Whether you’re running a business yourself, considering entering the field, or simply plotting your future career, it’s worth taking some time to understand what’s going on at the top of companies. This could be your eventual destination, as you work your way up through the ranks, attaining experience and responsibilities, and eventually sitting on Executive Boards of more and more prestigious companies. If you don’t like the look of the power structures you find at the top of companies, you can begin to plan a career that skirts them altogether: work as a consultant or an Interim Manager can grant you more authority in certain situations than any executive, as you’re hired for your expertise, and have the power to make recommendations that will be listened to!
In most companies this is where the buck stops. It’s a rare situation in which you find any one person with equal or greater authority than the CEO – while they may be gainsaid by the board of directors, they have little say in the day to day operation of the company.
There may be some interesting paths to navigate when the founder isn’t the same person as the CEO. In situations where the company has grown out of a close partnership that has become successfully and grown into a fully staffed company, or where the founder has appointed a CEO to deal with business decisions while they focus on their technical specialism – if they’re a programmer, they’ll be happier and serve the business better if they’re programming, rather than running executives. In all these situations, there’s a power imbalance there that may be stimulating or frustrating depending on the specifics of the situation.
Board of Directors
These people hold a collective responsibility for the running of an incorporated company, its ethos and actions, even though many of them won’t be working on the business’ operations day to day. The board normally includes a selection of high level executives (executive directors), as well as a range of trusted, experienced professionals from the wider community (non-executive directors), who are there to keep the business stable with the benefit of their experience, possibly as a retirement project after a life at the top.
Where the CEO sets a strategy for the company, their C-Suite executives are in charge of developing tactics that will achieve that goal, and making sure their departments put that into action. It’s this level that many aspire to, and success here will unlock opportunities in the upper echelons of any company, in a career endgame.