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Difference Between Managing Director & CEO

Managing directors and CEOs can be interchangeable titles, but when they are both employed by an organization the difference in duties is clear. This article explores these differences along with salary figures and related careers.

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Comparing Managing Director to CEO

The managing director of a company controls the day to day operations of a business and works closely with the chief executive officer to guide the business in achieving its goals. A managing director is like the stage manager of a play overseeing each move while a CEO is analogous to the play writer. The division of labor between these two positions varies depending on the organization, but ultimately they both report to a board of directors.

Job Title Minimum Education Required Median Salary* Job Growth (2014-2024)**
Managing Director Bachelor's degree $171,961 6% (for top executives)
CEO Bachelor's degree $162,963 -1% (for chief executives)

Sources: *PayScale.com, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,

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Responsibilities of a Managing Director vs. a CEO

Within a business, people and resources must be managed efficiently using a strategic plan for growth and profitability. The managing director controls the flow of work and oversees the distribution of materials and staff toward specific tasks. The chief executive officer confers with the board of directors concerning company goals and works with the managing director to accomplish these goals by developing the overall business approach. The CEO is ultimately the one who is held accountable if business goals are not met. Both positions are considered top executive positions. While the managing director oversees daily operations, the CEO provides the vision for the organization.

Managing Director

A managing director must be able to respond quickly to changes that occur on a daily basis in fast moving industries. They supervise people in other departments including sales and marketing and manage contracts with other business organizations who supply materials. The managing director must be able to work with others regardless of the size of the company to delegate responsibilities, supervise and evaluate the work of subordinate executives and analyze the progress of the company toward meeting its goals.

Job responsibilities of a managing director include:

  • Hiring and firing of support staff
  • Motivating employees and minimizing conflicts between staff
  • Keeping track of business expenditures and evaluating the profitability of the business
  • Recommending ways to improve business operations to the CEO

CEO

The chief operating officer works with the president, vice president, board of directors and managing director to provide a strategic plan for business success. They are responsible for providing leadership in determining budget priorities, developing sales and marketing campaigns, and setting expectations for the corporate culture. CEOs work closely with regulatory agencies to insure compliance with all state and federal guidelines. The CEO is often the public face of an organization and their job security is often tied to the success or failure of the company.

Job responsibilities of a CEO include:

  • Reviewing the productivity of all departments within the organization
  • Presenting reports to the board of directors
  • Addressing issues within the organization if business goals are not being met
  • Representing the company to the media and in public meetings

Related Careers

A job similar to a managing director is that of an account executive. Both require good communication skills and a capacity to make decisions based upon extensive market research. A marketing director job is similar to the job of a CEO because both must go beyond market research to develop a strategy for building a successful product and selling that product to customers.

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