Is calling yourself a CEO when you are working for yourself the professional equivalent of inundating your Facebook with selfies?
I read the story of this woman on my way to work, who effectively killed a swan to take a selfie: http://metro.co.uk/2016/03/08/idiot-kills-swan-by-taking-selfie-with-it-5739301/ And it made me think: “Am I an old fart already or are people becoming increasingly self-obsessed?” Or is technology simply enabling them to become bigger egomaniacs, faster than ever before? That kind of uplifting thoughts.
But I also think it is unfair for the weight of the world to fall on that woman alone. Our entire society seems to be increasingly egocentric, e-narcissistic and obsessed by exterior signs of success (photos, likes, self-serving FB or LI posts).
And then I thought of how often I see self-employed entrepreneurs, calling themselves “CEO”. Once is no rule, and this is a one off posting. Of little practical value. A whinge really. But really… Have you not had just about enough of every other self-employed calling him (usually) or herself a CEO online?
I understand that the semantics of CEO are insufferably confusing, so let’s take a look at the terms:
- Chief: Boss, Head of something (keywords here “… of something”) Implied: Not of yourself alone. For ex. A Chief Engineer will often have “Heads of” reporting into him/her, say “Head of mechanical engineering” as well as “Head of structural…” and/or “Head of Electrical…”
- Executive: That is a bit of a confusing one to be fair, “executive” in management parlance refers to a senior manager, director, decision maker, leader, manager and executor. Manager +, directors, C-level professionals, inside larger organisations. There again the word has also been applied (in lieu of actual compensation?) to a variety of junior job titles, often in sales / marketing: “Sales executive” or “Marketing executive”.
- Officer: Someone holding an office, an undisputed authority, mission or commission. A police officer. An officer and a gentleman. An office bearer. A commissioner. A bureaucrat. An apparatchik. In any case, not someone managing themselves, catching cabin fever working from home, fat and unshaven, wondering where their next buck will come from / if they should really spend all that time writing that email to that irate customer or catching the “Neighbours” re-run in 10 minutes.
A CEO typically reports into a Board of Directors, themselves elected by / representing the interests of shareholders. And no, your nana and your neighbour who lets you use his WIFI connection do not count as “The Board”.
I find this CEO obsession unsavoury, it has a funny fragrance of militarism almost. The Chief officer. In a western world thankfully spared major conflicts on their own soil for a while, it seems there is this funny push to recreate military grades, find leaders at any costs. Such “hero” corporate authority figures are born out of a smart marketing plan, but not out of valour.
Yet it is constantly rehashed in our insipid obsession for CEO titles and leaders. Oh leadership… It seems that our entire discourse about management has finally boiled down to this alone. But that is another topic…
Feel very free to disagree, but working for yourself as I do, I prefer calling myself Director, and Coach, which is… what I actually do. I often hire suppliers, partners, but it’s mostly me. I take all decisions about my small business, but that does not make me Warren Buffet or Jack Welch.
And I don’t know about you, but as a client, dealing with a supplier who appears self-aggrandising, and/or deluded, and/or egomaniac, does not exactly give me a warm and fuzzy feeling when it comes to parting with my hard-earn money.
Finally… CEO is also an American term, and I’ll try to close my rant on that. I have nothing against the US, personally always found Americans to be an energetic and endearing bunch. But I think the US command enough cultural influence worldwide, that we can all stick to our local cultures when it comes to designating, simply, the top staff of any company. Managing Director in the UK. President in multiple European countries. Etc.
When I am not busy ranting, I coach engineering professionals with the best, modern tools to do the best career transitions. Writing a compelling CV is always a good start, you can download my guide here: Expert Guide – Writing compelling CV’s.