What Is The Difference Between Different Leadership Roles Within A Company?

Each individual in an organization has a specific role to play to contribute to the company’s success. From the middle managers to the entry-level employees, every position is crucial in achieving the company’s goals.

That said, leadership roles play a particularly important part in an organisation. Leaders are the ones who inspire and motivate others to do their best work, and they also play a key role in setting the direction of the company.

There are different types of leadership roles within a company, each with its own set of responsibilities. Here’s a look at some of the most common ones you’ll likely come across, as well as the key differences between them.

Company Leaders

Here are some leadership roles within a company and their differences.

Chief Executive Officer

The chief executive officer (CEO) is the highest-ranking executive in a company, and they are responsible for its overall success.

A CEO’s primary duties include setting strategy, making decisions, overseeing operations, shaping company culture, and ensuring that the company meets its financial goals. They also have to manage relationships with key stakeholders, such as shareholders, board members, and employees.

Public and private companies usually have different requirements for their CEOs. For example, public companies have a board of directors that can overrule the CEO’s decisions, while private companies typically don’t have this type of oversight.


The founder is the person who started the company and is typically its most senior leader.

Founders are often involved in all aspects of the business, from its strategy and day-to-day operations to its culture and values. They also typically have a large amount of ownership in the company, which gives them a lot of control over its direction.

If the CEO was the individual who started the company, then they would also be considered the founder. That said, the two roles may be filled by different people in different circumstances.


The president or chairperson is the head of a company’s board of directors.

This individual is responsible for leading the board and ensuring that it makes decisions in the best interests of the company. The president or chairperson also has to manage relationships with the company’s shareholders.

A CEO may also serve as the president or chairperson of the board. However, for large corporations, it’s not unusual for these roles to be filled by two different people.


A director oversees a specific area or department within a company. They fulfil a senior management role and report directly to the CEO or another member of the executive team.

Directors typically have a high level of authority and responsibility within their area of the company. They are responsible for ensuring that their department meets its goals and objectives, and they also have a large say in how the department they’re overseeing should be run.

In larger companies, a director may also be responsible for monitoring the CEO’s actions and approving major decisions.


For private firms, an owner is someone who keeps a controlling interest in the company.

In many cases, the owner is also the founder or CEO. However, for publicly-listed companies, there may be multiple part-owners.

These part-owners have a financial stake in the company and are typically interested in its long-term success. They may also have some say in how the company is run, depending on the type of shares they own.

Want to learn more? LegalVision NZ has a comprehensive guide on the different types of leadership roles and their responsibilities. 

C-Suite Executives

Here’s a quick overview of some of the other common leadership roles you’ll find in a company.

Chief Operating Officer

The chief operating officer (COO) is responsible for the day-to-day operations of a company. They work closely with the CEO to ensure that the company is running smoothly and efficiently.

A COO has a strategic function and helps a business achieve its objectives over time. They also have to implement these plans and make sure that they are being followed. In addition, COOs typically oversee the company’s different departments and make sure that they are working together effectively.

These executives coordinate with other executives and department heads to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that the company is running like a well-oiled machine.

Chief Financial Officer

The chief financial officer (CFO) is responsible for a company’s financial health. They oversee the accounting, treasury, and taxation functions of a business.

A CFO has to ensure that a company is compliant with all financial regulations. They also have to manage the company’s budget and make sure that it is being used effectively. In addition, CFOs often work with investors and lenders to secure the necessary funding for a company.

Chief Marketing Officer

The chief marketing officer (CMO) is responsible for the marketing and advertising activities of a company.

They develop marketing strategies that are aligned with the company’s business objectives. They also oversee the implementation of these strategies and make sure that they are being executed effectively. In addition, CMOs often work with market research firms, agencies, and freelancers to gain insights into customer behavior.

These executives are responsible for creating and maintaining a positive image for the company. They’re often the first people you turn to when you need to promote a product or service.

Other C-Suite Roles

The CEO, COO, CFO, and CMO are the four most common C-suite roles

However, some firms require the involvement of other types of senior executives to meet their business objectives.

Some other notable C-suite specialisations that you might come across include:

  • Human resources (CHRO)
  • Technology (CTO)
  • Information (CIO)
  • Legal counsel (CLO)
  • Sustainability (CSO)
  • Communications (CCO)

Share this post:

Related Content