The chief of staff is an executive role that provides support to higher-level executives. They are responsible for the communication between customers, employees and executives, and take on minor responsibilities and daily tasks while attending meetings on behalf of the executive leader. The chief of staff often serves as a legal advisor, sounding board and guardian to the CEO, and has a thorough understanding of the company's operations. Smart CEOs rely on their COs to solve problems and manage the daily needs of the company, allowing the CEO to focus on developing strategies to grow the business.
The chief of staff also helps the CEO manage their time effectively and provides advice when making important decisions. Before speaking with Pugh, I was unaware that chiefs of staff have such a powerful and influential role in the private sector, and that this position is a great opportunity for ambitious women. The most sophisticated chiefs of staff also assist CEOs in creating policies and making sure they are implemented. The role of chief of staff originated in politics and the military, but is now increasingly being adopted by executive directors.
Many chiefs of staff are women, providing them with a unique opportunity to make an impact at a high level. Pugh organizes events for chiefs of staff in Washington, DC, and has conducted research on the role and function in business. The chief of staff is typically responsible for planning and managing all administrative, financial and operational activities for the CEO. They also create systems so that the CEO can focus on their board of directors while ensuring that everyday tasks are not neglected.
One example is a man who joined a large life science company as a chief of staff after earning a doctorate and an MBA from top programs, then working for a strategic consulting firm where his current boss was a client. The role of chief of staff could be the same role that ultimately equalizes gender disparity in meeting rooms. Unlike an EA, a chief of staff works independently and does not manage routine correspondence or manage the leader's daily schedule. They are essential to ensure that executives stay connected with their company.
To be successful in this role requires strong leadership, communication, organizational and decision-making skills.