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Chief Whatever Officer

These days, I follow the corporate title inflation trend with a healthy mix of curiosity, humor, and sarcasm.

In 2007 we moved to the United States from Belgium. I had accepted a role at our local business in North Carolina.

While discussing the opportunity, one of the arguments to convince me was that I would be an officer in the company and get the title of Vice President.

The only Vice President I knew at that time was Dick Cheney, and I was not impressed.

I had no clue what it meant to be an officer; I had no clue what it meant to become a Vice President.

But from the letter I received from the CEO back then, it apparently was a big deal.

The CEO explained to me in his letter the perks I could look forward to, including rock star status (I’m kidding), and in return, I was expected to demonstrate ownership for the company’s success.

Until then, I always had felt ownership for the success of the company, but apparently, this was different.

For reference, back then, Europe still was dealing with general directors or managers.

In Europe, a director was the highest rank person. In the US, a director was the position you needed to get out of as quickly as possible.

A VP position was waiting for you.

The holy grail of business success.

Today, globalization has also impacted the way we treat titles in our companies outside of the US.

Wanting to be a Vice President is no longer a dream just meant to be for American managers.

You can call yourself President and CEO on LinkedIn when you run your own one-person freelance company.

Just scan LinkedIn for a few minutes.

Of course, I was flattered by the titles I had over time, I’m also a human being, but I dare to say that I’m not a big title guy.

Even if I have those titles on my LinkedIn profile.

I’m not stupid.

These days, I follow the title inflation trend with a healthy mix of curiosity, humor, and sarcasm.

There are titles for everything it seems like. And they are evolving.

Personnel director became head of HR became CHRO became Chief People Officer.

When discussing these titles at the dinner table the other day, my daughter reminded us that it’s also called the People’s Republic of China.

“And that’s not a very democratic regime, Papa,” she added.

Then we discussed some other titles we had witnessed recently.

Chief Happiness Officer.

Chief Engagement Officer.

Chief Creative Officer.

Chief Energy Officer (I’m not talking about an oil company here).

Yes, these exist.

And if you happen to be one, I’m happy for you.

You’re now an officer, and you have made it to the vice president ranks inside your company.

You own the future of your company, together with the other 223 vice presidents your company employs.

Unfortunately, I think your CFO still has a bigger chance to become the next president (and CEO).

At the end of this, somewhat sarcastic, insight a bit of a back-down-to-earth thought.

I’ve done organizational design work, and I understand that title uniformity can help create consistency, clarity, and fairness.

But let’s try to keep both feet on the ground and not take ourselves too seriously.

If your company needs a Chief Happiness Officer, I suggest you start looking elsewhere to discover why you believe you need one.

If you’re interested you can read the responsibilities of a Chief Happiness Officer here.

Your turn: Spot on or too sarcastic?

Do more of what makes you happy!

Erikjan

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Erikjan Lantink
Business & Leadership Coach

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