CEO School pp 81-108 | Cite as

Class 6: Roles—The Four Essential Functions of the CEO

  • Stanislav Shekshnia
  • Kirill Kravchenko
  • Elin Williams


“I was around John Browne for quite some time, when he was in charge,” says Bob Dudley (UK, BP). “I saw everything, but I could not understand the board-CEO dynamics, the importance of succession and compensation issues or how to deal with them.”

There’s only so much that aspiring CEOs can rehearse before taking the job. Their development will continue once they’re in the spotlight on the centre stage. And they’ll grow into their CEO-specific roles much more quickly if they understand exactly what’s required before they start work.

The trouble is, there’s a vast industry dedicated to making business leadership seem highly complex. Business schools, strategic consultancies, headhunting firms, training providers, coaching practices… they’re all built on it. Fortunately, however, our 20 CEOs see their role in much simpler terms. And it reduces to four essential—but interrelated—tasks: envisioning, nominating, enabling and managing crisis.


Enabling Envisioning Crisis management Leadership coaching Nominating 

Some Further Reading

  1. Bass, B. (1990) Bass & Stogdill Handbook of leadership: theory, research, and managerial application. 3rd edition. The Free Press.Google Scholar
  2. Bennis, W. G. (2009). On Becoming a Leader. 4th Edition. Philadelphia: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  3. Chong, J. K. (2004) Six steps to better crisis management. Journal of Business Strategy, Vol. 25 (3).Google Scholar
  4. Finkelstein, S. & Hambrick, D. C. (1996) Strategic Leadership: Top Executives and Their Effects on Organizations. West Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  5. Garten, J. E (2000) The Mind of the CEO, Basic Books, New York.Google Scholar
  6. Murray, K. (2017) People with Purpose: How Great Leaders Use Purpose to Build Thriving Organizations. Kogan Page Publishers.Google Scholar
  7. Porter, M. E. & Nitin, N. (2006) What Is Leadership: The CEO’s Role in Large, Complex Organizations. In Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice. Edited by N. Nohria and K. Khurana. Harvard Business School Publishing.Google Scholar
  8. Rotemberg, J. & Saloner, G. (1998) Visionaries, Managers, and Strategic Direction. Harvard Business School.Google Scholar
  9. Smits, J. S. & Ally, N. Z. (2003) “Thinking The Unthinkable”—Leadership’s Role In Creating Behavioral Readiness For Crisis Management. Competitiveness Review: An International Business Journal, Vol. 13 (1).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stanislav Shekshnia
    • 1
  • Kirill Kravchenko
    • 2
  • Elin Williams
    • 3
  1. 1.INSEADFontainebleauFrance
  2. 2.Gubkin Oil and Gas UniversityMoscowRussia
  3. 3.OxfordUK

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