What are the Responsibilities of a Managing Director?

What is a Managing Director and How Does It Differ From a CEO?

Managing Directors and Chief Executive Officers both play critical senior leadership roles in companies. While there is overlap in their duties, important differences exist. This article examines the key responsibilities of the Managing Director role and how they compare with those of a Chief Executive Officer.


Our scholarship programs give promising individuals the opportunity to gain new skills and become leaders for a better future.

Defining the Managing Director Role

The Managing Director (MD) is typically the most senior executive leader after the Chief Executive Officer. The MD oversees day-to-day corporate operations and guides implementation of business strategy.

Key responsibilities include:

  • Leading and managing the executive team across various functions.
  • Directing daily operations to achieve targets and budgets.
  • Reporting to the CEO and board of directors on performance.
  • Developing and optimising organisational processes.
  • Identifying growth opportunities and competitive threats.
  • Acting as public spokesperson and liaising with stakeholders.
  • Fostering a high-performance culture.
  • Ensuring compliance with regulations.
  • Managing risk exposures.

The MD role blends senior leadership with detailed operational control.

Contrasting Responsibilities of the CEO with the MD

While the CEO focuses on overall vision and strategy, the MD manages execution. Key differences include:

Setting strategic direction – The CEO bears ultimate responsibility for the company's vision, mission, values and strategic plans. The MD fulfils strategy within business operations.

Leading the board – The CEO actively engages with the board of directors as the top governance link. The MD may attend board meetings to report operationally.

Driving growth – The CEO spearheads expansion into new markets and revenue streams. The MD realises growth plans through operational activities.

Managing external stakeholders – The CEO serves as the public face building investor, government and community relationships. The MD focuses internally.

Organisational culture – As the top role model, the CEO significantly shapes organisational culture. The MD translates culture into day-to-day behaviors.

Innovation leadership – The CEO sponsors innovation to disrupt markets. The MD implements innovative programs operationally.

While complementary, the CEO takes a wider strategic perspective compared to the MD’s operational focus.

What Are A CEO and MDs Shared Responsibilities?

Many duties are shared between both roles:

  • Achieving financial objectives and business performance targets.
  • Developing, mentoring and appointing members of the executive leadership team.
  • Overseeing priority projects and major capital investments.
  • Leading acquisition and investment activities.
  • Building effective partnerships, channels and supplier relationships.
  • Directing behaviors and activities according to company values.
  • Serving as role models and reinforcing desired culture.
  • Upholding governance, ethics and compliance standards.

Close collaboration between the CEO and MD ensures alignment between vision and operational execution.

What is the Ideal Relationship Between an MD and CEO?

Constructive dynamics between the CEO and MD roles enable unified leadership:

  • Clear definition of responsibilities to optimise focus areas while minimising overlaps.
  • Mutual support, trust and respect between the roles.
  • Open communication channels for regular status updates.
  • Complementary working styles balancing big picture thinking and operational detail.
  • Regular meetings to discuss priorities, address challenges and make joint decisions.
  • Unified messaging to the board, executives and wider organisation.

With positive dynamics, the partnership magnifies leadership impact.

What are Some Appointment Considerations for Hiring a Managing Director?

Since the MD oversees daily operations, incumbent candidates often possess:

  • Extensive company experience and institutional knowledge.
  • Deep understanding of the organisation's processes, systems and value chains.
  • Trust and credibility with the executive team and workforce.
  • Technical/functional mastery relevant to the business.

External recruits may bring fresh perspectives but take time acclimatising. Succession planning aims to build MD readiness internally over the long term.

How Do You Become a Managing Director?

Typical steps to become an MD involve:

  • Gaining breadth across key functions like operations, finance, sales, marketing.
  • Proving large-scale leadership as a CEO of a subsidiary or business unit.
  • Establishing strong strategy development credentials.
  • Developing performance management expertise across multi-disciplinary teams.
  • Building relationships with board members and investors.
  • Undertaking high-profile assignments directly for the CEO.
  • Consistently demonstrating strategic thinking, leadership impact and operational excellence.

The MD role represents an apex operational position and pinnacle of the corporate hierarchy for ambitious executives. While not guaranteed, it can lead to future CEO opportunities.


The Managing Director bridges the CEO's strategic leadership with tactical business operations. While the MD oversees day-to-day activities, performance and culture, the CEO sets broader vision and direction. Strong collaboration and transparency between the two senior leaders enables cohesive organisational leadership.

This is of of your complimentary pieces of content

This is exclusive content.

You have reached your limit for guest contents. The content you are trying to access is exclusive for AICD members. Please become a member for unlimited access.