Skip to content

Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

CEOs, also sometimes called Vice-President, Chief Executive, Executive Director, and Co-Founder, are responsible for managing the overall decisions, operations and resources of an organisation. This may include delegating and directing the company’s mission and agenda, improving profitability, managing the organisational structure, company strategy and communicating with the leadership team and board of directors.  CEOs are also responsible for setting the culture and ethics of an organisation; ensuring that the people and resources are in place to deliver on the board’s strategy.     

The position entails a high degree of responsibility, and crucial decisions made by a CEO can have a significant impact on the future of a company and its employees.   

Famel CEO smiles at employees in meeting

The information in our job profiles aims to give a general overview of the role and a guideline to what it involves. The content is not intended to be exhaustive and roles will vary depending on the organisation and sector. The salary ranges are a guide only, as these are dependent on the size and location of the organisation.

Salary range

How does this role align to the green agenda?

In relation to the green agenda, a CEO’s role is to develop and communicate a commitment across their organisation to becoming a ‘force for good’. CEOs can use their position to respond positively to climate change and environmental issues.     

Green leaders inspire people to work together for a better world and a nature positive economy. They are often considered agents of change as they initiate, enable and promote new ways of doing things. Leaders inspire and support people to make a difference to achieve a vision or ideal. In sustainability, leadership plays a crucial role in managing the change process.       

CEOs should drive sustainability initiatives throughout the core of their organisation, embedding environmental responsibility into the fabric of the company ethos and strategy. It is important for CEOs to consider all areas of sustainable development, including circular thinking, measuring and being accountable for the company’s carbon footprint, green energy efficiency and reduction of resources and waste. Integrated reporting will form the basis of the environmental, social and governance goals for the organisation, which the CEO will need to implement and drive forward.    

Woman CEO leading a meeting

Skills and capabilities

Technical knowledge

  • Strategic leadership: High level leadership position experience (for example Chief Executive or Managing Director), successful leadership of teams with proven results and outcomes.
  • Sector knowledge: Extensive working knowledge of the sector and ability to demonstrate they are engaged with current affairs and social change.
  • Organisational development: Knowledge of current legislation and policy challenges in government and opportunities relating to the sector.

Transferable skills

  • Resilience: Outcomes and results focused, demonstrates tenacity and drive. High degree of resilience and a proven record of delivery against targets.
  • Leadership: Ability to lead and coach, ensures growth within the team, and empowers and motivates for exceptional service delivery and results. Connects with others and inspires positive outcomes. Able to identify and provide services that are sufficiently relevant and valuable to the needs of diverse groups in partnership with senior leaders.
  • Analytical thinking: Able to own complex issues and seek resolutions, able to adapt and reframe problems. Has high level conceptual and analytical skills and is able to innovate to shape the working environment by identifying and observing emerging themes and trends.
  • Delegating: Can delegate work to appropriate team members by adopting and harbouring trust and providing empowerment in the leadership team and wider company.
  • Collaborating and influencing: An adept and engaging communicator who can adapt to the differing requirements of each audience and influence with flair and gravitas. A team player who can devise collaborations and partnerships. Providing personal credibility to sustain trust in leadership.
  • Change management:  Ability to articulate and demonstrate ideas for improvement or required change for the organisation, justifying how or why it should develop. Able to lead change, enhance process/system transformations, and bring diverse groups together.
  • Stakeholder engagement:  Solid working relationships with a significant understanding of ‘dynamics’ between industry, financial institutions, government and other working bodies and institutes. Proven networking skills and a thorough understanding of key influencers and decision-makers within the sector.

A day in the life

The role of CEO is likely to be full-time and, although office based, they will spend a large portion of their time in meetings with various senior business leaders, and important stakeholders. They may also be involved in industry and sector governing groups.    

CEOs will often seek counsel and advice from peers in steering groups and committees to share knowledge and best practice, as well as identifying and establishing business trends and threats. CEOs will spend time planning, strategising and preparing reports and presentations for the board, and communicating to the wider workforce within the organisation. The role is demanding, and CEOs frequently have personal assistants to coordinate their diaries and help manage their workloads.   

Typical duties and responsibilities include:
  • Developing operational and financial plans to achieve priorities, advising the board of critical and emerging strategic and relevant political issues
  • Maximising revenue streams, working closely with colleagues to ensure effective cost control
  • Encouraging a positive, healthy and safe work environment
  • Ensuring a culture of delivery, accountability, excellent teamwork, high ethical standards and openness
  • Coaching, mentoring and monitoring the performance of the members of senior leadership teams
  • Ensuring the retention and recruitment of high-quality staff
  • Networking, influencing and building strong relationships with key external stakeholders, professional bodies and the media
  • Influencing relevant industry/sector senior leaders through effective stakeholder engagement
  • Advocating for the company or sector at key events, conferences, forums and possibly as part of a committee, steering group or professional body. This could be on a local, national or even global stage.

Entry routes

Most CEOs have at minimum a bachelor’s degree and five years of management experience, and quite often an MBA. The Senior Leader apprenticeship in England also aligns to this job role, and there are management-related apprenticeships in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. 

Numerous CEOs have a strong financial background. In some cases, for smaller organisations, a CEO may be an entrepreneur who has created a new business, idea, service or product.  

Many CEOs will have spent time learning and experiencing a variety of different operational management roles in their chosen profession, sector or industry over a matter of years, and worked their way up through middle management to Managing Director before becoming a CEO. 

To note: in England, Northern Ireland and Wales, it will typically take three years to complete a full-time, undergraduate degree. In Scotland, it typically takes four years. Apprenticeship courses vary in length, and also require an end-point assessment period. Please check this information on a case-by-case basis.

Potential career progression

An individual at CEO level is considered to have reached the pinnacle position. Progression from this point may take an individual to:

The same role within another organisation.

Independent advisor or consultant in their chosen profession or sector.

Board member of the same, or a different, organisation.

Relevant sectors

CEOs are needed in businesses across all sectors and organisations, from the public to the private sector.  

Learn about the green agenda across different sectors

Information kindly supplied by:
IEMA logo
IEMA, the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment

IEMA is the membership body for environment and sustainability professionals. Together we are transforming the world to sustainability.

Success stories

Created by

IEMA is the membership body for environment and sustainability professionals