• Quill Team

Who is a C-Suite Executive?

By Leya Aronoff

As a college student researching different career paths that could lead to a C-level title, like a CEO or COO, you may wonder what do they really do or what are the skills they need to succeed? The C-level (also known as the C-suite) are executives at the highest level of management and lead a company. Each C-suite executive is responsible for a different aspect of a company. Often small companies start off with no formal C-suite level of management, but rather the founders lead the company. After the organization grows, the founders search and hire executives for the C-suite.

Fogarty, Groysberg, Kelly, MacDonald, and Zimmerman found that people in the C-suite have developed three skills. Soft skills, such as leadership skills, executive presence, or vision are used to align their employees to focus on business goals. For instance, executives are skilled at both supporting their employees and keeping them accountable for their work. Furthermore, they can translate the company’s overall vision into tangible business objectives and tasks. Executives also have cross functional skills, making them an effective leader across departments, such as marketing, finance, and operations. Lastly, they need business acumen. Leading a company of any size is not easy. Having strategic thinking skills allows these leaders to successfully navigate the world of business. A combination of all three skills makes an excellent executive.

Students who are interested in becoming C-suite executives should start developing these skills now. Some recommendations are to join a club to gain soft skills, take classes that teach technical skills across different functions, or get an internship to develop business acumen. Because particular executives are required for businesses of different types, sizes, industries, and contexts, there are varying C-suite positions.

There are some C-suite positions that are constant for most companies.

CEO (Chief Executive Officer): The CEO sets the direction of a company and works closely with other executives and a board of directors to execute a strategic plan. Additionally, the CEO is usually the face of the company and may get blamed for a firm’s bad image.

CFO (Chief Financial Officer): The CFO’s main job is managing the company’s finances and tracking cash flow. This person also advises the CEO on ways to improve the company’s finances.

COO (Chief Operations Officer): The COO manages the operations of a company. This entails tracking day-to-day operations and assisting the CEO with executing tasks. Additionally, the COO is sometimes also responsible for Human Resources.

CMO (Chief Marketing Officer): The CMO creates the marketing strategy for a company. They must understand what their customers or clients want in order to shape a brand to convey the right message.

CTO (Chief Technology Officer) or CIO (Chief Information Officer): Previously, the titles CTO and CIO have been interchangeable since both of their roles have been to oversee all the technology systems. Recently, their roles have started to differentiate. Now, the CTO focuses more on the information technologies that run the enterprise while the CIO oversees research and development, innovation for new products and services, and alignment of projects and business goals.

CHRO (Chief Human Resources Officer): The CHRO oversees all Human Resources operations, including leading talent acquisition, development, and succession planning.

CCO (Chief Compliance Officer): The CCO deals with compliance issues. They ensure that all employees are following the company’s policies and procedures.

CSO (Chief Security Officer) and CISO (Chief Information Security Officer): Both the CSO and CISO is in charge of information and data security. The CISO is only responsible for digital information security while the CSO is responsible for physical and digital information security.

CDO (Chief Data Officer): In order to help with following compliance rules, the CDO is responsible for overseeing the organization’s data governance.

While the executives listed above are more widely utilized, there are several ones in the C-suite with job titles that depend on the company.

CAO (Chief Analytics Officer): The CAO analyses data within a company. This is necessary for companies with large sets of accumulating data.

CXO (Chief Experience Officer): The CXO ensures positive customer interactions with the company. This role is slowly replacing the CCO (Chief Customer Officer) in the entertainment industry and the CAO (Chief Activity Officer) in the healthcare and travel industries.

CGO (Chief Green Officer): The CGO oversees the company’s efforts towards becoming more environmentally friendly.

CITA (Chief Architect): The CITA synthesizes IT frameworks from across the company and coordinates between others who are responsible for different aspects of IT architecture, such as data, technology, and security.

CKO (Chief Knowledge Officer): The CKO is responsible for managing all the knowledge within an organization in terms of resources, documents, and people skills.

CLO (Chief Learning Officer): The CLO oversees corporate learning and development programs to ensure that the programs are geared towards business goals.

CMIO (Chief Medical Information Officer): The CMIO operates as the bridge between the medical and IT departments, as this person usually designing and accessing all IT systems for medical uses.

CPO (Chief Privacy Officer): The CPO is tasked with making sure customer and employee data is safe from unauthorized access.

CPIO (Chief Process and Innovation Officer): The CPIO is responsible for noticing parts of the business that can function better and suggesting ways for the company to improve.

CPO (Chief Procurement Officer): The CPO oversees purchasing products and services, and negotiating costs from external sources.

CRO (Chief Reputation Officer): The CRO is responsible for motivating all employees to act in accordance with the company’s mission and values. This person also oversees how the actions of the company are perceived by the public.

CRO (Chief Risk Officer): The CRO is tasked with mitigating threats to the company’s financial success.

CSS (Chief Social Scientist): In the business sector, the CSS advises a business on how to create a good work environment for all employees while maintaining economic profitability.

CSO (Chief Strategy Officer): The CSO is in charge of creating and communicating the company’s future plans. This role is a fairly new one, thus this person’s role is broad to encapsulate all the variations with how each CSO does their job.

CTO (Chief Trust Officer): The CTO ensures customers that information will be protected and used only when appropriate or necessary.

Those are all the C-suite executives. Still have questions about specific positions? Think we missed any? Mention them in the comments and maybe they will be featured in another article.

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