What Does a President Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, and More

Image by Theresa Chiechi. © The Balance 2019

The role of the president typically refers to the leader or head of a business, organization, agency, institution, union, university, or branch of government. The president is typically the top employee in the organization's chain of command. This job title can also be used to designate the leader of portions or divisions within an organization. An example is an acquired company that is now a subsidiary of a larger corporation.

(In some organizations, the president reports to a CEO who is the top leader; in others, the head of the organization takes on the title of president and CEO.) The president/CEO may also own the business and may have founded the business, so his or her commitment to the business is deep.

Organizations use various job titles to designate the individual who serves in this capacity. Some organizations have presidents who also hold the title of the chief executive officer (CEO). In other organizations, the president reports to a CEO who is the top leader. The president/CEO might also own or have founded the business.

In organizations where a CEO exists, the President is second in command. In any organization, the titles may designate the same person with the same job—the head or leader of the organization.

As such, the responsibilities of a president closely mirror those of a CEO.

The President's Duties and Responsibilities

Whichever titles are used in an organization, the president is the top person in command in an organization and has specific responsibilities depending on the needs of his or her organization. Thus, the president's job responsibilities can vary from organization to organization. As with any level of management in an organization, the president's role starts with the fundamental job responsibilities of a manager.

Because the role of the president bears significant responsibility, accountability, and authority within an organization, the president has these additional responsibilities in leading their organizations.

The Overall Responsibilities of a President

The president has specific responsibilities depending on the needs of their organization. They can vary somewhat from company to company.

  • Provide leadership: Presidents are expected to provide direction for all other employees. The president's role starts with the fundamental job responsibilities of a manager.
  • Create, communicate, and implement the organization's mission: Make sure that direction is communicated on a level that allows all employees to understand their individual roles.
  • Lead, guide, direct, and evaluate the work of other senior leaders: This can include senior vice presidents, vice presidents, and directors depending on the size of the organization.​
  • Meet regularly with senior company officials: With the participation of the senior team, make sure that decisions the organization needs are well-thought-out and timely. Use this team to spread ideas and direction throughout the organization until every employee understands their expected role and responsibilities for contribution.​
  • Formulate and implement the strategic plan that guides the direction of the business: Use the input of employees at every organizational level to develop the strategic plan.​
  • Form, staff, guide, lead and manage an organization: Make sure the organization is sufficient to accomplish the president's responsibilities and the strategic plan of the business.​
  • Oversee the complete operation of an organization: Accomplish this in accordance with the direction established in the strategic plans.​
  • Evaluate the success of the organization: Using a set of strategically important measures to determine the ongoing success—or lack of it—that the organization is experiencing. Using non-measurable aspects of the work environment to gauge other aspects of business success.​
  • Maintain awareness of both the external and internal competitive landscape: Note opportunities for expansion: customers, markets, new industry developments and standards, and so forth.​
  • Represent the organization in civic and professional association responsibilities and activities: This might occur in the local community or at the state or even national level. Presidents frequently participate as board members or senior advisers.

In an organization with a CEO, the president's responsibilities are less than these as determined by the needs of the organization. If the president heads a subsidiary company or an acquired division, the president's responsibilities are the same as the CEOs for the smaller unit.

President's Salary

These salary figures range across various top-level executives in various industries, but presidents tend to be very well compensated.

  • Median Annual Salary: $189,600 in May 2018)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $208,000
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $$68,360 or less

In May 2018, the median annual wages for chief executives in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Manufacturing: $208,000 or more

Professional, scientific, and technical services: $208,000 or more

Healthcare and social assistance: $173,770

Government: $110,830

Presidents typically receive very attractive compensation packages that might include performance bonuses, stock options, and expense allowances in addition to salary.

Education, Training, and Certification

Expertise, experience, and education are required for this position.

  • Education: At a minimum, a bachelor's degree in business administration or a related major is required, and a master's degree is generally preferred. Many colleges and schools require that their presidents have earned doctorates.
  • Experience: Becoming a president can result from an individual working his or her way up the corporate ladder. Many presidents begin with their companies on the ground floor. Companies hire from outside the organization when the requisite skills do not exist in the current staff. When companies hire an external candidate, a documented history of experience and success throughout an organization or operation is essential.

President's Skills and Competencies

The president is the head of an organization, so any person who has this job title needs to possess the skills and personality traits necessary to handle the responsibility well. Among the skills and competencies required are the following.

  • Communication: Whether orally or written, words are key to the success of professionals in this role. They must make their points and recommendations clearly and succinctly. They owe their employees strong communication that spells out their expectations clearly. Providing solid feedback to senior managers is also key to success in this role.
  • Problem-solving: A person in the president's role should be able to effectively lead the organization in solving problems and in pursuing continuous improvement. Knowing when a problem needs attention is key.
  • Leadership: As the head of the organization, the president needs to exhibit leadership qualities such as the ability to articulate and share a vision, the transmission of optimism, and the ability to obtain input and then, share purpose-driven goals, In addition, the president must radiate confidence and engage employees through building trust and demonstrating that they care about employees.
  • People skills and relationship building: Employees look to the president for various assurances. They want them to build effective relationships that inspire motivation, engagement, and commitment from employees. The president needs to understand that relationships are the foundation of how well the organization performs.

Job Outlook

President candidates are expected to face strong competition for jobs. The high pay, status, and prestige that is associated with this high-level position will attract many qualified candidates. Those candidates who have advanced degrees and long and varied industry management experience will likely fare better in securing positions.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that opportunities in this position will grow, 6% from 2018 to 2028, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Work Environment

This career is generally office-bound, but it can involve travel to other business locations or for conferences and meetings. In organizations where a CEO exists, the president is second in command—and that makes a world of difference.

Work Schedule

The president's work schedule is rarely, if ever, a 9-to-5 job: presidents frequently work evenings and weekends on a consistent basis.

Comparing Similar Jobs Pay

Top management positions are found in virtually every industry. Some of the more common include:

Article Sources

  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook. "Top Executives." Accessed March 25, 2020.

  2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook. "Top Executives." Accessed March 25, 2020.

  3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook. "Top Executives." Accessed March 25, 2020.

  4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook. "Top Executives." Accessed March 25, 2020.

  5. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook. "Top Executives." Accessed March 25, 2020.