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Since I had advance warning (oops, I mean notice) that this posting was coming (although not the specific topic) - I was waiting with "baited breath" (whatever that is . . .) to see what Joe's post would be about.

First, I liked the reference to the Grand Viceroy (and the back story), although you didn't do full justice to actual title - The Galactic Viceroy of Research Excellence. It was interesting that the Galactic Viceroy at Microsoft (James Mickens) had more than a couple of similarities to Mo Gawdat, the former head of research at Google X - who I actually had the pleasure of meeting earlier this year. Beyond the intellectual and personality similarities, if you go to the trouble of comparing images of the two, you'll quickly find yourself muttering the phrase, "twins separated at birth", or some variation. Surely, just a coincidence . . .

To more directly attempt to respond to Joe's question about what makes an executive - looking beyond strictly talent and other idiosyncratic characteristics, I think I've always embraced the idea that an "executive" is anyone who by virtue of their actual (or perceived) authority and scope of responsibility, can make decisions and provide direction that (can) impacts the organization at strategic levels. And by that definition, an executive could be construed as an individual at any hierarchical level, regardless of organizational level, # of direct reports or size of the operating budget.

Agree with Chris that it is more than one single metric that defines "executive."

IMHO, an executive has full responsibility and accountability for all results generated by the subordinate levels whose tactical actions implement the executive's policies and strategies.

The CEO is Chief of all and thus suitably accountable for all the results of all other executives, directors, managers, etc. After all, the CEO hires (or approves) them even if not totally involved in each and every strategic or tactical decision delegated by the chain of command. Same applies to each executive.

Executives create rather than follow strategies which are converted into actionable tactics by lower levels. They supply top-level direction, usually without becoming myopically obsessed with each precise step ... otherwise, they could never coordinate all the myriad disparate experts they lead so as to maximize their leveraged effectiveness over vast functional breadths.

There are exceptions, but their rarity merely proves the validity of the rule.

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