What Top Executives Do
Top executives often report to a board of directors.
Top executives plan strategies and policies to ensure that an organization meets its goals. They coordinate and direct work activities of companies and organizations.
Top executives typically do the following:
- Establish and carry out departmental or organizational goals, policies, and procedures
- Direct and oversee an organization’s financial and budgetary activities
- Manage general activities related to making products and providing services
- Consult with other executives, staff, and board members about general operations
- Negotiate or approve contracts and agreements
- Appoint department heads and managers
- Analyze financial statements, sales reports, and other performance indicators
- Identify places to cut costs and to improve performance, policies, and programs
The responsibilities of top executives largely depend on an organization’s size. In small organizations, such as an independent retail store, an owner or manager often is responsible for hiring, training, quality control, and day-to-day supervisory duties. In large organizations, chief executives typically focus on formulating policies and planning strategies, while general and operations managers direct day-to-day operations.
The following are examples of types of top executives:
Chief executive officers (CEOs), who are also known by titles such as executive director, managing director, or president, provide overall direction for companies and organizations. CEOs manage company operations, formulate and implement policies, and ensure that goals are met. They collaborate with and direct the work of other top executives and typically report to a board of directors.
There may be other types of chief executives—such as chief operating officers (COOs), chief financial officers (CFOs), or chief human resources officers—who manage a specific part of the organization. The knowledge, skills, and job duties that these executives have differ, depending on which department they oversee.
General and operations managers oversee activities that are too diverse to be classified into one area of management or administration. Responsibilities may include formulating policies, directing daily operations, and planning the use of materials and human resources. These managers make staff schedules, assign work, and ensure that projects are completed. In some organizations, the tasks of chief executive officers may overlap with those of general and operations managers.
Mayors, city managers, county administrators, and governors are chief executive officers of governments. They usually oversee budgets, programs, and the use of resources. Mayors and governors must be elected to office, whereas managers and administrators are typically appointed.
School superintendents and college or university presidents are chief executive officers of school districts and postsecondary schools. They manage issues such as student achievement, budgets and resources, general operations, and relations with government agencies and other stakeholders.