7 Essential Roles of Being a CEO

The role of a CEO is one of the most challenging and demanding positions in any organization. As the top executive, the CEO is responsible for leading the company and making crucial decisions that will shape its future. Here are seven essential roles that must be fulfilled to succeed as a CEO.

1. Leadership Development

One of the most important roles of a CEO is to develop bench strength. This is particularly important for entrepreneurs and small business owners who want to escape the founder role and grow into an effective CEO. Therefore, the CEO should provide opportunities for employees to learn and grow through training programs, mentoring, and stretch assignments. Of course, the CEO should lead by example and demonstrate the behavior and values she or he wants to see in employees.


  • Foster a culture of continuous learning and development
  • Encourage employees to take on new challenges and stretch assignments
  • Lead by example and model the behavior and values you want to see in your employees
  1. Allocating Resources

A fundamental role of the CEO is to allocate resources effectively to achieve the company’s strategic goals. Of course, this requires having a clear strategy (see next point).  What’s important is to allocate capital, physical, and human resources in a manner that achieves the key performance goals to drive strategic success. This means being decisive about cash flow management, capital allocations, operational budgeting, and staffing. A CEO should also ensure that the company’s resources are being used in the most efficient and effective way possible.


  • Develop a clear understanding of the company’s goals and objectives
  • Prioritize and allocate resources to the areas that will have the greatest impact
  • Regularly review and adjust resource allocation as needed
  1. Setting Strategy

A CEO must set the overall strategy for the company and ensure that all employees understand and are aligned with it. This includes making decisions about the company’s products, services, and market opportunities. A CEO should also be able to anticipate and respond to changes in the industry and market conditions.

When setting a strategy, a CEO should also involve key stakeholders such as employees, customers, and shareholders, in the process. This will help ensure that the strategy is aligned with the needs and concerns of these groups and that they are more likely to support and buy into it.

Additionally, a CEO should conduct regular reviews and assessments of the company’s progress toward its goals and make adjustments to the strategy as needed. This will allow the company to stay on track and continue to achieve its goals over time.


  • Develop a clear and compelling vision for the company
  • Communicate the strategy to all employees and ensure they understand it
  • Regularly review and adjust the strategy as needed
  1. Building & Maintaining Key Relationships

Effective CEOs understand the importance of being able to build and maintain strong relationships with key stakeholders. These include employees, customers, shareholders, and partners. CEOs must communicate effectively with these groups, understand their needs and concerns, and work collaboratively to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes.

In building relationships, it’s important for a CEO to not only focus on internal relationships but also to actively seek out and establish relationships with external partners and organizations. This can help the company tap into new resources, expand its reach, and gain valuable insights and perspectives.

Networking events, industry conferences, CEO Peer Groups, and joining trade organizations are some of the ways a CEO can actively build external relationships. 

Of course, a CEO should prioritize building and maintaining relationships with customers, which can help to drive sales and revenue for the company.


  • Communicate regularly and effectively with key stakeholders
  • Understand and respond to the needs and concerns of key stakeholders
  • Build and maintain strong relationships with employees, customers, shareholders, and partners
  1. Making Big Decisions

As the top executive, a CEO is responsible for making important decisions that will shape the future of the company. This includes making decisions about products, services, markets, and investments.

A CEO must be able to be decisive under pressure. A key to achieving this is to make sure, as CEO, you have time to think about and work on the business rather than being consumed by the day-to-day operations. This will allow you to think in terms of contingency planning so you’ll know how to act, communicate, and prioritize your actions.

Of course, it’s critical that the CEO not be mired in the details of day-to-day decisions. In other words, they don’t want to be trapped in the metaphorical role of the “Technician” as described in the E-Myth.


  • Gather and analyze information from multiple sources
  • Make decisions quickly and effectively under pressure
  • Communicate decisions clearly and effectively to all stakeholders
  1. Managing Risk

A CEO must be able to identify and manage risks that could impact the company. This includes understanding the potential risks and consequences of different actions and decisions and taking appropriate measures to mitigate or manage them. One way CEOs can increase their awareness of risks on the horizon is by connecting with other leaders in a CEO Peer Group.

In addition to the tips provided for managing risk, it is important for a CEO to have a clear understanding of the company’s risk management policies and procedures. This will ensure that risks are identified and managed consistently across the organization.

A CEO should also ensure that the company has adequate insurance coverage in place to mitigate potential risks. Additionally, it’s important for the CEO to implement a crisis management plan, which should be regularly reviewed and updated to ensure the company can respond to unexpected situations effectively. This will allow the company to minimize the impact of any potential risks and ensure the company can continue to operate during and after a crisis.


  • Regularly assess and identify potential risks to the company
  • Take appropriate measures to mitigate or manage identified risks
  • Communicate risks and risk management strategies to all stakeholders
  1. Developing and maintaining the company’s reputation

Finally (for this list, at least), a CEO must be able to develop and maintain a positive reputation for the company. To effectively develop and maintain the company’s reputation, a CEO should establish a strong corporate brand and communication strategy.

This includes creating a consistent message and image across all of the company’s communications and ensuring that the company’s actions align with its values and mission.

Additionally, a CEO should actively engage with and listen to the company’s stakeholders, including customers, employees, and shareholders, to understand their concerns and address them in a timely manner.

Furthermore, a CEO should also be prepared to respond quickly and effectively to any negative press or reputation issues, and take steps to mitigate any potential damage.


  • Establish and maintain a strong, positive brand for the company
  • Build and maintain trust and credibility with key stakeholders
  • Address and respond to negative publicity in a timely and effective manner
  • Regularly monitor and measure the company’s reputation and make adjustments as necessary.

Being a CEO is a challenging and demanding role, but with the right mindset, skills, and approach, it can also be a very rewarding experience. By understanding and effectively executing the essential roles of a CEO, CEOs can lead their companies to success.

As CEOs, we confront critical choices – growth strategies, succession planning, employee engagement, leadership development…the list seems endless. The weight of these decisions can feel exhilarating, yet also stressful. And lonely.

Even though I started an INC. 500 company, I spent too many years trying to navigate it all solo. I’ve learned every CEO needs a community of peers who understand the unique challenges we face.

Peernacle is a private peer advisory group where leaders in southern Virginia come together and help one another to make better decisions and grow as leaders. If you’re looking for a community where you can gain insight from others who have sat in your seat, explore Peernacle group membership.