13 Fundamental Differences of a Director vs Manager

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 19 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Directors and managers are both leadership roles within an organisation. These two positions have many similarities in terms of function but differ in the scope of their responsibilities. Learning about the differences between directors versus managers may help you decide if either position is the right career goal for you. In this article, we discuss the definitions of directors and managers and describe the major differences between these two positions.

What is a director vs manager?

Here are the descriptions of a director vs manager:

What is a director?

A director is a senior-level position in a company. They have a wide range of responsibilities and authority over an organisation's day-to-day operations. Many directors oversee a particular sector of an organisation, such as marketing or finance. For example, a marketing director may determine which advertising campaigns to proceed.

What is a manager?

A manager is a mid-level role in an organisation and typically has more specialised responsibilities than directors. For example, they might manage particular teams within a department. They may work with directors to decide what projects get approved, but their decisions generally aren't as wide-ranging in scope as those of a director.

Read more: What Is the Function of a Manager? A Definitive Guide

Types of directors and managers

Here is a list of various types of directors and managers and their responsibilities:

  • Line manager: A line manager is generally the lowest level of management in an organisation. They often work directly with front-line staff, taking directions from middle management.

  • Middle manager: A middle-manager often manages multiple teams and has responsibility over their day-to-day work and decisions on how to implement long-term goals for a department or division with directions from a department head or director.

  • Assistant manager: An assistant manager typically directly supports a middle or high-level manager to perform their managerial tasks. Depending on their specific role, assistant managers might take charge of recruiting employees, project management or collaborating with a team leader or another middle manager to ensure they implement decisions properly.

  • Department director: A department director oversees the managers working under them to ensure that the department runs smoothly and meets any company goals that are in their area of responsibility.

  • Board director: A board director is part of a company's board of directors and is generally nominated and elected to the position by stakeholders. They make decisions with fellow board directors on long-term goals and projects that affect the company as a whole.

  • Executive director: Executive directors are board directors who also hold an executive-level position within an organisation, such as chief executive officer, chief financial officer or chief operating officer. They're often in charge of specific aspects of a company, such as operations, financials or technology.

Main differences between a director vs manager

Here is a list of main differences between directors and managers, with a description of each:

Primary duties

A director's main duty is to provide leadership to an organisation. They often have the responsibility to set the goals of a department and can have a large effect on the overall success of projects because of their influence. For example, if a director thinks a specific project may be beneficial to their organisation, they can approve a budget and labour for the project to move forward.

A manager's primary obligation is to make sure that their team members are performing well. They may spend most of their time managing the people who report directly to them, either within a department or on a specific project. For example, a manager may ensure their team members have adequate resources to complete their assigned tasks within a project's deadlines.

Related: What Is an Executive Director and How to Become One

Authority

Directors are generally responsible for the overall success of an organisation, whereas managers are often responsible for the success of a specific team. Directors are usually in charge of a company's mid-level employees, including managers. They may provide a department's goals to managers, who then delegate the required tasks to appropriate team members.

Compensation

Directors often have significant earning potential, as employers often require them to display expertise, such as having several years of management experience and holding advanced degrees. Compensation packages for managers are more likely to be in the midrange because of their lower authority and responsibilities as compared to directors. Many employers attract experienced director candidates by offering performance based compensation through bonuses and stock incentives.

Related: What Is a Managing Director and How Can You Become One?

Work environment

Large organisations typically employ both directors and managers. Smaller organisations may not require directors due to minimal employees. Directors may spend most of their work hours in meetings with stakeholders and clients. Companies often provide directors with their own office and some companies may have an executive floor reserved for directors and other senior staff. Managers often work directly alongside their team to complete tasks.

Experience requirements

Becoming a director usually requires around 10 years to 15 years of work experience, while becoming a manager may only require around 3–5 years of experience. Most companies expect directors to have significant management experience, while managers are often in their first leadership role. Directors typically also have degrees in fields such as finance, accounting, management or business. Managers may also have such degrees but may also find employment without a relevant degree.

Related: What Does a Marketing Director Do? (Plus Requirements)

Leadership qualities

Directors are more likely to be considered leaders than managers. They tend to have many leadership skills as they're usually in charge of large numbers of employees. Managers aren't necessarily considered leaders but still often have the ability to motivate and inspire people under them and can benefit from developing leadership skills. For example, they may lead team-building exercises and encourage all team members to participate.

Industry knowledge

Directors often have extensive industry knowledge from their experience and education. Some director roles require specialised skill sets over industry knowledge. For example, an employer may prioritise having relevant accounting qualifications for a finance director. Managers don't necessarily need industry-specific knowledge to be considered for their jobs as they rely more on people management skills to supervise their teams.

Related: Director vs. Associate Director: What Is the Difference?

Budgeting skills

Directors often manage a lot of money, so they may need strong budgeting skills to make decisions that are most profitable for a company. A common duty of directors is assigning budgets to projects. For example, they may make final decisions on an organisation's marketing budget. Managers may also require budgeting skills, as they might track a project's costs. They may use budgets that directors create to inform their decisions about spending.

Related: The 6 Main Finance Manager Functions (Plus Skills)

Data analysis skills

Directors usually analyse data to support their decisions to approve or deny projects. They often closely review information before making big decisions that may affect their organisation's future. For example, they may use sales data analysis to determine which products their organisation may continue to market to customers. Managers also need data analysis skills, but to a less significant level than directors. They're more likely to be reviewing certain key figures or metrics of people under them rather than conducting in-depth analyses of a company's operational data.

Communication skills

Directors work closely with a company's stakeholders to address a company's strategies and challenges. Their role may involve communicating company-wide objectives and strategies to the company's staff. Directors also often meet external parties, such as clients and suppliers, and they may use their communication skills to negotiate better terms on contracts. A manager is more likely communicating with individual team members rather than addressing large groups of employees. Managers may use their communication skills to give constructive feedback.

Organisational skills

Directors and managers both need strong organisational skills, as both roles involve managing people and projects. Directors are often responsible for multiple projects requiring them to be organised in order to oversee and support each project. Managers use organisation skills on a smaller scale to keep track of each team member's tasks.

Networking abilities

Directors require strong networking skills as they often meet external clients and professionals, such as potential investors and senior management of the company's suppliers. They can utilise their networking skills to directly benefit a company by improving relations with stakeholders and clients. Managers often network with coworkers and colleagues to build their reputation within the company and their industry.

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