Managers, Directors, and VPs – Oh My…

Having worked at IT organizations both big and small, I have been fascinated by how these companies use the titles of Manager, Director and VP.  It has been my experience that smaller companies tend to dilute the value of these titles in their early growth stages by handing them out like candy.

My personal belief is that titles should have meaning and value.  Just because somebody says I want to be a Manager doesn’t mean they are, or should be a Manager. The same holds true for Directors and VPs. Companies should use these titles to accurately reflect the appropriate role and leadership level within the organization.

So what are the differences between each of these three roles?


A Manager provides guidance and direction to a team of individual contributors to ensure team objectives are achieved. This includes coaching, mentoring & development of team members. A manager will conduct performance reviews as well as approve compensation changes for their direct reports. Managers may have responsibility for monitoring budgets, but are not directly responsible for establishing budgets. Mangers are generally focused on efficient tactical execution in a single program or function within an organization. They will participate in the hire/fire decisions.


A Director is focused on the leadership of multiple areas that comprise a part of a major business unit within an organization. They establish budgets and plans that align with the goals and objectives of their parent organization. Directors provide guidance and mentoring to their direct reports which include Managers, team leads as well as individual contributors to ensure they are on target to achieve established goals. Directors should have a sense of purpose of what the organization is trying to accomplish, and develop innovate ways to achieve that purpose within their span of control.


A VP is focused on leadership of a company wide business unit. A person with vision and purpose on where the business unit needs to go inorder to support the goals and objectives set by the CEO and the Board of Directors. They establish divisional budgets and goals themselves or in collaboration with their direct reports which could include both Directors and Managers. Someone who in the words of Jim Collins “catalyzes commitment to and a vigorous pursuit of a clear and compelling vision, stimulating higher performance standards.”


So if you believe you should have a specific title of Manager, Director, or VP, review the above description and ask yourself if you meet the general requirements.  Are you managing people, are you managing Mangers, are you establishing vision and setting goals and providing direction? Are you establishing and managing budgets? If so, at what level of the company?

As I stated earlier, companies should use these titles to accurately reflect the appropriate role and leadership level within the organization. In addition companies should also establish job families and titles that represent the great work being done by senior people who are in an individual contributor role.