C-level definition

C-level, also called the C-suite, is an adjective used to describe high-ranking executive titles within an organization. C, in this context, stands for chief. Officers who hold C-level positions are typically considered the most powerful and influential members of an organization; consequently, they make higher-stakes decisions, their workload is more demanding, and they have relatively high salaries.

As compared to the skills associated with other organizational positions, which are often more functional and technical in nature, C-level executives must demonstrate leadership skills and business expertise, as well as team-building abilities, rather than functional and technical know-how. 

Examples of C-level titles include the following:

  • CCO (chief compliance officer)
  • CEO (chief executive officer)
  • CIO (chief information officer)
  • CTO (chief technology officer)
  • CFO (chief financial officer)
  • CKO (chief knowledge officer)
  • CSO or CISO (chief security officer or chief information security officer)
  • CDO (chief data officer)
  • CVO (chief visionary officer)
  • CDO (chief data officer, chief digital officer)
  • CPIO (chief process and innovation officer)
  • CMO (chief marketing officer)

See also CEO and others.

This was first published in June 2014

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