Chief executive officers (CEOs) hold one of the most important roles within an organization. While you may picture one specific skill set or persona when you envision a successful CEO, there are actually 6 types of CEOs and 3 CEO leadership types. Understanding what makes each type different is crucial when determining which category you fall under.
In this article, we’ll define a typical CEO, cover the roles and responsibilities of CEOs, define the 6 types of CEOs, and outline the 3 CEO leadership styles. Keep reading to find out which type of CEO you are!
What is a CEO?
A CEO, or chief executive officer, is the highest-ranking member of an organization. Often responsible for managing and directing the company toward primary goals and objectives, CEOs are also responsible for leading a team of executives, overseeing employment decisions at the executive level, and making major decisions including acquisitions, mergers, joint ventures, or large-scale expansions. Oftentimes the CEO will serve as the public face of the organization while additionally acting as the main liaison between the organization and the board of directors. An organization’s profitability, performance, and success will be heavily reliant on the CEO.
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A CEO’s role and responsibilities
The CEO is responsible for both internal and external communications, meaning they communicate internally with key stakeholders and act as the outer face of the organization. Between overseeing various functions—like operations, finance, marketing, sales, human resources, legal, compliance, and technology—and balancing the needs of employees, customers, investors, and other stakeholders, CEOs need to be skilled professionals. Their roles and responsibilities vary from organization to organization; however, their primary duties usually include managing the overall resources and operations of an organization, making major corporate decisions, and being the main point of contact between employees, senior management, the organization’s board of directors, and the public.
To be successful as CEOs, individuals must be exceptional communicators who can attract, motivate, and maintain top talent. In addition, they need to be creative, innovative, and committed to perpetual growth. While their roles and responsibilities will vary from one organization to the next, CEOs also need to be effective delegators who can problem-solve and make effective decisions on a dime.
6 types of CEOs
CEOs often have different motivators, meaning each type of CEO does certain things for different reasons. While some CEOs may have two or three different CEO types, they often only thrive in one area. When determining which type of CEO you’re dealing with, it’s best to start by identifying their motivators. Identifying what drives them in addition to learning how they interact with those around them will help you determine which type of CEO you’re dealing with.
- Finance-driven CEO
- Culture-driven CEO
- International missionary
- Company representative
- Corporate innovator
- Business executor
The financially driven CEO will be focused on the bottom line and their main prerogative will be providing shareholder value. This person will have a financial background and will be prepared to work with the chief financial officer (CFO) to get their hands dirty. Common traits among financially driven CEOs include having an in-depth understanding of key-value metrics for their respective industry in addition to being laser-focused on transactions and portfolio dispersals.
Culture-driven CEOs are those who champion their people. These individuals will measure success by engagement as their main focus will be building out a solid team and a healthy work environment. They will be personable, professional, and approachable, and their main prerogative will be creating a positive work environment that champions and supports their people.
The international missionary is a CEO that believes in corporate potential. The international missionary will be driven by personal gain in addition to corporate gain. Their personal mission will be to make a significant difference as CEO and their corporate goal will simply be to make their organization great. This person will be a visionary who shoots for the stars.
The company representative is a CEO who lives for the organization. They are determined and hard-working, and they strive to be a corporate ambassador. They measure success by their market cap and will focus on their organization’s societal impact. These individuals are global visionaries. They operate at the geopolitical level and strive to transform industries. This person will live and breathe for their organization.
The corporate innovator or entrepreneur will be focused on their personal mission. They will have a unique, personalized reason to lead and will be motivated by monetary gain. The corporate innovator or entrepreneur most likely has a large stake in the organization and will make the company their life. These CEOs believe that they can make a difference and will continue to search for breakthrough opportunities. Nothing will stand between them and innovation.
The business executor is a traditional CEO. This is who you picture when you envision a classic CEO. They are dedicated, hard-working, and incredibly business-minded. These individuals are motivated by the success of their company. Everything they do will be calculated in an attempt to benefit the organization.
3 CEO leadership styles
There are three different leadership styles. Some CEOs are managers, some are leaders, and some are bosses. Understanding which type of CEO you are—or which type of CEO you’re dealing with—can be extremely beneficial for several reasons, including understanding your strengths and weaknesses and how they contribute to the greater good of the organization.
Bosses and leaders are often in the limelight, whereas managers are working quietly behind the scenes to make waves. Managers are often known for empowering those around them and helping those on their team grow into the best versions of themselves as opposed to operating for their own game. While CEOs who embrace this leadership style may not become household names like Elon Musk or Steve Jobs, they will leave a lasting impact on those that they have had the opportunity to work with personally.
Leaders are visionaries and they carve their own paths. Often operating at the height of innovation, leaders constantly push boundaries while encouraging those around them to do the same. Leaders think outside the box and aren’t afraid of the hurdles or roadblocks that may be in their way. CEOs who embrace this leadership style won’t let anyone get between them and what they deem to be successful.
Bosses are directive and they expect those around them to follow in their footsteps. With directive leaders, there is little to no room for outside force; instead, all parties are expected to follow in the leader’s footsteps. CEOs who adopt the boss leadership style will meticulously make sure their view is implemented and followed.
Types of CEOs: Unlocked
While CEOs share many of the same characteristics, they all vary. Some may excel in areas where others fall short and vice-versa. It’s important to remember that every CEO will have a different set of motivators and aspirations. Some may operate with the end goal of doubling down in financial gain or market cap, whereas some may aspire to be excellent people leaders. Understanding which type of CEO you’re working with will help you as you move through your career. Understanding the different types of CEOs may also help you decide which type you aspire to be someday.