What is a 'Chairman'

A chairman is an executive elected by a company's board of directors that is responsible for presiding over board or committee meetings. The chairman ensures that meetings run smoothly and remain orderly, and works at achieving a consensus in board decisions. The position is different than that of the chief executive officer (CEO) and can be either a non-executive (part-time) or executive (full-time) position.


In some companies, the roles of CEO and chairman are combined. This has the effect of reducing transparency and accountability due to fewer checks and balances created by having two separate positions with separate job functions.

Notable Chairmans include Ginni Rometty, Chairman, President and CEO of IBM; Ronald W. Allen, former Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer of Aaron’s Inc. and Delta Airlines, Inc.; Indra Nooyi, chairman and chief executive officer of PepsiCo; Barry Diller, Chairman of the Board and Senior Executive of IAC/InterActiveCorp and Expedia, Inc.; Muhtar Kent, Chairman of the Board, The Coca‑Cola Company; Marillyn Hewson, Chairman, President, and CEO of Lockheed Martin; and Phebe Novakovic, Chairman and CEO of General Dynamics.

As more women take on chairman positions at leading organizations, some confusion has arisen over the correct title to use (i.e. chairwoman). Christine Lagarde, the current managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) decided on the term madame chairman of the executive board for position.

Chairman Versus CEO

While the chairman of the board has several supervisory abilities, the CEO’s primary responsibilities are full time as he or she is a company’s or non-profit’s highest-ranking executive. The CEO must make all major corporate decisions, ranging from day-to-day operations to managing company resources, serving as the main point of communication between the board of directors and other executives. Still a CEO often has a position on the board.

The role of the CEO depends on the size, culture, and industry of the company. For example, in small companies, the CEO will often take on a more hands-on role, making a range of lower-level choices, such as interviewing and hiring of staff. In larger (e.g. Fortune 500) companies, the CEO typically deals with macro level strategy and direction of growth. Other tasks are delegated to other managers. CEOs set the tone and the vision for their organization, and the CEOs of major corporations sometimes rise to levels of fame. In contrast board chairmen usually remain out of the spotlight.

The board chairman is considered a peer with the other board members; together, a board can overrule the CEO's decisions.

  1. Nomination Committee

    A nomination committee is a committee that acts as part of an ...
  2. Chief Executive Officer - CEO

    A CEO is the highest ranking executive in a company whose main ...
  3. Classified Board

    A classified board is a structure for a board of directors where ...
  4. Depository Institutions Deregulation ...

    A six-member committee established by the Depository Institutions ...
  5. Leo F. Mullin

    A former CEO and chairman of Delta Airlines. Born in 1943 in ...
  6. Board of Trustees

    A board of trustees is an appointed or elected group of individuals ...
Related Articles
  1. Investing

    The Basics of Corporate Structure

    CEOs, CFOs, presidents and vice presidents – learn how to tell the difference.
  2. Financial Advisor

    Fund Boards: What They Do and Why You Should Care

    Fund boards oversee management and operations of the fund on behalf of shareholders. Make sure you've got a board that will look out for you.
  3. Insights

    Alcoa's Reveals Post-Split Boards of Directors (AA)

    The aluminum giant announced the leaders who will oversee the spin-off of its separate businesses.
  4. Investing

    Facebook CEO Faces Call to Give Up Chairman Role

    At an upcoming shareholder meeting, CEO Zuckerberg will face calls to give up his dual roles.
  5. Financial Advisor

    Female CEOs Who Climbed The Corporate Ladder

    These women climbed the ladder and broke the glass ceiling.
  6. Investing

    HSBC Appoints Outsider Chairman

    For the first time in the history of the Hong Kong-based bank, HSBC has appointed an outsider to be its group chairman.
  7. Insights

    Who Is Driving Apple's Management Team? (APPL)

    Three key members of the Apple management team and board of directors make important business and corporate governance decisions at the company.
  8. Managing Wealth

    The Path to Becoming a CEO

    Think you have what it takes to be chief executive? Find out what those at the top have in common.
  9. Small Business

    U.S. Lags in Share of Women on Company Boards (GM, HPQ)

    The U.S. lags behind other countries when it comes to the share of women on large companies' boards, according to data compiled by the OECD.
  1. What is a staggered board?

    A staggered board of directors (also known as a classified board) is a board that is made up of different classes of directors. ... Read Answer >>
  2. Who controls the Federal Reserve Bank?

    Read about the ownership and control of the Federal Reserve, the most powerful financial institution in the world and the ... Read Answer >>
  3. What is the structure of the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank?

    Wonder how the U.S. Federal Bank began and how it works today? Learn how this complex system is structured and how it works ... Read Answer >>
  4. What are the main communication points between a CFO and a CEO?

    Explore key communication points between CEOs and CFOs. Learn how each of these officers has a fiduciary duty to stockholders, ... Read Answer >>
Hot Definitions
  1. Return on Assets - ROA

    Return on assets (ROA) is an indicator of how profitable a company is relative to its total assets.
  2. Fibonacci Retracement

    A term used in technical analysis that refers to areas of support (price stops going lower) or resistance (price stops going ...
  3. Ethereum

    Ethereum is a decentralized software platform that enables SmartContracts and Distributed Applications (ĐApps) to be built ...
  4. Cryptocurrency

    A digital or virtual currency that uses cryptography for security. A cryptocurrency is difficult to counterfeit because of ...
  5. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority - FINRA

    A regulatory body created after the merger of the National Association of Securities Dealers and the New York Stock Exchange's ...
  6. Initial Public Offering - IPO

    The first sale of stock by a private company to the public. IPOs are often issued by companies seeking the capital to expand ...
Trading Center