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A vice president and a director are both part of a company's senior management team. These roles can vary significantly, depending on the size and hierarchical structure of a company, but vice presidents generally operate at a level above directors. In other words, a vice president might be a director's boss.
The top level of business hierarchies generally consists of presidents and CEOs. These leaders are responsible for knowing the market and setting strategic goals for the entire company. Vice presidents, representing the next level, have a slightly reduced span of responsibility that is focused on a section of the overall business. All of these leaders look at where the company is and where it's going and then determine where it needs to go.
Think of a president as overseeing an entire fleet, while a vice president oversees a single ship. The strategic roles are similar. The vice president has responsibility for every aspect of his particular ship or unit, to include finance, planning, resources and operations. His strategies must link up with the president's strategies, although they focus specifically on the capabilities and needs of whatever unit he's leading, whether it is manufacturing, information technology or sales. The vice president receives reports from directors to track financial and operational performance in line with unit and company strategies and, in turn, presents reports to the president.
Directors do just what their title says – they direct. While vice presidents are strategic, directors are more tactical. Directors aren't hands-on workers, but they need to know what's happening out in the field, on the plant floor or whatever area they're responsible for overseeing. A director is responsible for workloads, output and resources, including personnel and budgets. When risks are identified or problems occur, the director authorizes necessary actions to remove obstacles to success.
Typically, a director has a staff of managers who oversee the actual work in progress. A director of production in a manufacturing group might have a manager assigned to each production line and work shift. The management staff for a director of quality might focus on inspections and testing, continual improvement and problem-solving. Employees report details of daily activities to managers, who, in turn, provide summaries to directors, who filter the information for key performance indicators, which are then reported further up the chain to vice presidents.
A careers content writer, Debra Kraft is a former English teacher whose 25-plus year corporate career includes training and mentoring. She holds a senior management position with a global automotive supplier and is a senior member of the American Society for Quality. Her areas of expertise include quality auditing, corporate compliance, Lean, ERP and IT business analysis.