Chief Executive Officer or Chief Purpose Officer

December 22nd, 2009

A chief executive officer is responsible for aligning a company – internally and externally – with its strategic, and hopefully unique, mission. Like the mastermind behind a chess board. CEOs also have other ways of describing their roles: chief rainmaker, chief motivator, chief bean counter or chief disciplinarian among others.

How about this, instead: Chief Purpose Officer.

Let’s back up for a minute. Almost exactly a year ago, on this very blog, we shared the story of Joel Spolsky, self-described “co-founder, CEO and Lord High Everything Else,” of Fog Creek. To quote ourselves: “Joel spent two afternoons hanging curtains to block the sun from baking the backs of his employees and reducing the glare on their monitors.”

Joel is not a Chief Executive Officer. Joel is a Chief Purpose Officer. A CEO would have someone else fix the problem. As top dog at Fog Creek, Joel sees it as his responsibility to keep the company focused on and driving toward its purpose. And if that means installing blinds to block the sun, then so be it.

Joel isn’t unique, anymore. There has been a shift among CEOs today. We’ve seen it from our clients. They view their role as Chief different than their predecessors. In particular to us, they’re asking us to help them communicate to their employees and customers in new ways. Some are trying new delivery methods – podcasting, videos, weekly email blasts, to name a few – and others are trying new messages.

Does your organization need a Chief Executive Officer or a Chief Purpose Officer?

Posted Under: Innovation & Technology
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