I wonder how many founders on Hacker News (who are aimed at big growth) want to be this type of CEO. And I wonder if there are any other types of CEOs at the top. I've never met any.
Discovering the right strategy/vision of the company is not a sales job. Communicating it to people is though.
Choosing the right people to hire isn't sales either. Convincing them to join is though.
I think it's very harmful to boil down the role of a CEO to merely salesmanship. There's so much more that matters at least as much.
Thought experiment: Where would Steve Jobs be now if all he had was his master salesmanship, but none of his design and product skills?
In all of those tasks, how much of your time are you spending selling? Discover/find your vision, spend the rest of your career selling it. Deciding who you want to hire and the persuasive dance (where you have to persuade them that working at your company is a good idea AND sell them your vision to boot!) takes a lot more time.
Steve Jobs is a great example. As product-focused as he is, what % of the time do you think he spends tinkering or wireframing? I'd wager he's selling/reinforcing ideas for most of his day. Steve Jobs is different because he spends 99% of his sales time selling vision/product ideas versus all of the other types of persuasion he could engage in. Oh, and because his ideas are unusually good. ;-)
edit: I'd add two things. Once, I've run 2 different companies for about 70% of my 13 year tech career and two: I really don't enjoy sales as much as I enjoy other work tasks. So if I am looking at it through my prism, it's the prism of my experience.
Selling is just a single component. If you had to single anyone of them out it would be "making the idea happen" and most of that is not selling, it's a thousand concrete decisions and problems to overcome about the product and marketing.
Hiring is even less about salesmanship. Convincing someone to join (or not) takes weeks at most. Finding the right people and making them effective takes months or years.
I think outsiders probably have a very skewed perspective on Steve Jobs and most other CEOs because we only see them when they're selling. To outsiders it looks like 100% of their time is spent selling, so it's natural that people think that's primarily what they do.
What you don't see is how Jobs is spending his time during the 364 days before a Stevenote.
If your company "vision and strategy" changes more frequently than a development team can react then you are doomed.
Sometimes you can let the apparent changes ride, since they are politicing between other senior members of the team; sometimes you can simply say, "No"; and sometimes you must explain the cost of what will be thrown away, how it will affect morale, and how long pivoting the team, re-motivating them, and delivering will cost.
You average CEO, finance, marketing, and sales honchos will not understand these things without an interpretation into their language.
Thats no good either.
...and for this nebulous MBA speak, gets paid 40x as much as the people who actually do work.
And don't knock the value of determining a vision and strategy: people don't just wake up in the morning knowing what they should be doing at the office today/this week/this year. If you don't think a clear vision and strategy matters, just ask Yahoo.
In other words, CEOs get paid X under the premise that they will cause the value of the company to increase by more than X.
E.g. Ben Horowitz "determined the vision and strategy" for Loudcloud when they moved away from managed services market and spun out Opsware, which led to a 1.6Bn exit. (http://voices.allthingsd.com/20100317/the-case-for-the-fat-s...) Its hard to argue that there was no value in that.
Which one sounds more concrete:
"I cleared out the ticket queue and wrote tests for all outstanding issues"
"I thought about my vision."
"For our design brief I came up with ten design elements that fit with the message we're trying to sub-communicate on our website, and found five examples of each element used on various sites across the web."
"I spent three hours talking to my computer."
The point is if it sounds that nebulous it's probably because you don't understand what they're actually doing. To someone who doesn't understand what coders do, coding sounds just as nebulous as 'business stuff'.
Now it's possible that the business person isn't actually doing anything, but then again it's just as possible that the coder isn't actually doing anything either.
I would bet the vast majority, once you push them on it, would respond with more of the same, and if you continued to push them on it, would ultimately defer to an underling for specifics.
It's not even the mumbo-jumbo that annoys me. It's fine if you want to say that a CEO sets the direction, goals, and overall plan of the company. I can believe that, and it's certainly valuable. What I cannot believe or accept is that they deserve to be paid an order of magnitude more money for doing so.
This is where you need a smart, ambitious CEO with a strong vision. They place the goalposts so that everyone can measure their own progress and contribution, as well as that of their group. It also gives investors and shareholders something on which to evaluate the company other than simple financials.
Really? How's that? If the tickets and test suites (for example) where your task, then how is completing them not an indicator of getting work done?
It's common knowledge that founding CEOs usually cannot run a company well when there are hundreds of employees, and visa versa. They require different skill sets. Founding CEOs are likely do eschew processes and do things themselves when necessary and nobody else is around to do it. Fortune 500 CEOs are likely to insist on processes and delegate any work that needs to be done.
Also, startup CEOs cannot afford to surround themselves with people who are aren't as smart or smarter than themselves. With limited resources and capital, everybody needs to pull their own weight. A startup's success is not guaranteed, so every advantage helps. In a Fortune 500 company, the company is most likely not going to disappear anytime soon. The company was functioning before the CEO was promoted/hired, and they'll just keep doing their job assuming he/she doesn't interfere.
"Sets the overall vision and strategy of the company and communicates it to all stakeholders." Is more than just picking the right people also it's noticing when your companies business is heading for a cliff. Unfortunately replacement CEO’s tend to be better at networking and golf than realizing the company’s pension plan is unsustainable.
A nice way to say, "I'm experienced, listen to me." He's probably right too.
Gets rewarded when their company does well.
Gets paid off when their company does badly.
(Golden parachutes: http://www.economist.com/node/16685706?story_id=16685706&...)