The C-Suite. We know who they are, but do we really know what they do? In the era of empowered employees, the chief executives are either working for you or against you. They’re either fully integrated into your company’s workflow or they are the individuals who shall not be named. The powers that be have an opportunity to influence or stifle an organization’s development. In this series, we will identify the key players in the C-Suite, what they do and how they can leverage their authority to inspire innovation within the ranks.


Who Is the C-Suite?

Corner offices are filled with executive officers who are responsible for leading companies into a new era of social business. Over the last decade, new roles have emerged focused on defining strategies for new technologies, marketing initiatives and new business innovation.


Meet the C-Suite

Today, we take a look at the CEO.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

The most prominent member of the C-Suite is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). The history of business is full of examples that demonstrate how a CEO can make or break a company. For every Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, there is a Steve Ballmer, Mark Hurd or Carly Fiorina. There have been many books and articles dedicated to identifying what makes a successful CEO. While there are varying traits and characteristics that make individuals effective at leading others, most can agree on the traits that can doom a CEO -- incompetence, complacency and apathy.

Ultimately a CEO is only as good as the company she oversees, but there is much that a CEO can do to steer an organization in the right direction.

In a study of more than 1,700 chief executive officers in 64 countries, IBM sought to understand how CEOs respond to the complexity of increasingly interconnected organizations, markets, societies and governments. In this new connected era, which has helped to fundamentally change how people engage, leaders are finally recognizing that they need change accordingly. As a result, IBM found that CEOs are creating more open and collaborative cultures, encouraging employees to connect, and learning from each other to thrive in a world of rapid change.

In the study,

Learning Opportunities

  • Collaboration is the number-one trait CEOs are seeking in their employees, with 75% of CEOs calling it critical.
  • More than 70 percent of CEOs are seeking a better understanding of individual customer needs and improved responsiveness.
  • More than half of all CEOs are partnering extensively to drive innovation.

With the emergence of mobile, cloud and social technologies, today’s CEOs are leading through unchartered territories and can’t always refer to the predecessors for advice. To steer their organizations effectively, the IBM study revealed three leadership traits that CEOs feel are most critical: inspirational leadership, customer obsession and leadership teaming across the C-suite.




The Social Business of a CEO

Clearly, the evolution of chief executives as leaders can directly impact their organizations’ behavior, culture and results. As such, it’s the CEO's responsibility to be in touch with the reality their employees and customers face. For some, that means being on social media or roaming the halls to learn how people are working (or not working) or actively engaging with stores, products and services.

The right CEO has enough humility to recognize what he doesn't know and either hire the people who do, or see it as an opportunity to learn more about it. To choose to ignore it is to deliberately steer a company backwards and set it up for failure.