by CIO Staff

The Tough Life of the Chief Officers

Mar 07, 20053 mins
IT Leadership

The top dogs at work often get all the grief. Granted, there are some chiefs in departments and at companies who are seemingly over-compensated based on overall results. And there are those who abuse their positions, either through personal excess or dictatorial flair.

But for the most part, being in the chief position can be extremely difficult and challenging. We’re not talking just about the Chief Executive Officer, but all the other “C” titles at businesses around the country.

There are the Chief Information Officers who, based on our nationwide survey, are considered the most underrated and/or underappreciated. As you might guess, the second most underrated or underappreciated is the Chief Technology Officer.

Closely following the technology leaders are the financial gurus, the Chief Financial Officers. In this day of intense focus on following the rules of Sarbanes-Oxley, finance leaders are finding themselves on the hot seat. But, the CFO also is near the top of the list of which chiefs provide the most value (critical to success, competitive advantage, etc.). The only position ahead of the CFO in this category is the CEO, rated by the majority of respondents as the one that provides the most value.

Interestingly, while the CEO is seen as providing the most value, the position also is considered to be the most overrated and/or overappreciated.

However, as you go higher in the ranks, there seems to be more appreciation for the CEO. While 38 percent of managers see the CEO as providing the most value, 67 percent of senior executives rate the CEO as number one among all the chiefs in value. The smaller the company, the more highly regarded is the CEO.

“Our company is small enough that every chief brings incredible value,” said one survey respondent. “If they don’t, they don’t last very long. They can’t hide in the organization.”

Not in any way to minimize the role of employees — managers and those executives who serve under the “chiefs” — but being in the top spot is not as easy as it might appear.

For example, executives and mangers regard Chief Marketing Officers as providing high value equally across all company sizes. However, if a major marketing campaign fails miserably, the repercussions are mostly likely to fall at the door of the CMO.

While not every business has all the official titles of chief-whatever, everyone in the organization or department knows who the in-effect chief is and who takes the heat when there’s a major failure. Even though there might not be a Chief of Sales title, top management readily finds a chief sales leader on which to pin a failure.

So the next time you read about a CEO receiving an enviable compensation package, keep in mind that not all the chiefs are in that category. And, those other chiefs are just as likely to quickly take the fall when the wind blows the wrong way, even though many of those chiefs are the ones who spent long nights and weekends diligently working toward the future good of the organization.