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21 Entrepreneurs Explain What Being A CEO Means To Them

Here at CBNation, we love to hear what being a CEO means to different entrepreneurs and CEOs. We understand it entails a great responsibility and expectations from both the clients and the team you’re leading but its meaning varies with each CEO.

We asked entrepreneurs and business owners their definition of the word CEO and here’s what they had to say.

#1- Captain of a ship

Photo Credit: Emanuele Musarra

Being a CEO is like being the captain of a ship: you have to make difficult choices in time-sensitive situations. For instance, you already know that you are not gonna build the perfect platform for every user, but the one that works best, with the means you have. And, even in difficult times, you have to convince your crew to work together and to put aside the differences to reach a common goal. Most importantly, your job is to have a vision and stick to it, no matter how many times you are hit. If all of the above sounds like the picture of a fine day to you, than yes, you can be an entrepreneur.

Thanks to Emanuele Musarra, MisterLocation!

#2- Chief Essentialist Officer

Photo Credit: Dr. Kathryn Bingham

I translate CEO as Chief Essentialist Officer for two reasons. First, as chief executives, it’s our role to remember what’s MOST important in our organization, our customer’s lives and expectations, our stakeholder interests, our team relationships, without forgetting what’s most important to our self and family. People in our professional and personal lives pay attention to what we focus and execute on as an indicator of what we consider a priority. Our priorities signal both what we value and whether those values align with what we “say” is important. What we say and do should be harmonized, not a disconnect. The second reason, for me, is to model how to filter “all the things.” When I coach executives, leaders, and entrepreneurs, there’s often a struggle with competing priorities. Leader success requires recognizing and implementing essentials; how he or she goes about integrating that skill may vary in effectiveness. Finding a path that works with a leader’s style and and resonates with the organization’s culture is critical.

Thanks to Dr. Kathryn Bingham,  LEADistics!

#3- A chief

Photo Credit: Nate Masterson

Being a CEO is exactly that, being a chief. While anyone could give you a textbook definition of what a CEO is, the truth is that it varies so much within different industries and companies. Overall, a CEO is entrusted with ensuring the success of the company. This typically means making the big business decisions, deciding what messages to communicate to employees and to the public, and sometimes being a messenger between the company and the board of directors. However, being a good CEO is so much more than that. It means getting to know employees of various levels. It means understanding the day-to-day operations of different departments to ensure productivity and that employees are being treated well. And it involves making sure that your company is making the world a better place.

Thanks to Nate Masterson, Maple Holistics!

#4- Facilitator and leader for the team

Photo Credit: Martin Olsson

Being a CEO means being a facilitator and leader for the team. For me, it's about finding solutions to issues that pop up or finding ways of expediting team initiatives. It also means being the face of the company. Just like the president or prime minister of a country is the lead diplomat for their country, I am the lead diplomat for my company. I think that comparison is appropriate since being a CEO involves having diplomacy skills.

Thanks to Martin Olsson, Brandox!

#5- Guide and visionary

Photo Credit: Mathew Lazarus

A CEO is a leader who guides those around him – customers, partners, employees, investors – to understand and achieve their potential. Ultimately a CEO is defined by their ability to set the vision and remain ruthlessly focused on ensuring that strategies being implemented hold to that vision. She's not afraid of being challenged by her team and in fact encourages new thinking around solving problems and increasing efficiency.

Thanks to Mathew Lazarus, Archbolt!

#6- Fighter

Photo Credit: Victoria Bogner

I have a magazine clipping on my computer from several years ago that I read every day. In essence, it says that being the CEO of a firm is not a part-time job. And all great CEOs have one thing in common: they fight. They are in the front line taking little credit and a lot of the blame for the success of their entire team. They fight for their partners, their team, and their clients to protect to the company, enhance the culture, and be a positive impact in the community. If you want to be a great CEO, learn to fight.

Thanks to Victoria Bogner,  McDaniel Knutson Financial Partners!

#7-  Innovator, a Chief Inspirational Officer

Photo Credit: Tom Spitz

Merrium-Webster defines a CEO as the executive with the chief decision-making authority in an organization or business. While this may ultimately be true, I believe that being a CEO is so much more than just being the key decision maker. The decision-making piece is just a very small part about what being a CEO is really about. And to be truthful, it’s the least fun part of the role. As CEO you get to create the dream of what your business or organization will be. You are the visionary who then builds a great team to help make that dream come true. Being the key decision maker is just a small part of being a CEO. It’s really about being a visionary, an innovator, a Chief Inspirational Officer.

Thanks to Tom Spitz, Settlers bank!

#8- Putting ideas into action

Photo Credit: Simon Slade

I refer to my job title as co-founder and CEO because both names convey important information. The first speaks to the fact that I founded the company with co-founder Mark Ling, and the second describes the active role I still play in the company. I also refer to myself as an entrepreneur because whereas a small business owner may create a company and run it, as an entrepreneur, I am constantly looking for new products, solutions and even ideas for new companies. To me, being CEO means being able to put my ideas into action. There are far fewer obstacles to overcome to bring new concepts to fruition than if I were in a different role. In technology, the industry evolves fast, so constant innovation is key. Being CEO also allows me to shape our company culture, and I love being able to set a fun, relaxed tone. But I also feel a sense a responsibility that comes with that title. People depend on me for their livelihoods, and I take that very seriously.

Thanks to Simon Slade,  SaleHoo!

#9- Legacy and culture creator

Photo Credit: Ray Zinn

The definition of a CEO is a leader who is willing to put his employees and company first, someone who leads by example. Doing the tough things first is a huge part of that. A CEO is also someone who creates a legacy and a culture defined by servant leadership wherein you lead by doing for others whether that is your employees, your customers or your business partners.

Thanks to Ray Zinn,  Tough things first!

#10- Ultimate responsibility

Photo Credit: Bret Bonnet

The title of CEO to me is defined as “ultimate responsibility”. The buck stops with you, meaning the successes and failures of the business fall at your feet. As a CEO, you can’t make excuses or blame anyone else. It’s the embodiment of total control and responsibility for the companies actions, and it’s a HEFTY burden to carry.

Thanks to Bret Bonnet, Quality Logo Products, Inc.!

#11- Leader, Learner and Shape Shifter

Photo Credit: Michael Hammond

It's striking a balanced interpretive dance of Leader, Learner and Shape Shifter. Aside from having a natural desire to solve problems, drive change and lead yourself and a team toward new heights sustained success requires constant learning – learning to recognize what you don't know, why you don't know it, and the adaptability to either discover how to flex your own skills to gain that capability or identify the right talent to fill those gaps. And here's where the shape-shifting comes in, constant learning = constant preparation for change/growth/new challenges. In my experience, this shape-shifting drives the creative energy that inspires my team and defines our mission.

Thanks to Michael Hammond, Storyboard Media Group!

#12-  Communicator, the conduit and the problem solver

Photo Credit: Jon Daskam

Being a great CEO is that you need to communicate, educate and organize your thoughts and ideas for the long term benefit of the organization. Some days I feel like a problem solver while other days I am putting out fires. however, for me being a CEO means I'm the communicator, the conduit and the problem solver. We often hear that you need to work on your business no in your business. That's easier said than done when you're trying to do it alone. When you've built an organization of leaders it's your job to listen, encourage and inspire them to think beyond what they thought possible. You need to provide them with just enough ROPE to help them get over any obstacle. Getting through the weeds can be a very daunting task and it's my role to help them get there. The moment I can do that our company and clients WIN! And I like when we all win!

Thanks to Jon Daskam,  GoFixxit!

#13- Several meanings

Photo Credit: Paul M. Mangiamele

A CEO inspires pride, passion and integrity. There is a head and the heart of the business and the teams that represent it. CEO’s must be capable of instilling pride and passion and it’s imperative to create an atmosphere of trust over fear. Integrity is hard to quantify but must be a part of a Company or Brand’s DNA, as it is the grease of commerce. Culture eats strategy for lunch but all strategy can be broken down into these common denominators: situation, mission, purpose, execution, administration and communication. If a CEO displays and executes these attributes, his or her teams will feel that you know what you’re doing and then the magic happens: they’ll follow you anywhere.

Thanks to Paul M. Mangiamele, Bennigan’s!

#14- Great leader

Photo Credit: Gladys Kong

Being a CEO means being an effective leader and a passionate advocate for your team's professional and personal growth, constantly looking for and creating opportunities that continuously inspire teams and individual employees. As CEO, it is important that I express interest and invest in my team on all levels of their journey, which I believe ultimately benefits the business as a whole because their growth paths are reflective of the business’s growth path. Strong CEOs are also great listeners and observers. Great leadership can be defined by creating healthy environments where employees’ voices are heard at the highest levels of a company. And, as the person claiming the rights to have the buck stop with me, I fully appreciate the talent and insights of every member of the company, not just the senior management. Last, but not least, being the CEO means I am the visionary of the company. Not only is it my job to provide a clear vision into the future for my team, but it’s critical that I let everyone in the company know his or her role to help make this vision a reality.

Thanks to Gladys Kong, UberMedia!

#15- Risk taker and responsibility holder

Photo Credit: Barb Moore

A CEO or business owner is the courageous, creative person who takes on huge risk to provide their product or service to their customers. The business owner is almost always zealously passionate about his or her product or service. Additionally, the CEO is directly responsible for every aspect of the business and it is extremely difficult to have all the skills, mindset, strength, determination and will power to keep doing it. Small business is the backbone of the American economy and small business owners create more new jobs than any other aspect of the economy.

Thanks to Barb Moore,  Mansmann Foundation!

#16- Three definitions

Photo Credit: Tessa May Marr

Chief – Dictionary dot com defines this word as the head or leader of an organized body of people; the person highest in authority. And I feel this fits perfectly—as the CEO is the captain of the ship, leading the business, her team and her customers into success. Executive – Executives are responsible for setting and driving the vision of a business and overseeing a team. And this is very much a part of the role of a CEO. Building the business and running it to get results. Officer – This word is about serving a greater purpose or cause. In the case of a CEO, it’s about serving and supporting her team, her customers and the vision of the business. And it’s also about setting standards and enforcing them—leading by example.  Being a CEO means many things—it’s a demanding and rewarding role that requires the ability to think big picture, long term and to stay inspired while also caring deeply about the details and the people that matter.

Thanks to Tessa May Marr,  Marr Media Group!

#17-  Chief architect of the team

Photo Credit: Frederic Lucas-Conwell

CEO means being the chief architect for recruiting and managing a team that will need to excel in a specific market. This is how, in return, they and their company become successful. CEOs bring their own leadership style, smartness and experience into their organization. They are the one who are ultimately blamed when things go wrong, for having failed to do the right thing (or make the right decision) at the right time – thus the high pressure coming with the role. Because it's through the employees that most activity happens, CEOs foremost knowledge needs to be about people. CEOs constantly learn and relearn how to interview, attract and retain employees, influence decisions, create a space where everyone can express creativity and execute successfully on the decisions being made.

Thanks to Frederic Lucas-Conwell,  Growth Resources, Inc.!

#18- A number of definitions

Photo Credit: Galit Ventura-Rozen

It means that I am building my own dreams, being authentic, genuine, and making sure that I am mentoring the next generation to have the opportunity to do the same. It means I am a leader, I lead with passion, courage, I focus on my employee's strengths not weaknesses and I recognize the responsibilities that come with being a leader. It also means I have the freedom to build my business around my life, have balance and enjoy the perks of making my own schedule to include my loved ones and the things I love to do.

Thanks to Galit Ventura-Rozen

#19- Being in a position to impact

Photo Credit: Coyetta Mitchell

My definition of the word CEO means being able to impact lives, connect and form meaningful relationships with my customers. I think it is important to add value to your customers lives and as the CEO you have to bear the responsibility of making sure your customer has quality products as well as quality interactions. We all know word of mouth is a huge factor when it comes to business so I have to make sure my customers have a great experience.

Thanks to  Coyetta Mitchell, MyWavelife™hair!

#20- Achiever of a vision

Photo Credit: Solomon Thimothy

The CEO is the visionary not just an operations manager. As the CEO of a tech company, one must realize that traditional thinking is not going to work, only innovative thinking will get us from point A to point B. By sharing the DMA vision with the entire team every single day regardless of their role, the dream is better understood by everyone. As the CEO, I am a leader, not the boss; my job is to achieve the vision with a team of passionate people while enriching their lives and careers.

Thanks to Solomon Thimothy,  DMA|Digital Marketing Agency!

#21- Acrobat

Photo Credit: Kevin Grigg

A CEO is an acrobat. S/he must balance visionary thinking with practical business decisions. Every day I evaluate how small changes will impact long-term growth opportunities and how long-term growth opportunities will impact daily operations. But I’ll gladly walk this tightrope every day because these decisions directly affect our employees – the individuals that make Fuss & O’Neill an amazing place that I’m truly proud to lead.

Thanks to Kevin Grigg, Fuss & O'Neill!

What does being a CEO mean to you? Tell us in the comments below. Don’t forget to join our #IamCEO Community.

Mercy - CBNation

This is a post from a CBNation writer. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(, podcasts ( and videos ( CBNation is proudly powered by Blue 16 Media.

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