ways to solve other people’s problems, for example, coming up with new products, services, delivery methods, procedures, etc.
- Coach – As an experienced CEO, you have a lot to teach others. Here are some examples:
- Where you see the industry going in the next five years.
- The financial model of your company (how we make money and how your people can help). Why “profits” is not a bad word.
- What you mean by “sense of urgency” and what it means to your customers.
- What your role is and how your people can help you be successful.
- Helping the people under you become great at what they do.
I concur wholeheartedly with Larry’s description of the six roles of the CEO. I believe that you can become a great CEO by simply understanding your role, and then constantly working on each of the six areas until you are proficient at all of them.