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CEO vs Owner – Is a CEO Higher Than an Owner?

Among the top positions at any corporate organization are two that often cause confusion about their individual roles and responsibilities. These are the CEO and the owner’s roles and responsibilities.

The difference is often (not always) due to the size of the company. While most large companies will have a CEO who is the highest-level executive in charge, smaller companies are usually run by an owner. The CEO is in charge of the overall management of the company, while the owner has sole proprietorship of the company. It is possible that the CEO of a company is also the owner, but the owner of a company doesn’t necessarily have to also be the CEO.

The two have many differences as well as many similarities. First let us understand the two roles.

CEO vs Owner

What is a CEO?

A CEO is the highest position at any organization and is in charge of the overall running of the entire company. They are responsible for making big decisions for the company and are also the company’s representative in the media and the public eye.

What is an Owner of a company?

The owner on the other hand does not have a specific role. Their role changes depending on the company and the needs of their company. An ‘owner’ is someone who owns 100% percent of the company. While, a ‘co-owner’ owns part of a company along with a partner or multiple partners. The owner has the right to do as they wish with the company and is often also the founder of the company.

Also visit: UCLA Owners/Presidents Management Program (UCLA OMP)

Similarities between CEO and Owner

While both roles are different, they share similarities in the kind of skills needed to run an organization. While in some instances, a CEO might have more experience than an owner, they both need to have exceptional communication skills, leadership skills, and strategic thinking skills, although in different capacities.

Differences between CEO and Owner

The owner or sole proprietor owns their business as well as their financial resources for the business. Ownership in legal terms is someone who has almost all or all of the company’s shares in their name. A CEO, on the other hand, is a title that has nothing to do with ownership and more to do with function. And while a CEO is entitled to a salary from the company, an owner doesn’t make a salary, rather is entitled to the profits made by the company.

CEO and Owner – Roles and Responsibilities

The CEO is in charge of planning and implementing long-term goals for the company. They are in charge of making critical decisions for the company and overseeing the duties of the other C-level executives. They work on developing and putting into motion the vision and long-term goals of the company. They are also involved in developing company policy and implementing the company’s strategic goals.

Since the owner has no particular role, their responsibilities are not defined either. But, since it is their company they oversee and work on multiple aspects of the business. This can include anything from production to HR or business development to marketing. As the company grows they might combine their role with that of a CEO, COO, MD, vice president, etc.

Hierarchy of CEO and Owner

The CEO is usually hired for the position, whether internally or externally. They are at the highest position in a company and only report to the board of directors and the chairperson of the board of directors. In the case that there is no board, then the owner is reporting authority for the CEO. The owner presides over C-level members of the company such as the COO, CTO, CFO, etc.

The owner is intrinsic or inherent in their role unlike the CEO. But if the company is sold in its entirety, then the owner will change. The owner’s role is separate from the corporate hierarchy and is under no obligation to report to anyone. If they also hold the role of a C-suite position then they function accordingly but also function autonomously for the most part.

Functional roles of CEO and Owner

The CEO’s role is limited to the strategic management of the company. They usually delegate different aspects of management to different heads of departments or C-level executives like the COO for operations, the CFO for finances, the CTO for technology, the CMO for marketing, etc.

Also visit: Global Master of Science in Finance (Global MS in Finance) program from the Richard DeVos Graduate School of Management

With no particular functional role, this is something that is reliant on individual companies and owners. The owner of a company might delegate as the company grows, but they still might control some of the different functions of the business. For example, they might not entirely give up their control of the company’s finances. But a CEO has no control over their company’s finances or marketing. Rather, they work with the CFO or CMO to ensure those aspects of the company are flourishing.

Executive education

There are a few programs that you can opt for to prepare yourself for both of these positions.

Berkeley Executive Program in Management (Berkeley EPM)

The Berkeley Executive Program in Management (Berkeley EPM) is a general management program that prepares you for the next level of leadership. This program is created in such a way that it helps transform proven leaders into global executives ready to lead the charge. The Berkeley Executive Program in Management encourages its participants to reflect, enhance strategic thinking, and develop authentic leadership. It is designed to create an immersive, relevant, and dynamic learning experience for senior executives, ready for the next level of the leadership challenge. It includes modules on advanced management competencies, leading innovative change, etc., which are a must for a person in C-level positions, to ensure the growth of the company.

MIT Professional Education Technology Leadership Program (TLP)

This is a multi-modular program delivered by MIT faculty on campus and virtually, geared towards the development needs of the next generation of technology CEOs, CTOs, CIOs, and emerging leaders. The program is designed for technology leaders and experienced practitioners from large corporations as well as startups—innovation-oriented firms that are focusing on leveraging emerging digital technologies to remain relevant and competitive in the marketplace. After completing TLP, you will be part of a cohort of global leaders and practitioners. You will also become an integral part of the global MIT Professional Education network and will be considered an alumni of TLP as well as MIT Professional Education.

MIT Professional Education | Technology Leadership Program

UCLA Post Graduate Program in Management for Executives (UCLA PGPX)

It is an extensive general management program offered by the UCLA Anderson School of Management, one of the world’s top business schools. It is a part-time program with a modular format that provides great flexibility for busy professionals, while the UCLA faculty and industry leaders ensure that the program covers all aspects of best-in-class management education expected from a highly respected and globally renowned institution. The UCLA PGPX will put you on the map of global leadership with a combination of strategies, skills, and acumen that will stretch your thinking and hone your abilities as a leader and manager capable of achieving remarkable growth in your business. This program has been designed to expose the participants to management and business leadership essentials in an extensive general management curriculum that is designed to be experiential in learning and applied in focus.


Chicago Booth Accelerated Development Program (ADP)

The Chicago Booth ADP is a rigorous learning journey across 8 modules spread over 9 months and gives you access to the latest management thinking and tools. It is taught by an award-winning faculty at the Chicago Booth School of Business and accomplished senior business leaders. It creates an amazing opportunity to build a strong personal brand and competitively position yourself and your organization. ADP actively engages you in a collaborative learning environment with accomplished peers in . The Chicago Booth Accelerated Development Program is designed for the global executive with a focus on delivering impact and leveraging the significant history of the Accelerated Development Program delivered across the globe. The program is tailored for the busy schedules of senior professionals and is blended in design, with academic on-campus modules and off-campus experiences with online learning and live interactions to complement the on-campus experiences. You will build a global community of like-minded leaders and will become part of the Global ADP Network for life.


Owner is considered the highest position but often the decision-making power in the business rests in the hands of the CEO or the Chairperson.

Innovative thinking, leadership skills, engaging learning are some of the current executive educational trends. Read more about Executive Education Trends 2023.

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