C-suite Executives: Analyzing Their Roles, Duties And How To Build A C-suite Career

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In a company hierarchy, the C-suite executives are considered the most important and influential unit. This is mainly because the overall success and direction of the company rests on their shoulders. The decisions taken by this group of individuals are usually responsible for the progress or failure of any business. 

With such delicate responsibilities, it’s important for C-suite executives to possess the   needed to effectively define a clear path.

So if you’re aspiring to become a C-suite executive or planning to recruit into C-level positions, you’ll need to have a clear picture of the various C-level roles, what their duties usually are, and how you can start to build a career trajectory towards the C-suite class.

What Does C-suite Mean?

The term “C-suite” is derived from the titles of top executives, which often begin with the letter C, for “chief,” as in chief executive officer (CEO), chief financial officer (CFO), chief operating officer (COO), and chief information officer (CIO) (CIO).

In the past, many C-level executives relied on functional knowledge and technical abilities to advance up the corporate ladder. Today, top executives need to be skilled in blending modern digital tactics with age-long business principles to make effective top management judgments.

Reaching this level usually demands a wealth of experience as well as properly polished leadership abilities.

Explore: HR Outsourcing 101: What, Why and Techniques to Outsource in 2021

What Are The Different C-Suite Roles?

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When discussing the C-suite, the most common names that spring to mind are the CEO, CFO, and COO. Several additional titles, however, fall within this executive level. Other members of the C-suite include:

  • Chief Compliance Officer (CCO)
  • Chief Human Resources Manager (CHRM)
  • Chief Security Officer (CSO)
  • Chief Green Officer (CGO)
  • Chief Analytics Officer (CAO)
  • Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)
  • Chief Data Officer (CDO)

Who Are C-Suite Executives?

The C-suite is a term used to describe a company’s senior management roles, with the “C” standing for “chief.” The C-suite is occupied by several chief officers (e.g., CEO, CIO, CFO, and so on). 

These individuals, although being well compensated and important supervisors, are nonetheless employees of the company. The number of C-level roles varies for every organization, based on factors such as size, company objectives, structure and industry.

Breakdown Of The Major C-Suite Roles

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1. The Chief Executive Officer’s Role (CEO)

The highest-level corporate executive, the CEO, is invariably the company’s face and regularly consults other C-suite members for counsel on key issues.

CEOs can come from any career path, as long as they have developed significant leadership and decision-making abilities along the way.

2. Chief Operating Officer (COO)

As the C-suite executive in charge of human resources (HR), the COO ensures that a company’s operations are conducted smoothly. Their primary concentration is on recruiting, training, payroll, legal, and administrative services. The COO is often the second in charge behind the CEO.

3. Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

For financial analysts and accountants seeking to advance in the financial business, the CFO job symbolizes the pinnacle of the corporate ladder. CFOs must be proficient in portfolio management, accounting, investment research, and financial analysis.

CFOs have global perspectives and collaborate closely with CEOs to identify new business possibilities while assessing the financial risks and rewards of each business project.

4. Chief Information Officer (CIO)

The CIO is a leader in information technology who often begins as a business analyst and progresses to the C-level while gaining technical abilities in fields such as programming, coding, project management, and mapping.

CIOs are often adept at applying these functional abilities to risk management, corporate strategy, and financial operations. CIOs are also known as chief technology officers in several organizations.

5. Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)

The CMO generally advances to the C-suite from sales or marketing positions. These executives are adept in developing social marketing and brand development projects across both physical locations and electronic platforms, the latter of which is critical in today’s digital world.

6. Chief Technology Officer (CTO)

A chief technology officer is the executive in charge of a company’s technical demands as well as research and development (R&D).

This professional, often known as a chief technical officer, evaluates a company’s short- and long-term needs and uses money to make investments that will assist the business achieve its goals. The chief technology officer (CTO) generally reports directly to the company’s CEO.

How Important Are C-Level Duties?

C-suite executives collaborate to ensure that a company’s strategy and operations are in line with its set plans and policies.

From monitoring finances, to improving the brand image and covering the cost of various logistics, the C-level management staff only focus on activities that are meant to keep the company wheels spinning.

C-suite executives work in high-stakes, demanding environments which is why they are usually compensated well. 

For companies looking to attract competent C-level executives, it is important to understand that a huge paycheck will not impress individuals that fall in this category.

Considering that they already make comfortable salaries, a good way to poach top executives is by offering juicy incentives. From flexible work schedules, to bulky allowances, family healthcare plans and paid vacations, ensure you’re offering way more than a regular paycheck.

How To Become A C-Suite Executive

Historically, only males held senior managerial roles in businesses. This has shifted little during the last few decades. Nonetheless, according to a 2020 Oliver Wyman research, women occupy just 20% of executive committee roles and 23% of board seats. Among Fortune 1000 firms, 94 percent of CEOs are male, with only 6 percent being female CEOs.

There is no one-size-fits-all path to the C-suite. For some, being proactive and thinking about your professional path will be critical, but others may be able to get by just by being pushy and rubbing elbows with the appropriate people.

In every scenario, hard work and a proven track record are essential, and there is no room for laziness. It helps to have the required qualifications, such as an MBA from a top management school.

Read: Women in Tech in Nigeria: Analyzing the Gender Digital Divide

Last Notes…

For recruiters, it is important to make very informed decisions when recruiting for C-suite positions. While a potential C-suite candidate might be proactive and well experienced, with a proven track record in tech-based firms, they will probably be a wrong fit for an insurance company.

Many top companies realize how pivotal this particular hiring process is to an organization’s future and therefore, always seek to employ the services of professional third-party recruiters in order to hit as close to gold as possible.


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