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Chief executives are the heads of an organization who carry out day-to-day management tasks. They often answer to a board of directors, which manages an organization’s long-term decisions. People with excellent leadership ability, creative thinking skills, and stamina make the best chief executives. They work long hours in office environments, often staying late to work evenings or weekends. However, the hard work has the potential to lead to big payoffs, both financially and professionally. Chief executives can wield enormous influence and have the power to impact numerous lives with their organizations.

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Chief Executive Duties and Responsibilities

No matter the industry or function of the organization, most chief executives have the same basic responsibilities. Based on an analysis of job listings, resumes, and information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these responsibilities are:

Set and Carry Out Organizational Goals

Although they often answer to a board of directors, chief executives usually make the final call on exactly how the organization will achieve its goals. They hold meetings with other high-ranking managers and executives to hear the considerations of each department, then finalize a plan of action for the coming period.

Oversee Financial Activity

Chief executives work closely with chief financial officers to establish and monitor the organization’s budget. They keep an eye on profits and assets versus expenses, then make the final decision to cut the budget for certain departments if necessary.

Negotiate Contracts or Investments

Making sales and closing deals with partners outside the organization is an important function of chief executives. In addition to increasing the organization’s financial assets, chief executives set an example for junior employees with their sales acumen, negotiation tactics, and growth mindset.

Appoint Managers

Chief executives know that building the right team is essential to carrying out the organization’s goals. They launch the search for new talent and present candidates for senior management positions to the board of directors.

Lead Company Culture

Chief executives develop and adopt the values that they expect all members of the organization to adhere to. As leaders, they empower junior employees to excel by encouraging them to take more responsibility, think creatively, and see the opportunities inside of every situation. They also provide options for professional development training.

Chief Executive Skills and Qualifications

Chief executives are big-picture thinkers who can home in on the details and see how all of an organization’s parts work together synergistically. They know a little bit about a lot and understand the value of being surrounded by experts and dedicated team members. Employers prefer that potential chief executives have a master’s degree in business administration as well as several years of work experience in management positions. They also look for candidates with the following skills:

Leadership acumen – as the head of an organization, the chief executive must be able to command loyalty and respect

Management experience – effectively guiding teams of people to achieve a common goal is a key ability of chief executives

Financial intelligence – organizations of all sizes live and die by the balance of profits and expenses, so chief executives must be well-versed in the fundamentals of financial management

Problem-solving skills – successful chief executives are creative thinkers who can see opportunities to make the best out of a bad situation

Communication skills – negotiating deals, making sales, and strategizing with their teams are only a few of the situations where clear and effective communication is essential for chief executives

Chief Executive Education and Training

While there is the occasional exception to the rule, most chief executives have a bachelor’s degree in business administration or in a field related to their organization’s industry, and many have a master’s degree in business administration. In addition, chief executives have extensive work experience, often in managerial positions.

Licenses and certifications will depend upon the chief executive’s specialty or field of work. Some qualifications, such as being a certified public accountant, are desirable assets for chief executives who regulate budgets and make decisions about large investments.

Overall, the scarcity of available chief executive positions makes the job market very competitive. Candidates with advanced degrees, certifications, and more work experience will likely have better job prospects.

Chief Executive Salary and Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), chief executives earn a median annual wage of about $183,000. This is significantly higher than the median annual wage of all occupations, which is around $37,000.

The top 10 percent of all chief executives earn more than $208,000, while the lowest 10 percent earn less than $68,110. However, depending on the industry in which the chief executive works, salaries can vary even more widely.

The BLS anticipates that jobs for chief executives will decline 4 percent through 2026, an unfortunate trend compared to the 7 percent average growth for all occupations. Although organizations will always need chief executives in order to function, new organization creation has slowed in recent years. Any positions that are available will likely experience extreme competition.

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Helpful Resources

Ready to reach your fullest potential and become a highly sought-after chief executive? These resources can help you on your journey:

American Management Association

this supplier of professional development is recommended by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Resources include training for individuals, enterprises, and government agencies in order to improve their leadership skills and effective management

National Management Association

10,000 members worldwide rely on this organization for leadership training through professional development workshops, mentorship programs, and conferences

How to Become CEO: The Rules for Rising to the Top of Any Organization

while not a step-by-step guide for becoming a CEO, this book nonetheless offers rules of behavior and character that can help someone advance within a large corporation

Before I Was CEO: Life Stories and Lessons from Leaders Before They Reached the Top

the path to becoming CEO is not the same for everyone. This collection of personal stories shows that it’s not always a degree from a top-tier school that earns the corner office, but traits like adaptability, a strategic mind, and an ability to deal with failure