Why Chief Growth Officer is an Evolving Role

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Andy Raymond.



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In the ever evolving and fiercely competitive business landscape, companies are recognising that relying solely on traditional models of incremental growth and innovation is no longer sustainable. To flourish in today's dynamic climate, an agile and forward-thinking approach centred on long-term strategic growth is imperative. This is precisely where the burgeoning role of Chief Growth Officer (CGO) comes into play.

Understanding the Role of a CGO

A Chief Growth Officer is entrusted with the comprehensive oversight and alignment of all business growth activities across various sectors. Unlike traditional roles confined to sales, marketing or product domains, a CGO takes a holistic view of the entire organisation to craft an integrated growth strategy. This involves breaking down silos, fostering closer collaboration, and ensuring activities synergise rather than duplicating efforts. With a keen awareness of market trends, customer needs, and emerging growth opportunities, the CGO provides visionary leadership, keeping the business adaptable and future focused.

Incorporating CGO to the C-Suite

While CEOs provide essential big-picture guidance, their bandwidth  often limits the construction of detailed roadmaps for achieving strategic growth objectives. Delegating this responsibility to a dedicated CGO allows CEOs to maintain focus on day-to-day operations. This is particularly crucial for large legacy firms, where having an executive specifically focused on critically examining processes, challenging norms, and prioritising long-term expansion is invaluable.

The Growing Relevance of Chief Growth Officers

Recent research suggests that interest in CGOs is rapidly accelerating. In a Gartner survey, spanning 500 CEOs and senior executives, 53% identified ‘growth’ as one of their top three business priorities – a significant increase from 40% the previous year. The study found that faced with a “fading business cycle”, leaders are increasingly seeking diversification into new products, channels, and geographical markets to sustain momentum. This underscores a growing appetite for the strategic expertise CGOs bring to the table.

While the CGO concept originated in the media and marketing sphere, its adoption has skyrocketed, particularly among tech and software companies. With resources scarce, adaptation critical, and the cost of lagging competitively high in the digital age, CGOs’, with their focus on unified growth strategies, are becoming highly sought-after hires.

In one example, financial tech start-up Affinipay took on its inaugural CGO in 2019 specifically to “eliminate organisational silos” and align its approach around “thinking ahead three, five, ten years” rather than getting bogged down in incremental gains. Software firms are increasingly realising that as innovation cycles get shorter, continuously exploring emerging opportunities and recalibrating strategy accordingly is the only way to avoid stagnation or decline amid continually evolving customer behaviours and market forces.

Defining the CGO Skill Set

Given their broad scope, CGOs require both commercial acumen and an innate sense of how to drive growth by crafting compelling brands and customer experiences. Research by the CMO Council emphasises the importance of growth leaders viewing metrics through a commercial lens, prioritising revenue, market share and customer lifetime value over campaign KPIs.

With an obligation to translate growth plans into commercial outcomes, financial fluency, and skill in communicating with key internal stakeholders like the CEO and board are critical CGO capabilities. However, this commercial grounding must be paired with the creative vision to identify what will drive value across current and potential markets. The most effective modern CGOs blend strategic commercial thinking, curiosity with the customer insight, brand passion and future-focused perspective traditionally associated with marketing leadership.

4 Soft Skills CGOs Need:

When appointing a chief growth officer to manage and drive their growth initiatives, executive boards also need to think beyond data-driven strategies and analysing key metrics. The right CGO must also find the balance between collaborating with employees and encouraging them to continue evolving as professionals. Therefore, CGOs also need to invest in the following soft skills:

  • Future Thinking: A strong CGO makes future-minded decisions to help prepare teams for success. They use their data and cognitive resources to envision every possible business outcome. A CGO must visualise future possibilities, analyse available data, and navigate the next course of action.
  • Curiosity: with businesses moving away from using manpower for repetitive and tedious tasks due to advances in AI and automation, more and more job descriptions are noting curiosity as a needed skill. In fact, LinkedIn data reports a 90% increase in job posts that mention curiosity as a necessary soft skill. This highlights how important curiosity is in a time of transformation.
  • Optimism: Perspective matters. Turning negatives like talent shortages, layoffs, and recessions into motivation to continue optimising operations can improve a team’s morale and efficiency in completing the tasks at hand. Therefore, successful CGOs are optimistic about the future—and, more importantly, are confident that they know how to overcome these challenges.
  • Adaptability: As digital transformation continues to elevate the workplace; companies must remain open-minded and embrace change. So, CGOs too, must be adaptable in today’s ever-changing marketplace.

The Ascent of CGOs to Leadership Positions 

For ambitious CGOs, their unique blend of skills and strategic vision increasingly positions them as ideal candidates for CEO roles. With growth surpassing profitability as the top priority for CEOs, CGOs’ ability to chart and steer expansion strategies makes them well-suited for overall leadership.

Their cross-departmental perspective enables them to excel at fostering collaboration and realignment organisation-wide – invaluable given that 70%+ of marketers admit siloed thinking is the number-one internal obstacle to growth. CGOs also develop market intimacy, guiding innovation and strategy in response to emerging trends.

For CGOs with ambitions beyond their current remit, pursuing a CEO role is increasingly a viable route, thanks to this rare blend of strategic vision, unifying leadership capability, commercial nous, and mastery of growth-driving mutual value creation with the market.

Key Insights and Takeaways

With business change accelerating, the pressure on leaders to continually evolve models, products, and processes to maintain expansion is intensifying. As the demands on CEOs limit their capacity to focus squarely on strategic growth, the role of a dedicated Chief Growth Officer provides vital support.

Supported by compelling evidence of growing popularity of CGOs, particularly in tech firms facing innovation imperatives, this new C-suite role appears poised for robust long-term growth. For those aspiring to be in CEO positions, the CGO role offers unparalleled experience, making it an increasingly prolific steppingstone to the upper echelons of leadership.

Connect with Redline

Redline changes lives every day, building world-class leadership teams for technology and engineering companies. With four decades of experience, we provide impartial advice on recruitment matters and guidance on candidate assessment. Contact us on +44 (0)1582 450054 or email info@RedlineGroup.com.

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