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Who reports to the CEO?

In general, everyone from the C-suite reports to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), but the number of direct reports varies on a case by case basis. In smaller companies, even managers who are not strictly part of the C-suite may report directly to the CEO, as the latter engages more directly in the company’s day to day business.

The number of direct reports does not have to be directly proportional to the size of the company, many large companies have their tasks delegated so carefully that the CEO only has a few direct reports, made up from positions that directly concern the CEO’s own tasks and responsibilities.

Most management teams in a company consist of at least a CEO, a Chief Operating Officer (COO) who is usually considered second in command, and a Chief Financial Officer (CFO). While these three positions could theoretically be enough to make up the complete top level of the company’s structure, depending on its specific type, most will have more specialized C- level positions such a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), a Chief Technology Officer (CTO), or a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO).

However, variations to this structure are common. In many cases, you’ll have members of the management team reporting to the CEO that aren’t a part of the C-suite. Vice presidents and senior vice presidents that normally report to lower-level C-suite members can sometimes be found reporting directly to the CEO.

What is the C-Suite?

The C-suite is the name used to describe a company’s top-ranking executive employees. The “C” stands for “Chief”, and refers to the fact that every member of the C-suite sits at the top of their respective department and answers directly to the CEO. When you ask about who reports to the CEO, you’re usually asking who is a member of the C-suite.

Chief Executive Officer

The CEO is the most senior officer at a company, reporting only to the board of directors. They’re the face of the company, both for the public and internally for the organization’s employees. As a result, they must possess strong leadership abilities, and present a unified vision for the company’s growth.

CEOs are in charge of guiding the ship, setting the organization’s overall priorities that will carry the company into the future. The CEO is a leader, they set grand strategies and create the framework within which the rest of the company operates. It’s then up to the C-suite team to make sure the CEO’s vision is implemented throughout the organization. In simple terms, the CEO is the leader, and the rest of the C-suite executives are the managers.

Chief Operating Officer

The COO is in many ways the CEO’s second in command, and the employee most closely attached to carrying out the CEO’s vision for the company. They’re charged with overseeing the day-to-day operations of the organization and implementing the plans laid out by the CEO.

Because the COO handles the overall operations management within an organization, when there is no COO position the CEO tends to be more hands-on. In this case, it’s more likely that VPs and SVPs report to them, by necessity.

Chief Financial Officer

The CFO is essentially a company’s head accountant, and as such is ultimately responsible for managing a firm’s finances. They’re involved in long-term financial planning, tracking and maintaining proper cash flow, and maintaining the overall financial health of the organization. They’re also tasked with making certain that all necessary financial reports are accurate and delivered on time.

In order for the CEO to do their job effectively, they need access to timely financial information about the company and the competitive landscape. The CFO fulfills this role. They look out for their CEO’s priorities by creating efficiencies and delivering cost savings whenever possible to help further the organization’s fortunes.

Chief Marketing Officer

The CMO is responsible for formulating and overseeing the entirety of their company’s marketing efforts. They’re the officer most involved in helping the organization meet its growth objectives. Some of their general responsibilities include market research, brand management, market data analysis, and corporate communication.

The CMO translates the CEO’s growth goals into actionable strategies and implements them throughout the organization. The two work closely together to determine how the company should position its brand. The CMO keeps the CEO educated about current market and customer conditions. In turn, the CEO guides the CMO’s efforts to make certain they’re properly aligned with the institutional and financial realities of the company.

Chief Information Officer

The CIO is in charge of building, maintaining and developing an organization’s IT infrastructure. They’re responsible for setting global IT policies, overseeing digital security measures, rolling out hardware and software improvements, and focusing the efforts of the IT department with an eye for efficiency and compliance.

With the rise of big data and data-driven decision making, we now see a much closer working relationship between the CEO and CIO. The CIO is an advisor to the CEO, gathering insights from the company’s data analysis efforts and translating these into business realities for the rest of the C-suite. As companies across industries do increasingly more business online, the more critical the CIO is to bringing the CEO’s vision to fruition.

Overall, these roles exist to lead different departments of the company, to support the CEO’s vision. They work with each other and the CEO to bring every department into alignment so that the entire company can successfully move forward in unity toward its goals.


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