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Managing Director vs. Executive Director: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

In any organization, the management team is responsible for the day-to-day operations and long-term planning. The two highest-ranking positions in management are the managing director and the executive director. Both of these roles are important for the success of the company, but they have different responsibilities. In this article, we compare and contrast the managing director and executive director positions, and we explain the key qualifications and skills you need for each role.

What is a Managing Director?

A Managing Director is a high-level executive who oversees the day-to-day operations of a company. They develop and implement strategies to grow the company and increase profitability. They also work to attract and retain top talent, manage budgets and financial planning, and develop relationships with key stakeholders. In larger companies, the Managing Director may report to the Board of Directors. In smaller companies, they may be the highest-ranking executive.

What is an Executive Director?

An Executive Director is responsible for the overall management and operation of an organization. They work with the Board of Directors to develop and implement strategic plans, set goals and objectives, and create policies. They also oversee the day-to-day operations of the organization, including finances, human resources, and administration. In addition, Executive Directors are often responsible for fundraising and developing relationships with key stakeholders. They may also represent the organization to the public, the media, and other external groups.

Managing Director vs. Executive Director

Here are the main differences between a managing director and an executive director.

Job Duties

A managing director oversees the entire organization, while an executive director manages a specific department or function. For example, an executive director of a nonprofit may manage the fundraising team while the managing director ensures that all departments work together and communicate effectively. Executive directors often have more administrative duties, while managing directors have more strategic responsibilities.

Other differences include that a managing director is usually higher in the corporate hierarchy than an executive director, earns a higher salary and has more experience in business management. Conversely, an executive director has more responsibility within the department they oversee and typically have more connection to donors and clients.

Job Requirements

Managing directors and executive directors typically need a bachelor’s degree in business administration, management or another related field. Some employers prefer candidates to have a master’s degree as well, but it is not required for entry-level positions. Additionally, many managing directors and executive directors pursue certifications through professional organizations like the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) or the Project Management Institute (PMI). These organizations offer training programs that teach professionals how to use accounting software and other tools they might need on the job.

Work Environment

Managing directors and executive directors often work in similar environments, but the executive director may spend more time in an office setting. They also both have access to important information about their company’s operations and can make decisions that affect the entire business. Executive directors typically oversee a larger team of employees than managing directors do, so they may travel between different locations or departments to ensure all teams are working efficiently.


The specific skills used on the job by a managing director or executive director can vary depending on the company and industry they work in. However, there are some general skills that are important for both positions. For example, both managing directors and executive directors need to have excellent communication skills to interact with employees, clients and shareholders. They also need to be able to think strategically to make decisions that will benefit their company in the long run.

Managing directors typically have more experience working in the day-to-day operations of a company than executive directors. As a result, they may have developed strong problem-solving and decision-making skills. They also tend to be better at multitasking and managing multiple projects simultaneously. Executive directors, on the other hand, often have a more strategic focus and are better at developing long-term plans for their company. They also usually have more experience working with financial reports and data analysis, which can be helpful in making informed decisions about where to allocate resources.


The average salary for a managing director is $135,809 per year, while the average salary for an executive director is $94,335 per year. The salary for both positions can vary depending on the size of the company, the industry in which the company operates and the level of experience the individual has.


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