The CEO and president titles, and the duties attached to them, can vary widely between companies. Even where companies are required by statute to have one or more executive officers, there are no standard titles required. In spite of this, some leadership titles have generally accepted duties, and the presence and absence of other leadership positions within a company may alter those duties.
When the Titles Are Synonymous
The CEO title emerged in the 1970s and was not a commonly recognized acronym until the late 1980s. Before that, the title of president was largely exclusive to the company's senior executive, beneath the board of directors. Depending on a company's culture, the senior executive manager may be called the ''Chief Executive Officer'' or the ''President.'' When a company uses CEO or president, but not both, the duties of the job are typically the same.
Duties of the Senior Executive
Regardless of title, the senior executive manager generally has a few main roles, though the day-to-day duties may vary widely. The strategies and vision of a company originate with the chief executive, though the board and other senior management may contribute. Corporate culture develops with leadership and that begins with the senior manager's policy and example, cascading down to the managers and supervisors to the workers. The chief executive also supports vision and strategy through budgeting and capital allocation.
When Both Titles Exist
Some companies have a CEO and a president. While companies may use the titles differently, the CEO is ultimately the senior executive. The president, in this case, is one of the senior managers who reports to the CEO. Usually, the president looks after day-to-day operations on behalf of the CEO. CEOs who play a strong role in daily operations may have the dual title of CEO and president.
Given the flexible nature of job titles in general, people may have similar jobs in different companies with titles that don't compare. The owner of a small business may, for example, call herself "owner," while in practice she performs the duties of both CEO and president, and likely other jobs as well. A chief operating officer, or COO, has job duties similar to that of a president under a CEO. European countries often use the title of managing director interchangeably with CEO.