To an outsider, it might seem like the CEO is the sole proprietor of a company, or that the C-suite is all lumped together to perform the same tasks at varying levels of expertise. But to those actually in the C-suite, the differences between positions couldn’t be starker. These differences come together to serve the company in different ways. Just as the players of a team all have varying talents to win the game, the C-suite functions as a team where each position is critical to success.
CEO, the Coach
The CEO is the face of a company. She is the one connecting the things her team is doing on the field or court with the people in the stands. The CEO could also be called the quarterback, the star forward or the standout pitcher. He is the one shouldering the responsibility of the company and ensuring everything is being accomplished in a manner that reflects his and the founders’ mission. He calls the plays, inspires the players, and has a significant role in winning the game.
As legendary management guru Peter Drucker told The Harvard Business Review in 2004, “The CEO is the link between the Inside that is ‘the organization,’ and the Outside of society, economy, technology, markets, and customers. Inside there are only costs. Results are only on the outside.” But as any other C-suite executive and any casual sports fan knows, the CEO and the coach, or star player can’t do it all by himself. He is an essential piece to the game, but not the only piece. That’s why his relationships with the other team members are crucial for achieving any goal. The better the team understands one another’s responsibilities, management styles and aspirations, the more likely the company will reach top status.
CIO, the Rookie
This is one of the newest positions in the C-suite, so the CIO or CTO is still considered a rookie despite two decades of needing information technology managers. This is the person who makes it his job to protect sensitive information, invest in the right technology, and lead the company toward a bright future. Many experts and companies are also making this position the most heavily valued. While the management of information technology is important, companies shouldn’t forget the players like the CFOs, CMOs, and other players keeping the company running.
The vast majority of CIOs (84%) agree their role is becoming more important, but under 35% of them actually collaborate with other C-suite executives. The rookie of the team should bring a certain optimism to the team, but he also needs to learn about traditions from the regulars. Learning from one another and working together more closely will benefit a company greatly by integrating technology ideals into every possible area. Companies should modernize with tech solutions under the guidance of the CIO who is advised on what the company could really use. This will raise the value of the company to employees, stakeholders and customers.
CFO, the Utility Player
The CFO is often the most versatile player of the team. Every sport has one and every company should have one. These are your volleyball liberos, your football wide receivers who can also stand in as quarterback and baseball shortstops who cover second and third base when needed. These are the players keeping their eyes out for every move, potential play and curve ball. They react quickly and knowledgably when the game calls for it
The CFO is the person in the C-suite who is dealing with finances, executive office issues, customer concerns, protection of financial information, and keeping their teams inspired. That’s enough responsibility to make anyone’s head spin, but the shortstop knows when to look left and when to look right, just like a successful CFO. The CFO can cultivate strong relationships between all the other players, having seen their side of the game. She can also please the fans, or in this case the customers, because of her insight about the company as a whole and where it’s headed.
The CFO is the glue to a team that brings all the talents to one place, encourages discerning collaboration, and teaches the others why teamwork is really what wins the game.