CEO vs. President – Is There A Difference?

Updated: November 12, 2022 is reader-supported. When you buy through links on my site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

When you think of a company CEO vs president, what comes to mind?

(Let me guess.)

You’re probably thinking hierarchy. Or you might be thinking there’s no difference at all. 

Either way, we’ll dissect both titles to discover what’s the difference between the two. 

We’ll take a look at their roles and duties and let the chips fall where they may. 

Let’s get started. 

What is a CEO?

CEO stands for Chief Executive Officer of an organization or a company. Usually, the CEO is the highest-ranking officer in a business. They are also the face of the company and carry out major management decisions. 

The CEO is the primary connection between the Board of Directors (BOD) and corporate operations. Usually, CEOs are the head or chairman of the BOD, but they can also be a part of it. 

Roles and Duties of a CEO

A CEO, being the highest-ranking executive, determines the company’s vision and strategy. 

Other responsibilities include making major corporate decisions. 

Also, the title comes with being the face of the company. As Ben Parker said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” 

But what he forgot to mention is risk. 

Although the CEO is the highest-ranking executive in the company, they lack complete control. Just like other employees, they can get fired. 

That’s right… The BOD and its shareholders hire the CEO. 

The power is, and always will be, with the owners. So when you’re dealing with executive hierarchy, yes, the CEO is at the top, but not without its risk. 

Just like everyone else, they have a job to do. And that job is to define the business strategy, vision, and financial well-being of a company. 

But there’s a point of contention. Although majority shareholders are at the top of the corporate ladder, they too lack ultimate power. 

In the end, the ultimate power lies with the people you are serving: your customers and employees. 

But that’s a topic for another day. 

Now, let’s take a look at the president. 

What is a President?

Despite what the name might suggest, the president of a company is actually one level below the CEO. They report to the CEO and usually have a place on the BOD as well. 

In several large multinational companies, there are multiple presidents present within the organization. For example, international companies will have a president in each country. 

Other than the CEO, the president is the highest-ranking member of the company.

Rules and Duties of a President

The difference between CEOs and presidents is mainly in approach rather than responsibilities. While the CEO is the visionary, the president manages that vision. In other words, the president is more hands-on than the CEO.

Here’s another way of thinking of the differences: 

Think of the CEO as the person who has a great idea that needs help in implementing and managing that idea. This is where the president comes in to carry out the vision of the CEO.

You see:

They’re both responsible for day-to-day management, decisions, and strategies. There’s not much difference in that matter. In fact, the CEO can also be the president in many cases. 

A notable example of this is Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon. He holds the title of CEO, the president, and chairman. 

Now you’re probably wondering, “What’s the difference between the CEO, president, and chairman?” 

Again, a topic for another day. 

What’s the Difference?

Other than hierarchy, there’s not much difference at all between a president and CEO. They both have the same essential roles and duties and report to the board. 

I challenge you to read any other article about their differences, and I bet my bottom dollar what you’ll discover is semantics and descriptions essentially mean the same thing.

But if you still need a definitive answer about the differences between CEO vs president… here you go: 

There’s essentially no difference at all. 

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