The highest-level executives in organizations usually have titles beginning with “Chief” forming what is often called the C-Suite. The traditional three such officers are Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Operations Officer (COO), and Chief Financial Officer (CFO). Other C-level job titles include CTO (Chief Technology Officer), CIO (Chief Information Officer), COO CCO (Chief Compliance Officer), CKO (Chief Knowledge Officer), CSO (Chief Security Officer), CDO (Chief Data Officer), and CMO (Chief Marketing Officer).
C-Suite gets its name from the titles of top senior executives which tend to start with the letter C, for chief. The larger the business organization, the more C-Suite titles are present in it. There are many titles within a company such as executive director, managing director, company director and chairman.
Having a chief for each function as trend has been building for years, with large corporations adding numerous new executives with “chief” in their titles. It has been observed that at smaller businesses and startups also these titles are used just for the sake of trying to keep pace with larger competitors to attract top-shelf leaders. In fact, adding a “C” top each title is to fight the dearth of talent in market. More of C-Suite entities in an organization sometimes hurt the working climate creating too much ambiguity in commands. Too many C-Suites can mar the growth of organizations.
A company of even smaller of medium size needs a chief executive officer (CEO) to lead the company; a chief financial officer (CFO) to run the numbers; and, depending on the scale of the operation, perhaps a chief operating officer (COO) to keep the operations running on time. This allows the CEO to focus on bigger-picture issues and strategy. But we see businesses running into a slew of other C-level titles; Chief Revenue Officer (CRO), Chief Customer Officer (CCO), and Chief Product Officer (CPO), Chief Data Officer (CDO), Chief Behavior Officer (CBO), Chief Applications Architect Officer (CAAO) to name a few.
Many larger companies, particularly in technology and finance, have chief information officers (CIOs) and chief technology officers (CTOs). These executives run complex corporate data centers and other major systems. There are also brand-savvy chief marketing officers (CMOs); message-centric chief communications officers (CCOs); environmentally savvy chief sustainability officers (CSOs); chief listening officers (CLOs) and even chief information-security officers (CISOs–maybe the most cumbersome acronym), who are charged with fending off cyber attacks.
This alphabet soup is partly the result of changes taking place in business and technology. Before the internet and introduction of computer, companies obviously did not need a top officer responsible for cyber security or maybe not even a CTO. Now, those critical functions need to be handled at a high level by somebody, and many companies do it by assigning them to a dedicated, C-level executive.
What we are seeing of late is organizations titling posts at the C-level; this zeal seems less purposeful. Some companies like to craft new positions with fancy titles just in order to appear like they’re paying attention to a particular business function. Others use C-level titles to fight the shortage of high-level talent crunch in some functional areas. CEOs and recruiters figure that if they give someone a “Chief Something” title, instead of a more-traditional VP or SVP role, an on-the-fence job candidate might be more likely to sign on the dotted line.
If everyone is chief, who will follow the instructions? There are definite flaws in making everyone a chief of something in organization. If everyone is going to call the shots, the decision making process will slow down. The moment, someone is given a flamboyant title, the organization increases the risk of a having an unnecessary department or sub-department. And, soon the organization will bloom beneath to justify the high title. This is how bureaucracy sets in. Even worst, numerous factions and constituencies blur the key issues.
All C-Suite titles tend to give instructions to staff leaving them flabbergasted as to whom to follow and whom not to. And, many who lack the expertise but are give the title, just for the sake of flexing their titles, create confusion. The CEOs must not hand out “chief” titles like chocolate candy in response to every new business trend. In my opinion, even today organizational charts with minim C-Suite titles look good and are held esteemed.
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