All Articles Leadership Management What differentiates a CEO from other C-levels?

What differentiates a CEO from other C-levels?

4 min read


The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council, an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and e-mail lessons. Read previous SmartBlogs posts by YEC.

What differentiates a CEO from other C-levels? (And if you co-founded, who gets the CEO slot and why?)

1. Public and private responsibility

Don’t just crown the biggest extrovert on your team with the CEO title. Although CEOs often share equal leadership responsibility with the C-suite and, in some corporations, are mere figureheads, the weight or scrutiny, praise and blame still goes to them. So, you have to give the title to the one with the best proven track record, and feel free to let someone else do the talking. — Manpreet Singh, Seva Call

2. People, direction and money

CEOs can do a lot of different things at different companies, but there are three responsibilities that a CEO must assume if a startup is to be successful: taking charge of hiring and firing, setting the long-term strategy of the company and making sure everyone gets paid (i.e., fundraising). — Claus Moberg, SnowShoe Stamp

3. Perception

Most individuals outside of corporate life see little value in anything except the president, chairman and/or CEO. Although businesspeople may understand the importance of the other C-suite roles, accountability and responsibility ultimately lie within the role of the CEO in the eyes of the public. — Tyler Arnold, SimplySocial Inc.

4. Ultimate responsibility

CEOs carry serious responsibility and are also often the face of the company. They need to have a firm handle on everything from sales and marketing to operations and HR, all while planning for the future. As a co-founder, the CEO slot should always go to the individual who is largely participating in and overseeing these functions and paying particular attention to the growth strategy. — Adam Callinan, BottleKeeper

5. Inspiration and communication

A CEO has a few important roles: inspiration (sets the company vision and strategy), communication (designs communication infrastructure for the whole company and communicates vision), decision-making and accountability. — Jesse Pujji, Ampush

6. Disturbance management

There are always things going on inside and outside of a company that can prevent people from getting their work done. The CEO’s biggest responsibility is to handle those situations in such a way as to keep them from disturbing the other people on the team. Otherwise, the company can’t function. — Thursday Bram, Hyper Modern Consulting

7. Public view

The CEO is ultimately the face of the company for the public and therefore has to have a full-time commitment. Personally, as a co-founder, I often choose not to be the CEO because this enables me to maximize my impact by dealing with partnership negotiations, business development and a range of behind-the-scene responsibilities while also investing time in other projects. — Christopher Pruijsen, Raising IT

8. Complete oversight

The CEO is different from other C-levels because he or she is in charge of the entire C-suite. Other execs have more specific responsibilities; the CEO is responsible for the entire operation. In a situation of co-founding, the one with the most leadership qualities and capabilities should get the CEO slot. — Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

9. Visionary attitude

The CEO is the face of the company and has to be the visionary who leads the company in the right direction on all levels of decision-making. He must set the strategic direction of the company and also communicate it to everybody. I believe a major difference is that person’s ability as a communicator and willingness to hold himself accountable for the success of the organization. — Andy Karuza, Brandbuddee

10. Responsibility

The buck stops with you. The CEO takes ultimate responsibility for making sure the right people are in the right position and are doing the right things. Other C-levels, especially in early-stage companies, have very specific individual contributions they must make. — Adam Lieb, Duxter

11. Stress management

The CEO has to manage a variety of relationships as well as the stresses faced by each individual on the other end of that relationship. Whether it’s your team member, an investor, client or yourself, it’s your job to pull it together and make it work for everyone. — Benish Shah, Before the Label