CEO’s role: shaping decisions, not making them

The CEO’s role is not about making every decision but rather shaping them. With countless decisions to be made daily, it would be impractical for the CEO to be involved in all of them. Instead, the CEO’s focus should be on enabling others to make decisions that they can support. While there are instances where the CEO must make final decisions, it is generally better to minimize their involvement.

To shape decisions, CEOs have various tools at their disposal. They can align the organization around a shared purpose, establish priorities and goals, develop a clear strategy, create an effective organizational structure, foster a strong culture, and implement a performance measurement and reward system.

However, CEOs cannot completely distance themselves from decision-making. They must choose where and how they personally engage in decision-making. By categorizing decisions based on their nature and the organizational level they pertain to, CEOs can determine their level of involvement. This includes designing the decision-making process, deciding when to participate directly, monitoring progress, and clarifying who will make each decision.

This perspective on the CEO’s role is based on years of experience teaching CEO workshops at Harvard Business School and advising CEOs as a board member and advisor.