Forget the notion of a CEO being a Chief Executive Officer. Having held that title on three separate occasions, I can say with confidence that it does not accurately reflect a leader’s priorities or motivations.

If CEO doesn’t stand for Chief Executive Officer, then what does? It is simple. In my eyes, the title reflects somebody with three key guiding values when leading any organization.


C stands for Customers.Whether you are selling products or services, effective leaders need to focus on the people who buy from you. Understand everything you can about them. What do they want? What do they need for their organizations to be successful? What solutions can you offer to their current problems – and even problems they may not yet know they have? What opportunities exist to create value for them, more than what your competition can? Deliver on these consistently, and you will have customers for life.”


E stands for Employees. To be successful, your employees must understand and buy into your vision and strategy. When employees are effectively engaged and strive to deliver their best every day, they can be your most valuable asset. My proudest moments have been when someone tells me that I helped them become a better leader and reach their full potential far more than they thought they could ever achieve. That impact on people is tangible, not just for the organization, but also for me as a person, colleague, and mentor. This is possible at every organizational level but it is not attainable if you do not effectively prioritize employee engagement.


O stands for Owners. Shareholders want the business to be successful. Success comes when customers see value in the solutions you offer, and when employees embrace a mindset of continuous improvement. When you get the Customer and Employee pieces right, your business will naturally increase in value and will attract more shareholders. That goes for both private and public companies.

Each of these values will evolve over time – as they should. Effective leaders don’t just focus on their role as an executive; they also actively keep tabs on the pulse of their customers, employees, and owners – continuously transforming in response to their evolving needs.