Over the course of my career, I have had the privilege of working with CEOs in many different capacities and from different perspectives. I have audited companies led by CEOs, advised, financed, and invested in CEOs. I have been mentored by CEOs. I have governed over CEOs as a Board Director. I am a CEO of my own impact investment and management company,.
CEOs do the following:
- They make decisions and take responsibility for those decisions and their outcomes. This is the biggest part of their job. Vision is a decision about the company’s future, to which the company is headed. Strategy is a decision about how the company will realize its future. An impact lens is a decision about what and who matters to a company and its people. When the CEO starts micro-managing or executing, they are no longer doing the job of a CEO.
- They lead. They guide a company in the direction of its vision. They set the culture of a company.
- They make sure the company is properly capitalized. Put another way, they make sure the company doesn’t run out of money to do what it needs to do. Irrespective of where the capital comes from, be it accumulated profits (i.e. retained earnings), debt, or equity, it is the CEO’s job to ensure the company has enough capital.
- They manage risk. They work towards reducing uncertainty and volatility. This makes the company more attractive to do business with from the perspective of customers and suppliers and makes it an attractive place to work to a wider range of people. Reducing risk reduces a company’s cost of capital.
- They are accountable to owners. Owners mean legal owners such as shareholders, but it may also take on a broader meaning to include a moral ownership, that is, anyone that cares about the company’s vision and goals. CEOs are accountable to a company’s owners or a Board of Directors representing a company’s owners for the company’s performance and impact.
Not explicit in a CEO’s job is to take on other jobs if needed to fill a gap temporarily. This might happen during startup, downsizing, or some other period of change. If a CEO executes other roles over the long-term, then they are not focusing on the job of a CEO.
CEOs focus on making decisions and leading. In doing so, they put their skills to best use, have a positive impact, and help create a better world.
For more impact investing resources and tools, buy Integrated Investing: Impact Investing with Head, Heart, Body, and Soul, available at all major online book retailers.