Manager vs. Director: Differences Between Leadership Roles

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With few exceptions, businesses don’t grow by accident. The proper development and execution of business strategies, such as growth or market outreach strategies, are fundamental for any organization’s success and market vitality. Many team members and business leaders play integral roles in fulfilling business plans, including managers and directors. While both roles can help propel companies forward, they differ in their approach, with one more focused on day-to-day operations and the other on the long-term strategy.

For those seeking careers in the business world, comparing the manager vs. director roles can be a helpful first step. No matter which trajectory you choose, a Master of Arts in Management and Leadership program can help you hone the foundational skills required for being a successful business leader.

What Is a Manager in Business?

The manager oversees the operations and functions of the entire organization or a particular division, department, team, or project. For example, someone in this position may “manage” the entire sales team, the marketing department, or all personnel and activities within the organization. Some of the core managerial functions include properly facilitating team dynamics, which may mean hiring and firing employees, providing performance reviews and feedback, granting raises and bonuses, and authorizing paid time off. Essentially, the manager is the “boss” for all the people within their purview. As such, these employees are accountable to the manager, while the manager may be accountable to senior leaders and executives for the performance and results of their entire workforce.

Different Types of Manager

Manager positions range in terms of level, responsibility, and authority. Some of the most common types of managers include:

  • Upper-level managers oversee broad organizational divisions and may include department managers or general managers. They supervise teams of middle and lower-level managers to ensure that operations are consistent and efficient. They may also be more involved in implementing company goals and strategic decisions.
  • Middle managers usually serve as points of connection between upper-level and lower-level managers. Their role includes reporting key metrics to upper-level managers. Additionally, they ensure that lower management’s concerns are addressed by the company’s more senior leadership.
  • Shift leaders, team leaders, and other lower-level managers provide direct supervision to employees. Their work is more closely focused on the oversight of day-to-day functions and business operations.

Group of businesspeople in a meeting in a well-lit conference room.

What Is a Director in Business?

In contrast with managers, whose role is more focused on day-to-day operations and activities, business directors design and develop strategies that move an organization toward a specific goal or purpose. Another way to look at it is that, while business managers are tasked with executing goals, directors play a more direct role in setting those goals. In doing so, directors may take into account finance, client relations, and other core business operations. Specific functions of business directors may include:

  • Ensuring that employees have the best conditions to work in
  • Fostering positive relationships with trade and business partners
  • Developing and implementing business strategies
  • Analyzing and improving current business practices
  • Reporting to members of the C-suite and executive team

Manager vs. Director: Key Differences

Ultimately, both the manager and director play a significant role in advancing business goals. However, there are some significant points of distinction between these two professions.

One of the most important distinctions has to do with authority. In many corporate structures, managers oversee rank-and-file employees, whereas directors often oversee the managers. For example, a corporate structure may have a director of sales and marketing, under whom multiple marketing and client relations managers oversee their own teams.

Another important distinction centers on the difference between tactics and strategy. Managers are more concerned with the former; their role is to manage their teams in such a way that their day-to-day activities support the company’s goals. By contrast, directors actually help set those goals and develop the strategies that will be implemented to achieve them.

Due to this important distinction, managers and directors benefit from separate but complementary skill sets. A director needs to have a vision and long-term planning skills, whereas managers benefit from the ability to motivate and optimize efficiency on a daily basis.

Manager vs. Director Salary Distinctions

According to PayScale, the median salary of managers was around $64,000 as of November 2021. However, PayScale notes that salaries for this position range significantly depending on an individual’s rank, industry, location, and many other factors. Generally speaking, PayScale reports that managers earn salaries in the range of $40,000 to $112,000.

By contrast, the median salary of those holding director-level positions was around $77,000 as of November 2021, according to PayScale. Directors’ salaries ranged from $40,000 to $176,000. As with manager positions, salaries can vary widely based on industry, position, location, and other factors.

Building Blocks for Better Businesses

Successful businesses require visionary directors to help set goals and create strategies. Equally important are capable managers who know how to execute those strategies and get the best out of their team members.

Whether you want to become a manager or director, an advanced education can provide you with the skills and confidence you need for long-term success in business leadership. With concentrations in Cybersecurity, Health Administration, Human Resource Management, Information Technology, Marketing, Project Management, Software Development, and Business Data Analytics, Maryville University’s online Master of Arts in Management and Leadership program allows you to tailor your education to help you succeed in leading your industry. Learn more about how Maryville can help you achieve your professional goals.

Recommended Reading

Importance of Entrepreneurship: Types, Benefits, and Styles

Importance of Diversity in Leadership

Virtual Leadership Styles for Remote Businesses

Sources

Boundless, “Middle-Level Management”

Houston Chronicle, “Different Types of Business Strategies”

Houston Chronicle, “Executive Director vs. Business Manager”

Inc., “How to Hire a Business Development Director”

Indeed, “Director vs. Manager: Responsibilities and Differences”

Investopedia, “C-Suite”

Investopedia, “Upper Management”

Market Business News, “What Is a Manager? Definition and Meaning”

PayScale, Average Business Director Salary

PayScale, Average Business Manager Salary

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Administrative Services and Facilities Managers

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Top Executives