Manager, Director, Vice President — Navigating Corporate Leadership Titles

Executive Job Titles

You want to make a career in business leadership — an ambitious but worthwhile endeavor. Business leaders typically take home six-figure salaries. This allows them to develop and maintain a comfortable and satisfying lifestyle at home.

Furthermore, in the workplace, business leaders have more autonomy and more authority. Resulting in more control over their environment and contributing to greater fulfillment in their careers.

Yet, business leadership is a vast field — and significant differences in terminology can make solidifying career goals quite confusing.

Top 4 Must-Know Executive Job Titles

Before you lay out your career path, you might need to gain a firmer grasp on the differences between corporate leadership titles.

What Is a Manager?

“Manager” is typically the first title a worker can hope to upgrade into after their entry-level roles. Managers function as middlemen between the executive branch of the organization.

They develop business structure and strategies, and the rest of the workforce completes the day-to-day operations of the business. Typical manager responsibilities include monitoring employee performance, tracking team and department results, handling the team or department budget and leading their team or department to success. Generally, managers have bachelor’s degrees, though it is possible to advance to a management position with experience alone.

Unlike higher executives, managers have direct contact with workers, overseeing teams in the completion of their assigned tasks. As a result, managers have sometimes outsized authority over the culture of an organization. If a significant number of managers are lazy or cruel, the diligence and benevolence of the rest of the leadership team have little importance; bad managers will cause disengagement, dissatisfaction and high turnover in the workforce. Thus, it is imperative that managers exhibit strong leadership skills, like empathy and communication, to ensure that the workforce is productive.

What Is a Director?

What is a director

Directors tend to be a step above managers in executive job titles, though they share many of the same responsibilities. Directors might manage elite teams of workers on special projects, or they might coordinate a lower level of management, functioning as another intermediary layer between the highest executive levels and the workforce. Organizations are more likely to require advanced degrees from candidates for their director positions, though in some industries, real-world experience is also advantageous.

While managers might focus on the daily operations of the organization through the teams they oversee, directors tend to be focused on broader concepts that affect the present and future of the company. Directors can have some impact on business structure and strategy, largely through the way they communicate values, policies and goals to managers and how they mentor managers as business leaders. Because directors must go between upper-level and lower-level management, it can be beneficial for them to continue to hone their own leadership knowledge and skill through executive education online.

What Is a Vice President?

Those unfamiliar with the typical executive job titles might assume that, like a country, a company can have only one vice president. That is incorrect. In smaller companies, a vice president might be the second-in-command, but at large corporations, there could be dozens of operational VPs running under the same corporate umbrella. “Vice president” tends to be the lowest level position in the executive hierarchy. With one VP heading each department within the organization. Like directors, vice presidents tend to have master’s degrees. Though they also tend to have decades of business experience under their belts.

Depending on the size of the company, there might be several vice presidents in a department, with variations like “senior” and “junior” to differentiate roles and responsibilities. Vice presidents might report to presidents of their departments, or they might work directly beneath an executive officer. Generally, vice presidents take an even bigger-picture view of the organization than directors, making broader strategy decisions for their slice of the company.

What Is a Chair?

While the role of executives might be relatively clear — the chief marketing officer makes major strategic decisions for the marketing arm of the company, while the chief technology officer oversees all strategies related to tech, etc. — business novices might be somewhat perplexed by the concept of a chair. The chair (also sometimes called the chairman, the chairwoman or the chairperson, depending on the organization) sits at the head of the board of directors. In terms of power in an organization, the chair has the most, boasting full leadership command over company policies and objectives. There are no strict education or experience requirements for the chair; there are chairs with doctorate degrees and chairs who lack high school diplomas.


The more you know about executive job title structures, the easier you will find climbing your career ladder. Now that you have a basic understanding of the major types of business leaders, you can begin your journey to success in business leadership.

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