Skip to content

The CEO and the Chairman

The roles of a CEO and a chairperson, or more commonly known as the chairman, are often unclear. This might be because in some companies, the same person holds both titles. But the roles of CEO and Chairman are definitely very different.

The CEO and the Chairman

A CEO is the top-most head of a company. They are the ultimate decision-maker at any given company and everyone else answers to them, including other C-level executives. They are focused on strategy, short-term, and long-term goals of the company and delegate activities to reach those goals to those working under them. They make decisions about collaborations and partnerships, methods to tackle their competition, etc. They ensure the company is working towards a vision. They also develop policies, and make sure operations and processes ultimately serve that vision and the goals of the company.

These include financial goals, so the CEO is also tasked with monitoring revenue and expenses to make sure they align with the company’s budget. The CEO drives the organizations and serves as the identity of the organization as well. This means that the job of selling the company’s product falls on the CEO. They are involved in the PR of the company and their product, as well as maintaining a relationship with the investors. The image of the company is not just an external aspect. The CEO is also responsible for maintaining the culture of the company.

On the other hand, the chairman of a given company is the head of the company’s board of directors. They function a little outside of the company itself so the CEO typically reports to the chairman of the board of directors. Usually with regards to the entire company’s performance and growth. The board of directors is in charge of ensuring the investor’s interests are being met and the chairman is the head of that team, which means they are responsible for ensuring the company’s profitability.

The chairman of the board is responsible for all the activities and decisions made by the board. This includes long-term financial goals, performance evaluation of the top-level managers of the company, evaluation of the performance of strategies implemented by the CEO, etc.

Quite often with companies that have grown rapidly, the CEO also becomes the chairman. And while this does take place, it is not always appreciated. One of the reasons is that executive pay is a decision for the board, which means the CEO-chairman has the power that impacts both sides of their positions and duties, which might be considered a conflict of interest.

Difference between CEO and the Chairman

  • The CEO is answerable to the chairman.
  • The CEO is focused on the company, while the chairman is also focused on the investors’ interests.
  • The CEO leads the company’s operations. The chairman leads higher-level policies.
  • The CEO is involved in the daily functions of the company, while the chairman is more involved with long-term functions and goals.


Q. Why are the roles of CEO and chairman often confused?
A. In some companies, both roles might be carried out by the same person. Especially in companies that have grown rapidly. In this case the original CEO is given more responsibility as chairman but is not taken out of their responsibilities as CEO.

Q. What is the fundamental difference between the CEO and chairman?
A. The CEO is answerable to the board of directors, and effectively, the chairman. The CEO is focused on the company, while the chairman leads the board of directors and is also focused on the interests of the investors.

Back To Top