CEO stands for Chief Executive Officer, and it is often the title of a person who holds the highest position in a company or on a board. A related title is president, which may be used instead, but it often suggests a level of democracy that's not common in most businesses. In the sense of a company, the workers in most cases do not choose a president, so using the title of CEO makes more sense.
Some large companies may actually have several CEOs, or at least one for each department. Small companies and small non-profit agencies usually have a single top executive and a vice-president who takes over when needed, or several vice presidents simply called "executive officers."
How a person gets to be a CEO is very individualized, depending upon the size of the company, the person in question’s background and education, and the type of company. Often, when a company first begins, the founder of the company acts as its leader. Later, if the company is profitable, the founder may recognize he or she is not the best person to be in charge, or would like to pursue other career goals, and may hire someone to run the company.
On boards, both profit and nonprofit, a CEO may be elected from a few worthy candidates. Again, the founder of a corporation may be the primary choice, but many times, especially when the company produces a product, the inventor who founds the company may really have no interest in running it. He or she may far prefer someone with greater business acumen to handle the day-to-day details of being "the boss."
In non-profit groups, limits may be set as to how many terms someone may serve as a CEO or president of a company. This is not always the case, and determination of who the leader is does not always occur by election. Sometimes when a nonprofit organization remains small, a small board consisting of a CEO, a secretary, treasurer or chief financial officer (CFO) and a few other board members will rotate the position.
Being a CEO may mean being responsible for overseeing many different branches of a company, or simply helping to run small board meetings and overseeing small organizations. This person may be present at meetings given for stockholders, may sign paychecks, and may take an active role in managing the company and setting goals.
The talented CEO knows that the greatest power he or she may possess is that of delegation, sharing the work and allowing other employees to have opportunities to make executive decisions, and grow with the company. The leader who never delegates is likely to be highly overworked, particularly in a large company. Those who are interested in heading companies are most likely to arrive at their goal by pursuing degrees in business management, particularly advanced degrees. Management skills are the hallmark of the talented chief executive, as he or she stewards the company into success.