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CEO vs. President: How they differ

CEO and President are both leadership job titles in organizations. They are both members of the executive management team and make important company decisions. So what marks the difference between CEO vs. President? 

Contents:

What is a CEO of a company?

A CEO, the chief executive officer, is behind all high-level organizational decisions. They develop new strategies and policies, set effective business goals, and shape the company’s public image.

What is the president of a company?

A President manages micro-level decisions and day-to-day operations of an organization. They supervise other executives and managers and ensure that company departments function properly. Sometimes, the President is also the COO (Chief Operations Officer).

Is CEO higher than President?

Yes, the CEO is the top-ranking executive in a business and the President is right below the CEO. In some organizations, one person may hold both titles. The type of company and organizational structure plays a significant role here. For example, in small businesses, the business owner is often the CEO, President, and Managing Director all at once. 

When a company scales up, the CEO, President, and other C-suite level roles usually become separate as each position’s duties are increased and demand more time and dedication.

Let’s look at a head-to-head comparison of CEO vs. President:

Rank

CEO: Highest-ranking executive in an organization. 

President: Second executive in hierarchy, right below the CEO. 

Reports

CEO: They report to the board of directors, with most CEOs being members and sometimes chair of the board.

President: They report to the CEO and the Board of Directors and sometimes, they are board members.

Focus

CEO: Their focus and responsibilities are mostly outward-facing. For example, they meet shareholders and investors and source new opportunities to keep the company profitable. They may also serve as the public 'face' of the company.

President: Their focus is more within the company. They implement strategic plans agreed by the CEO and board members and ensure all policies are followed by the employees.

Vision

CEO: They shape the company’s vision and organizational culture.

President: They help maintain organizational culture and facilitate the company’s vision.

Relationships

CEO: They mostly collaborate with shareholders, board members, and other executives.

President: They usually work with executives and managers and build a positive relationship with employees.

See more:

 

Does that clarify the difference between CEO and President? Visit our library of HR Terms to learn similar definitions.

Frequently asked questions

Do companies have presidents and CEOs?

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is often the highest-ranking officer in a company, but this isn't always true. In smaller businesses with only one owner or founder, it's possible for them to hold both positions--making them acting President as well.

What are the main differences between a CEO and a president?

The relationship between a company’s president and CEO can vary. However, in general, the president is responsible for managing operational strategies, while the CEO is responsible for developing the overall vision of the business.

Is the CEO or president more powerful?

In general, the CEO is considered to be at the top of a company's hierarchy, while the president will be second in command.

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