Academic journal article Academy of Strategic Management Journal

Strategic Management and the Disparate Duties of the CEO

Academic journal article Academy of Strategic Management Journal

Strategic Management and the Disparate Duties of the CEO

Article excerpt


In 2004, Proctor & Gamble's chairman and CEO, A.G. Lafley, "sat with Peter Drucker and several other CEOs and management scholars who had come together to ask, What is the work of the CEO?... Do we really understand the role and the unique work of the chief executive? Drucker believed the answer was no."

-Lafley, 2009: 2-3

Organizational survival depends on satisfactorily executing a plan and achieving a set of conscious or subconscious, predetermined objectives (Drucker, 1954) amidst calculated chaos and controlled disorder (Mintzberg, 1973). It is the responsibility of the firm's Chief Executive Officer (CEO) to serve as the organization's helmsperson, navigating the enterprise through the changing winds and waters of an oftentimes turbulent marketplace, and to pilot the firm successfully to its destination objectives (Ansoff, 1965; Peters & Waterman, 1982; Gulick, 1935, 1937a). The piloting decisions and choices made by the CEO can have far reaching consequences. "The fact is inescapable: These choices of single human beings exert enormous influence over entire enterprises. In the aggregate, they determine the prosperity of the nation," (Charan & Colvin, 2000, p. 266).

Scholars have long been fascinated with the organizational life and duties of the CEO. Luther Gulick, while serving as president of the Institute of Public Administration, in his opening essay to the classic collection of papers on the science of administration (Gulick & Urwick, 1937) introduced his POSDCORB framework (Gulick, 1937a, p.13) after asking the questions, "What is the work of the chief executive? What does he do?" Even before Gulick, Henri Fayol (1916) defined the roles of the chief executive as planning, organizing, commanding, coordinating, and controlling. Henry Barnard (1938) was the first to characterize the primary role of the chief executive as the shaper and manager of shared values in an organization. Barnard (1938: 235) while emphasizing the infusion of shared values, rational stewardship, professionalism, and moral integrity, further argued, "[The executive process] is a matter of art and it is aesthetic rather than logical," suggesting the fundamental functions of the executive focus on communication, employee effort, and purpose.

In support of Barnard, Philip Selznick (1957) introduced the concept of organization character, suggesting, "[o]rganizations become institutions as they are infused with values... [t]he institutional leader, then, is primarily an expert in the promotion and protection of values." Mintzberg (1973) was the first to scientifically study the roles and behaviors of executives, finding that their daily work lives were anything but routine and logically planned as posited by the theories of Fayol (1916) and Gulick (1937a). Instead, their lives are dominated with sporadic, unplanned, short-term copings, and crises management. Mintzberg (1973) identified three role categories for executives: interpersonal, informational, and decisional.

Drucker (1967) argued that effective executives "differ widely in their personalities, strengths, weaknesses, values and beliefs. All they have in common is they get the right things done." While the CEO's chief objective remains to acquire and maintain a sustainable competitive advantage, a fundamental and primary goal of any organization, some argue that any sustainable advantage is unattainable in our current hypercompetitive marketplace (D'Aveni, 1994). As environmental change accelerates, the role of the CEO becomes increasingly important. This study examines the nature of executive work, what it is these individuals actually do, and how they perform their various duties and responsibilities.


Roles of the Executive

The early work of Henri Fayol (1916) during the period surrounding 1900 argued that the work of the executive included planning, organizing, commanding (leading), coordination, and control. …

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