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Chief Happiness Officer and Other New Leadership Jobs

How do you know when you're a leader? The crudest measurement, of course, is your title: If it includes the word "chief" then you're in charge of something. CEO stands for Chief Executive Officer, as we all know, but you might not be so familiar with the new chief-doms gaining ground in the public and private sectors.

Here's my guide to a world where everyone's a chief:

1. The Washington Chiefs

President Obama has added three new C-level titles to the federal government: Chief Technology Officer and Chief Performance Officer, positions currently filled by Aneesh Chopra and Jeffrey Zients, respectively. Both men work with the government's first Chief Information Officer, Vivek Kundra. All the new chiefs make the cabinet-level positions sound a bit outdated: Who wants to be a secretary when you can be a chief?

2. Chief Happiness Officer

Okay, I couldn't actually find any companies that actually have Chief Happiness Officers (if you are out there, give us a shout,) but simply Google the term, and you'll discover one of those fun and addictive blogs, Chief Happiness Officer, written by Danish speaker/author/consultant Alexander Kjerulf. His blog is not actually a how-to guide for fictional executives, but it does give plenty of off-the-wall advice for keeping people happy at work (which we all know leads to more productivity, the end of global warming, etc.) If you read one thing today, check out Alexander's recent post on cool work places, which includes this no-it's-not-a-joke Conference Bike.

Point here being that the very concept of C-level officers has become a great marketing tool. Just ask the folks who created the idea of Chief Home Officers (teleworkers) or Chief Family Officers (moms).

3. Chief Social Media Officer

First, there was discussion of whether companies needed Chief Blogging Officers. Now that blogging has become just one aspect of interactive media online, the discussion has turned to the need for Chief Social Media Officers. Presumably, the Chief Twitter Officer and Chief Facebook Officer will report to the CSMO.

4. Chief Receptionist Officer

As you've noticed, there may be too many chiefs spoiling the broth here, and this Knowledge@Wharton headline takes the concept to its absurd extreme, imagining a world where the reception is also a chief. In the article, Wharton profs explain the trend's backstory, how "title promotions" in many cases have become stand-ins for salary increases. That is, your employer can't offer you more money, but if you go from being, say, an Environmental Risk Analyst to a Chief Environmental Officer, your resume looks great, and in this era, you're probably destined to move onto a new job anyways. But the title does still have some meaning, says Wharton professor Ben Campbell: An executive titles says, "'Here is somebody who is a strategic thinker and has strategic responsibilities.'"

5. Chief Recession Officer

New social, political and economic trends bring their own C-level inspiration. Sarbanes-Oxley legislation gave rise to the existence of Chief Compliance Officers or Chief Governance Officers. A concern for diversity has resulted in Chief Diversity Officers. With economic pressures now being what they are, should we expect to see the emergence of Chief Firing Officers, Chief Stimulus Officers or Chief No-More-Budget-for-Christmas-Parties Officers?

Tell us, what kind of chief executive officer would you like to be?

By Andrea Useem  |  May 8, 2009; 1:28 PM ET  | Category:  Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

I've been the Chief Happiness Officer at The Happiness Institute (www.thehappinessinstitute.com) for about 7 years now and I've consulted to many organisations where I've effectively been the CHO in residence for them!

I think every company should have a CHO!


Posted by: timothysharp | May 18, 2009 6:34 PM

The FBI has a Chief Knowledge Officer.


The organization that based "reform" on blowing a billion on computers that still don't work said it would help them "know what they know."


They brought in "the private sector."

Government Sachs, Inc.

Bringing you "value" by "leveraging" "intelligence."

The latest hire: The IT guy from Lehman.


If it wasn't such a tragedy, it'd be the greatest comedy-fiction of all time.

What's next, Bernard Madoff as SEC head (Chief of Thiefs)?

Super Chiefs?

Chiefs in Charge of Chiefs?

Supreme Allied Commander in Chief?

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs?

(That would be Michael Phelps, I guess)

Posted by: mj777tgggg | May 11, 2009 11:41 AM

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