UK: The Six Essential Roles Of The CEO

Last Updated: 15 November 2012

What's the most important attribute for CEOs: Vision? Strategic thinking? The ability to build client relationships and close the deal?

Obviously, CEOs need to have all these skills. However, one attribute stands head and shoulders above the rest: focus.

Few things impact the success of a business more than the chief executive getting very clear about what he or she needs to accomplish. The more clarity you have around your own role, the more efficient and effective your performance will be. And the more you focus on your own role as CEO, the more your senior managers can focus on theirs.

So, what exactly should the CEO focus on?

Six CEO roles for success

The role of the CEO encompasses six essential functions:

  1. Strategist
  2. Ambassador
  3. Inventor
  4. Coach
  5. Investor
  6. Student.
  1. Strategist

    This function sets the future direction of your company. The process for creating effective strategy involves a team-centred strategic planning retreat, whereby you go off-site with your management team, look three years out into the future, and ask the most important strategic question: where will our future profit margins come from? Chances are they will not come from the same place as today.

    If you conduct annual retreats, you must have quarterly reviews as well. Planning minus review equals cynicism. Planning plus review equals solid momentum.
  2. Ambassador

    Meet with your important customers and clients once or twice a year – not for a sales call, but for an informal lunch or dinner. The idea is to get to know the customer and let them get to know you, so that you can increase their trust in you and establish your credibility.

    Toward the end of the meal, ask your client: "Where do you see your company going over the next 18 months and what problems do you anticipate?" Then sit quietly and listen, so that you can take what you hear back to your company and turn it into real gold by embracing the third role: inventor.
  3. Inventor

    Success in business requires finding your customer's pain and developing new products and services to relieve it. The inventor function ensures that the strategic direction of the company aligns around the customer's pain.
  4. Coach

    Become a teacher, coach and mentor to your direct reports. Instil a culture of learning throughout all levels of the organisation. Your direct reports do not have your big picture perspective, so find ways to teach it to them.

    In particular, your key players have many basic misconceptions about your financial model, thinking that your company and you are doing much better than you actually are. Teach your people the basic financial model of the company, so that they understand what is really happening from a financial standpoint.
  5. Investor

    Treat your company as an investment. Know the market value of your business and strive to grow it. Improving market value should direct all decisions for the business and reward the clear focus and direction of the CEO.
  6. Student

    Stay active in some form of continued professional development – not just in your area of functional expertise, but as a student of leadership.

    These six functions are not things to do when you happen to find the time. They must become your top priorities. Make them real and relevant for you, so that they drive your daily calendar and all your time management decisions.

How to stay focused

It is possible to perform the role of the CEO in as little as 20 to 25 hours a week – but only by staying focused on essential CEO activities and having a top-notch operations team in place, with no toleration of mediocre performance.

Someone has to see to it that all the operational stuff gets done. Without a capable management team, you don't have the luxury of focusing only on CEO activities.

To ensure that you spend more time wearing the CEO hat and not all the others in the company, we recommend the following:

  • "Whose job is it?" bell. Put a bell inside your head and let it go off at random intervals. When the bell rings, ask: "Whose job am I doing right now?" If it's not the CEO's job, ask: "Why am I doing this job and to whom does it belong?"
  • "A" priority list. Ask yourself: "What are the six most important things I do each month? Of these, which ones belong on my 'A' priority list and which should I delegate?" Then monitor how much time you spend on your "A" priorities compared with less important activities.
  • Personal mission statement. Most CEOs have a mission statement for their company. It also helps to have a mission statement for yourself. In addition to knowing where you want your company to go, you also need to have clarity about where you want to go as a CEO.
  • CEO success profile. Create a one-page, bullet-point success profile that focuses on what you need to accomplish as CEO. The profile can include setting the vision and strategic direction, identifying new products and services, creating the right kind of culture – anything essential to your company's success that only you can do. Print your success profile, keep it visible, and use it to make decisions on a daily basis.

    It may take several iterations to come up with a powerful profile that really reflects what is essential to your company's success, and you may struggle with what you need to hold on to versus what you need to let go of. However, plough through as many drafts as necessary until you get it right. In order to be effective, the profile must focus on the results that only you can produce.

Don't get sucked in

In our experience, most CEOs know what they need to do to fulfil their role. The problem is that they allow themselves to get sucked into doing other people's jobs. Focusing on the six key roles and your success profile will go a long way towards keeping you on track and ensuring that others are doing what you pay them to do.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.