The CEO’s Job Is Just Two Things – Grow Your People and Your Company

the CEO's jobWhen I’m asked what I think the CEO’s job is, I say it’s only two things:

  1. Grow your People
  2. Grow your Company

And then I ask the CEO, “Whose job are you doing right now?” Every CEO I have asked this question of has smiled sheepishly and said, “Well, but …”. They were all doing someone else’s job. Good CEOs don’t make excuses for why something isn’t going right, they make it right. If you had all the money, time, and talent in the world your business would succeed in spite of you, but unfortunately none of these resources are unlimited. The truly great CEOs know how to lead in the absence of one or all of those three resources because they focus on growing their people and growing their companies.


So, what are you doing to grow your people? Do they even know you’re interested in their development? If not, you had better communicate that vision to them or they’ll make one up about how you don’t care. If you have three or four direct reports, you can spend time with each of them finding out what their personal goals are for their careers and looking for ways to fit that into your company. This will also teach them how to develop those who report to them. If your direct reports feel cared for and respected, they will in turn treat their own teams with care and respect.

If, on the other hand, you are coaching and your direct reports are not, open a conversation and evaluate whether or not they belong in that managerial role. So often in organizations I find great people who are simply in the wrong job or the wrong company at the wrong time. Grow them, move them into another position in your business, or help them transition out to another company.

Growing your people means mentoring, but it also means being honest about their strengths and weaknesses. A software company I worked with had a VP who had moved up through the ranks and was essentially leading the company. The CEO felt comfortable with the VP in that role because he had “earned” it through years of dedication to the company. Unfortunately, the VP’s one weakness was accountability: he never delivered a project on time. Remember that weaknesses are almost never fixable, and, in this case, that weakness trumped his dedication because it negatively impacted everyone who worked with him as well as the company as a whole. By the time the CEO saw past his personal loyalty and made a change, the company had almost folded. No one should earn a position simply through loyalty or longevity: they have to have the corresponding skills (or strengths that can be mentored into skills) to be successful in the position. Your job in growing your people is to reward their strengths, while also being candid about their weaknesses.


Your role in growing your company is to be the thought leader. What strategic opportunities are out there to capitalize on? What new products or services can you bring to market? How can you do something different and create your company around it? Think about Starbucks. Who knew we would all be paying four dollars for a cup of coffee and not resent that? We were willing to do that because Starbucks created an atmosphere around coffee that hadn’t existed before, and that was what we paid for. Does Howard Schultz live and breathe his company’s culture? And is he all about growing his people and his company? Absolutely! And Starbucks employees know it. How else could they be so friendly and happy when you order your double mocha Frappuccino, light, no whip latte?

See, it’s really that simple. Use your CEO Job Description to keep yourself on track as a great leader:

  • Only do what only you can do
  • Grow your people
  • Grow your company

Put a Post-It note on your computer monitor as a reminder to ask yourself: “Whose job am I doing right now?” If you have to, put it on a t-shirt, or a cap, or a mug. Go for it. This job is tough enough without something to remind us to smile every now and then. But the bottom line is, if you’re doing too many other jobs for very long, no one will be doing yours and your company will fail.

Excerpted from my book, “Putting Together the Entrepreneurial Puzzle: The Ten Pieces Every Business Needs to Succeed.” Available here on Amazon.