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Chairman Vs. CEO Vs. President

Oct 01, 2019

Chairman, CEO and president are titles that refer to top-tier positions on the corporate ladder. This article provides an explanation of the unique responsibilities tied to each role.

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Comparing Chairmen, CEOs and Presidents

The exact distinctions between these positions differ depending on their industry and individual companies. However, there are a few common traits that can help distinguish these confusing corporate titles:

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary (2019)* Job Growth (2018-2028)**
Chairman Own a significant share in the company $198,221 6% (all top executives)
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Master's degree
Years of management experience
$158,193 6% (all top executives)
President Master's degree
Years of management experience
$149,716 6% (all top executives)

Sources: *PayScale.com, **US Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of a Chairman, CEO and President

A chairman heads a board of directors and votes on a company's overarching vision and strategy. Because the board meets only a few times a year, the chairman is not necessarily a regular part of day-to-day operations. The CEO is the top executive of a company. They design the company's strategy and report to the chairman and board of directors. In large organizations, the president implements this vision and reports to the CEO. While the CEO faces outward and communicates primarily with the board of directors and industry leaders, the president is inward-facing and runs the day-to-day operations of a company.

Chairman

A chairman leads a board of directors. The board of directors meets a few times a year to discuss a company's success, failures and growth opportunities. Because the chairman can impact hiring and policy decisions, they have a lot of power in deciding the overarching goals and strategy of their company. In some cases, the chairman is also the owner and/or CEO of the company.

Job responsibilities of a chairman include:

  • Monitor their company's profits, stability and growth
  • Set the agenda for board meetings
  • Hold votes on major strategic ideas presented by the CEO
  • Hire and fire CEOs, presidents and other executives

Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

The chief executive officer (or CEO) is the highest position on the corporate ladder. They hold the responsibility for a company's ultimate success or failure. They must have excellent communication skills to share their vision for their company with management, investors, shareholders and the board of directors. They typically have their own office and work in corporate headquarters. They may work past normal business hours and attend numerous networking events on evenings and weekends.

Job responsibilities of a CEO include:

  • Act as the face of a company to the public
  • Design a company's long-term vision and goals
  • Monitor the performance of president and vice presidents
  • Establish positive relationships with industry leaders, shareholders and investors
  • Devise strategic goals for the board of directors to vote on

President

The president of a corporation is responsible for carrying out the vision established by the CEO. Their role may vary depending on the size of their company and the industry they operate in. They must display excellent leadership skills to organize top-tier management and lead their company to success. A president generally works in an office setting, but the demands of the job often require them to work beyond regular 8-5 hours. In some cases, presidents become CEOs. For example, when Bill Gates (the owner and CEO of Microsoft) decided to limit his role to chairman he made his president the new CEO.

Job responsibilities of a president include:

  • Oversee the top levels of management
  • Monitor all aspects of their company
  • Ensure their company maintains its established budget, goals and vision
  • Report on the company's successes and failures to the CEO or board

Related Careers

Chairmen, CEOs and presidents are titles that come with prestige and a high pay check. If you think you have what it takes to be a chairman or CEO, consider looking into a job as director of strategy, which involves a more hands-on approach to senior-level management. If you want to become a corporate president, you may also enjoy working as a director of operations, as both roles share the goal of insuring that that a business operates at maximum capacity and efficiency:

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