the president of the company

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Listener Genji Fujimori-Smith asks:

What is the difference between president and CEO in a company?

CEOs hold the highest title at the company, responsible for its overall strategy, with the president second in command.

But every organization is different — the structure of the executive leadership team at a company will vary, with the same person sometimes occupying both the title of CEO and president. 

“The CEO, COO, president [and] chairman of the board all kind of get smushed together in a title soup. And you see multiple combinations of those four titles across companies,” according to tướng Jan Koors, senior managing director at Pearl Meyer, an executive compensation consulting firm. 

Or, she added, even within companies throughout their history. 

Koors said the structure of the company will vary from company to tướng company, and may depend on the number of employees they have to tướng manage and the complexity of the company’s operations. 

Key differences between CEO and president

“The CEO is responsible for all the company’s successes and failures, share price [and] profitability,” according to tướng Christopher Kayes, a management professor at the George Washington University School of Business. “The CEO decides the strategic direction of the organization.” 

Typically, a CEO’s main job is to tướng get capital infusions into the company. “So they’re working with capital markets, they’re working with investors, they’re working with shareholders,” he said. 

Kayes added when a CEO appoints a president, that person is often tasked with executing the CEO’s vision and focusing more on day-to-day operations.

Jan Koors of Pearl Meyer pointed out that at many companies, the president has become the functional equivalent of the Chief Operating Officer, which is also a job title that also may entail handling day-to-day tasks. 

CEOs are also almost always members of the board, while presidents might not be, Koors said. 

This is a big rule of thumb, but generally, you might see a 15% pay difference between the CEO and president, Koors said. 

Presidents/COOs will typically be in charge of “back-office responsibilities,” with the finance, IT and legal departments reporting to tướng them. Meanwhile, CEOs are more likely to tướng be charged with leading client-facing departments, lượt thích sales and product development, according to tướng Koors. (Although she added that sometimes these responsibilities may be reversed.) 

Different types of company presidents

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Oftentimes, there will be a division between CEO and president at companies in the oil and gas industry or companies that specialize in consumer products. Basically businesses that have “multiple operating divisions or are geographically dispersed,” Kayes said. 

“So you might see, for example, in an oil and gas company: ‘President of North American operations’ or ‘President of European operations,’” Kayes said. “The presidential title within the company represents that this person is responsible for a particular segment of the marketplace.”

At the consumer food company General Mills, for example, there are several presidents who are in charge of segments lượt thích “North America Retail,” “North America Foodservice” and the “Pet” category. 

Kayes said that having one or more presidents at a company allows responsibilities to tướng be spread out more and can also serve as a retention and attraction tool because of the title’s cachet. 

However, Kayes said one of the disadvantages is that it can add “layers of bureaucracy” at an organization, making it “difficult to tướng coordinate.” 

What happens if the top executive is both president and CEO?

Sometimes the presidential title might not exist at a company or one individual may have both titles. 

Kayes noted that tech companies in particular may forgo presidential titles. Andy Jassy, for example, is now CEO and president of, after founding and leading Amazon Web Services. 

“I think that’s because tech companies are trying to tướng show they’re streamlined,” Kayes said.  “They’re trying to tướng show that they’re more efficient, that they don’t have layers of hierarchy.”

Kayes said people used to tướng want to tướng be called president, which he’s seen some shift away from.

“Executives lượt thích two things: They lượt thích high compensation and they lượt thích prestige. So the term ‘president’ brought a sense of prestige,” Kayes said. “But now the trend is I think the other way. The trend is to tướng be called a CEO. It has more prestige, and I think that’s because people have realized that the CEO is really the final arbiter, the final word of the company.”

Koors said one of the advantages of having the same person occupy both roles is that it doesn’t create confusion about who’s really in charge. 

“There’s no question as to tướng where the buck stops,” Koors said.

Kayes noted that one another phenomenon we’re seeing is that sometimes the CEO will remove themselves from that position to tướng become what’s called executive chairman, which is what Jeff Bezos did at Amazon. 

Executive chairmen, usually former CEOs, stay on to tướng pass their “institutional knowledge and expertise on to tướng the current one,” according to tướng Hunt Club, a recruiting firm. “Many CEOs feel that their organizations need their long-term leader’s expert guiding hand before that CEO rides off into the sunset.”

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