Difference Between Director and Executive Director

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: April 30, 2023


Difference Between Director and Executive Director

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It is often hard to get people to listen to you. Try directing a play. I had given it a go in high school. It was a drama competition. The theme was Shakespeare and obviously, it was meant to be exquisite. The drafts for the script were perfected over weeks and the costume rehearsals went splendidly. We even included dance sequences and incorporated more than the stage into the setting. It was beautiful and my daydreams of the day were picture-perfect. But of course, Murphy’s law had to intervene. Murphy’s law is a law in physics that says that anything that can go wrong will go wrong and, in my case, it wasn’t just anything. It was everything. Costumes fell apart, the music cues for the dance sequences got messed up and the main lead couldn’t find her voice.

It was devastating for me as the leader. Months of planning saw no fruition. At least not the right kind. We did win the competition and get credit for the scripts and the artwork, but my vision wasn’t executed to perfection. I could take sole responsibility as the director, but others were responsible too. It was supposed to be a team effort but my team fell apart. They did not listen enough. To me or the critics or the audience (when they begged the lead to speak louder). Despite the win, which was mostly because other teams were worse, it felt like things were lacking. But I suppose most directors face the same music – the burden of responsibility of managing a team and executing all ideas to perfection. 

Director vs Executive Director

In an organization, the order of hierarchy plays a significant role. Surely, one would not heed the words of a colleague when compared to the words of a mentor even if the words are the same. Director and executive director are two important positions that are involved in the decision-making process. The main difference between both these roles is that a director is a leader, who overlooks the operations from the outside, while an executive director is an internal employee and is responsible for the functioning of the team. Let us see how else these roles differ from each other. 

Differences Between Director and Executive Director in Tabular Form

Parameters of Comparison Director Executive Director
Definition A director is a person who is given the leadership role of a particular function in a public or private organization.  An executive director is a person who generally heads the board of directors and is responsible for the organisation's daily activities. 
Types Directors can be broadly divided into two categories, Executive Directors and Non-executive Directors. Depending on the nature of the organization, they can further be categorized into Shadow Directors, De-facto Directors and Alternate Directors.  Executive directors are of various types depending on the functions in the organization. For example, Marketing Director, Director for Information Technology, Managing Director etc. 
Function Directors are not involved in the daily activities but are asked for their input for vital decisions regarding the organization.  Executive directors head the board and are involved in all the day-to-day decisions of the organization. 
Nature Directors are responsible for the important decisions of the company and thus, must be well-informed and experienced to make decisions for the organization.  Executive directors need to possess the skill to lead the board of directors in the organization.
Responsibility Directors form the senior management and are responsible only for the critical decisions.  Executive directors are responsible for the team and the board, which makes them responsible for the whole organization. 
Change of Role A director cannot change their role.  Executive director transitions into the role of a manager to take care of the organization. 
Employment  Directors are outsiders and are mostly self-employed.  An executive director is an internal employee. 

Who is a Director?

Whether it is a small or large organization; a public or private company, the director adopts the role of a leader of a particular function within that company. “Director” is a top tier title offered to the person in the senior-most management of a company or an organization. A director serves on the Board of Directors. As such, a director is not an employee of the company, they are mostly self-employed.

The main function of a director is to lead and manage a project or team. They do not concern themselves with the day-to-day activities of the company. Compared to the executive director they are less involved with the company and serve to bring an outsider's point of view to the company. Directors provide an overview of the functioning of the company to ensure that the business is running well.

Following are the responsibilities of the director:

  • To direct the company’s resources
  • To help make the critical decisions of the company.
  • To ensure that the company maintains a competitive look to match the market.
  • To monitor the company’s progress through the business plans.
  • To help design a strategic plan and help the board with their views for the company.

Directors form the company’s board and are involved in the critical decision-making process concerning the company. For this purpose, the directors need to have the right set of skills, knowledge and expertise to offer effective solutions to problems. Depending on the need of the company, there are various functions of directors. Broadly, directors can be of two types – executive directors and non-executive directors.

Who is an Executive Director?

An executive director has a special role in any organization. It is a person who is a full-time employee of the company and earns a big salary. They not only play the role of a manager but also serve as the head of the Board of Directors. They manage assets, look over the hiring and firing process and also lead the company when they wish to enter into new contracts. 

As a leader, to be at their best level, executive directors have to have extensive knowledge and skills in multiple areas. Since they are involved in the daily management, they must possess the capability of providing advice and support to their team, overseeing designs, managing the other employees, approving the marketing and advertising, checking the quality of products, making sure the resources are being used appropriately, make recommendations about the budget and also ensure that the rules and regulations are being followed by all. 

There are various types of executive directors. The types are dependent on the function they serve within the organization. Examples of the types are – managing director, marketing director, finance director, director for information and technology etc.

As the head of the board of directors, an executive director is responsible for the internal communication of the company (providing advice, suggestions etc.). They also have to lead the opinions of the board and order conventions for such discussions. 

Another important role of the executive director is as the top manager of the organization. This position has managerial functions like the power to make the final decision regarding the company’s strategies and tactics. Since the position is high and executive, it is usually offered to the chief executive officer or the managing director.

In addition to these important functions, the executive director must also be motivational and inspirational to the team members. They must also be wary of the public eye and appoint the right Public Relations to ensure that the company receives positive attention. They are also responsible for keeping an eye over the legal parts of the company, the taxations applicable, the changes in accounting etc.

Following are the responsibilities of the executive director:

  • To investigate the operations of the company and enhance them to a level that accomplishes utmost productivity.
  • To maintain ethics from the top-most tier to the bottom-most one of the entire company.
  • To estimate the amount required for their current operations and to maintain a surplus in case of unexpected expenses.
  • To keep updated on the market trends so that demands are met.
  • To supervise department managers and monitor quality reviews.
  • To align the various opinions to formulate a business plan.
  • To develop a contingency, and manage policies and programs to attain the mission of the company.

Main Differences Between Director and Executive Director In Points

Following are the main differences between a director and an executive director:

  1. A director takes up the leadership role of a particular function in an organization, while an executive director is a person who is responsible for the daily activities of an organization and heads the board of directors.
  2. Directors can be of two types – executive and non-executive. Executive directors can be of various types depending on the functions of a company. For example, managing director, marketing director etc.
  3. While directors are not involved in the daily activities, they are consulted for the important decisions regarding the company. Executive directors, conversely, are involved with the daily activities.
  4. Directors need to be experienced and well-informed as they are responsible for critical decisions of the organization. Executive directors need to be adept and skilful at leading the board of directors.
  5. A director forms a part of the senior management that is only consulted with critical decisions, whereas an executive director is responsible for the day-to-day activities of the organization as well as the board of directors.
  6. A director cannot change their role, while an executive role can change their role depending on the need. For example, they can adopt the role of a manager to lead their team.
  7. A director is an outsider and provides an external viewpoint, whereas an executive director is an internal worker.
  8. A director is normally self-employed, while an executive director is an employee of the company or organization. 


 A company requires extensive and scrupulous management to achieve their targets with excellence. For this purpose, they have a detailed staff and organization. A director and an executive director stand at the top-most level of such organizations. A director takes up the role of a leader of a particular function in the organization. They can broadly be of two types – executive and non-executive. They are typically consulted about critical decisions regarding the company. They have to possess experience and skills to offer their insights. They are mostly self-employed and provide an external viewpoint to the decisions made. They cannot change their role.

An executive director, on the other hand, changes their role depending on the need. For example, if the need is to manage the team, they become managing directors. An executive director is responsible for the day-to-day activities of the company and also heads the Board of Directors. They are more involved in the inner functioning of the company are internal employees of the company. They need to foster leadership skills to lead the company effectively. An executive director has a lot more duties regarding the company than the director. Thus, they are both high-ranking individuals in the hierarchy of an organization or company and are necessary for their progress. Since their jobs are so full of stress and demand, it is not unlikely that they could at times be subject to failure. It is hard to stay motivated and inspired at all times and while that does come under their job descriptions, for them to also follow it is a task. In addition to those hardships, the team ought to listen to and contribute to their sound judgments because, without the team, the organization is but a name. To lead them, guide them and manage them skillfully ensures the success of the company. And if in a play, the burden should be adequately delegated and the responsibilities should be appropriately distributed. Taking sole responsibility for all the complex tasks will serve to further stress the individual and probably lead to a breakdown. And that would be unnecessary drama that no audience intentionally signs up for. Although, some do enjoy big tantrums and displays of excessive and nonsensical critiquing amid the show. My audience certainly laughed. And it probably was a cause for the prize.


  1. https://www.wallstreetmojo.com/director-vs-executive-director/
  2. https://www.educba.com/executive-director-vs-managing-director/


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"Difference Between Director and Executive Director." Diffzy.com, 2024. Fri. 19 Jul. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-director-and-executive-director-368>.

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