Hail to Which Chief?
Do corporate titles signify who is really in charge — or do they just confuse?
July 9, 2002
“Alphabet Soup” was one name given to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s public works projects aimed at pulling the United States out of the Great Depression. But today, the same name could be given to a group of people on the upper stratus of the social spectrum.
It used to be that the head of a corporation shared the same title as the Commander in Chief — simply “president.” But just as “president” only indicates a supporting role to the “prime minister” in some countries, the term “president” is being upstaged by “chief executive officer” or “CEO” in the corporate world.
But CEOs are not the only chiefs in the corporate world. As the list below demonstrates, there are chiefs of all kinds of things these days.
|Chief Officer Abbreviations|
What is the point of such title inflation? Well, one point is to avoid responsibly. After all, one may be the CEO — but the CFO has control of finance, and the CIO runs the information department. With all of those chiefs around, it becomes impossible to tell who made a bad decision.
The explosion of chiefs runs from the corporate world, to the military, to the political. Lots of people get an impressive title — and nobody is actually in charge any longer.
1. General Electric has 53 CEOs — one for each of the company’s divisions and foreign components.
2. At the end of World War II, the U.S. military had one “general” or “admiral” for every 6,000 troops.
3. In contrast, by 2001, the U.S. military had one general or admiral for every 1,500 troops.
4. In 1961, the White House had seven senior aides known as “special assistants to the president.”
5. By 2001, there were 109 such senior aides — 18 “assistants to the president,” 26 “deputy assistants” and 65 “special assistants.”