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Chief Executive Officers

The Job

Harry Truman, the president and CEO, if you will, of the United States from 1945 to 1953 had a sign on his desk that read, “The buck stops here!” In his farewell address to the American people in January 1953, President Truman referred to this concept by asserting: “The President—whoever he is—has to decide. He can’t pass the buck to anybody. No one else can do the deciding for him. That’s his job.” This adage can certainly be applied to the work of CEOs. They reign at the top of their organizations and make dozens of decisions daily that can positively or negatively affect the future of their organizations. 

The responsibilities of CEOs vary greatly by the size and type of company or organization. At small companies, CEOs handle a wider variety of duties than those at large, multinational companies. At large Fortune 500 companies, CEOs focus more on the big picture and are assisted by many other executives, department managers, and other workers. Some CEOs own their own businesses, and may have even founded the business. Major duties of CEOs include:

  • creating, communicating, and implementing their organization’s culture and mission
  • developing, mentoring, and evaluating the work of other executives and managers such as vice presidents, directors, chief financial officers, chief information officers, chief operating officers, and chief sustainability officers
  • meeting with the board of directors to discuss organization goals, strategies, and other issues
  • directing activities of departments concerned with production, pricing, sales, marketing, and distribution of products, as well as departments concerned with business development, legal issues, and regulatory compliance
  • working closely with financial officers to ensure the accuracy of financial reports issued by their organizations, especially if the company is publicly traded
  • representing their organization during interactions with the media, civic and professional associations, and shareholders
  • exploring ways to improve productivity and increase value (at corporations) for shareholders
  • developing short- and long-term plans for their organizations
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