The titles executive vice president and senior vice president are given to executives in an enterprise who are higher in rank and authority than a vice president, but lower than a president or any of the C-suite executives. Large enterprises – and some not-so-large – may have several layers of executive leadership, including multiple vice presidents and even multiple presidents. There’s no universally accepted definition of any these titles, though; they mean only what the organization intends them to mean, and nothing more.
Organizations give members of their leadership teams titles like president, vice president, senior vice president and executive vice president to communicate their rank and authority relative to each other. Most vice presidents’ titles incorporate their area of responsibility, such as VP of sales or VP of human resources. Except in the broadest sense, job descriptions for these titles are organization-specific: there is no standard for the level of responsibility or authority, and compensation also varies greatly. In general, vice presidents are not heavily involved in the day-to-day functioning of the departments for which they’re responsible. Instead, their jobs are more strategic in nature, setting objectives, benchmarks and goals for the department heads who manage their departments.
Senior Vice President
Some organizations establish the position of senior vice president as an intermediate position between the president and some or all vice presidents. Other organizations grant the title to a VP in acknowledgement of long years of service. In other cases, the title may indicate a functional relationship with specific other vice presidents – for example, an organization with vice presidents for sales and for marketing might have a senior vice president to whom both report. An organization with many vice presidents may have only one SVP, but more typically will have several.
Executive Vice President
The EVP, on the other hand, generally exercises actual authority over the other vice presidents, giving them direction and guidance. She is usually recognized as outranking SVPs in organizations that have them. In addition, while most VPs have specific areas of responsibility within the overall organizational structure, such as human resources or sales, some EVPs have no such specific portfolio within the organizational structure other than overseeing the activities of the VPs. In an organizational structure that includes senior vice presidents and an executive vice president, the EVP generally outranks the SVP.
Senior Executive Vice President
Some enterprises develop such a complex executive hierarchy that they have multiple executive vice presidents, each responsible for a different part of the organization’s operation. If an enterprise decides to develop an additional layer of leadership, it generally establishes a title like senior executive vice president to formalize the relationship with other EVPs. AT&T, an enormous, complex organization, has seven SEVPs among its 11-person senior executive team.
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