It’s never been easier to join the C suite

This month one of the Big Four accounting / consulting groups introduced a new title to its senior ranks,  Chief Purpose Officer. What a CPO actually does is anyone’s guess, but in making the appointment it joins the ranks of the vast ‘creative’ work titles in the corporate world.

Titles such as Brand Evangelist, a Chief Inspiration Officer and Chief Chatter Officer (apparently heading a call centre) have all been used over the years.

You might dismiss all this as trivial, but corporate titles have a habit of reflecting power structures and right now there is a lot of ‘power title inflation’.

A while ago I noticed that the title ‘Head of” was becoming increasingly popular. What’s more, being a “Head of “didn’t actually mean you were the Head. Infact you’d probably report to a director, the director to a GM and GM to an Executive Director. There could even be a number of levels above that.

Now it is the turn of the Chiefs.

Once achieving the rank of Chief meant you’d arrived. You’d be courted as a valued member of the C suite. Now you might even find yourself reporting to a lowly GM. And really, who wants to court the G suite.

Titles are nearly always moved around in the name of ‘change and transformation’ – at least according to the Chief Transformation Officer. It can also be a way to keep people motivated by offering ‘status’ without any real power or money.

However, like financial inflation it can be a difficult Genie to put back in the bottle. I’m not sure where anyone will go once we are all Chiefs.

Some organisations have tried to do away with titles altogether. But it seems to make people a little uncomfortable. We like to know what’s up and down….or do we? What do you think? Can large organisations survive without a ladder to climb?


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