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Upper Management: Definition, Meaning & Examples

Updated: November 24, 2022

The supervision of the performance and assignment of strategic duties is done by professionals in upper-level management, who contribute to the achievement of an organization’s objectives. They could create fresh concepts for a business to satisfy client needs or compete in the marketplace.

Knowing what qualities and skills these people have might be helpful if you’re in upper-level management or want to pursue this career progression.

Read on as we take a closer look at what upper management are. As well as who hires them, their responsibilities, and the common c-suite roles that appear in upper management teams. 

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    • People in upper management at a company are responsible for making operational decisions. 
    • Shareholders expect upper management to ensure a business is profitable. 
    • Some common C-level management positions are CEO, CFO, and COO.

    Definition of Upper Management 

    Upper management is a term that describes top leaders in a business. Upper management is also called the C-suite because it includes C-level management positions. Examples are the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chief Financial Officer (CFO). Upper management responsibilities include defining business strategies, writing strategic plans, making major decisions, and keeping a business profitable.

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    Who is in Upper Management?

    Each company has a different personnel structure. Upper management is always the top level of leadership in any organization. Upper-level managers can have a variety of job titles. Usually, upper management has decision-making power that is unique to their roles. Shareholders and the board of directors decide who can make business decisions. Common upper management positions include:

    • Chief Executive Officer
    • Chief Financial Officer
    • Chief Operating Officer

    These individuals take special management training to help them lead organizations. While management approaches vary, there is a common goal. The business needs to be profitable for shareholders for continued success. 

    Who Hires Upper Management?

    Shareholders elect a company’s board of directors. The board of directors votes on hiring for upper management positions. If leaders do not perform to the expectations, the board holds the power to fire them. Most organizations have annual performance reviews. These indicate whether or not a member of management meets their goals. 

    Upper Manager Responsibilities

    Lower-level management positions oversee day-to-day operations. This includes:

    • Interacting with the team of employees
    • Coaching
    • Managing supplies

    Upper management oversees long-term strategic goals. They focus on the big picture and define company-wide initiatives. For example, let’s say that someone owns a bakery brand. The upper-level management sets strategic goals like:

    • Opening new bakery locations
    • Getting bakery items into stores
    • Raising brand awareness

    A middle manager puts together detailed plans for each of these goals. They work directly with lower-level management and employees. They also report back to an upper management professional with performance data. Lower-level management oversees day-to-day operations. If the bakery isn’t reaching goals, upper-management reviews data to see where they can make changes. 

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    Common C-Suite Roles in Upper Management

    C-suite is often synonymous with upper management. It is called the C-suite because executive job titles begin with the word “Chief.”

    Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

    This person holds a company’s highest position. They manage other c-suite positions and report to the board of directors. They are often the face of the company. This role doesn’t require a specific degree, but higher education of some kind is important. Individuals also gain leadership experience for years before becoming CEO. 

    Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

    The CFO oversees all financial aspects of a business. This includes financial analysts, accounting professionals, and other financial roles. Their responsibilities are to oversee the company’s portfolio and make strategic business recommendations. CFOs often weigh in with risk management insight before making business decisions. 

    Chief Information Officer (CIO)

    This leader oversees technology within a company. They have a background in programming, coding, or project management. The CIO ensures that a company has the correct technology at all levels. They may also be called Chief Technology Officers. 

    Chief Operating Officer (COO)

    The COO oversees the Personnel. They lead human resources and often help establish the personnel structure. This person develops a plan for recruiting talent, retaining teams, and employee engagement. They may also oversee the administrative teams and training departments. This person is second in line to the CEO. 

    Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)

    Marketing is crucial for building a strong company. The CMO develops a marketing and branding strategy. This includes product development, online presence, and even layouts for physical storefronts. They oversee a team of marketing professionals. 

    Other Upper Management Roles

    Executive Director

    An executive director usually serves in the top management position at a nonprofit organization. The executive director position is similar to that of a CEO at a for-profit company. This person reports to the board of directors and may have a COO as a management counterpart.

    Executive directors at nonprofits strategize and lead fundraising efforts. They are also responsible for raising awareness of their organization’s mission. Executive directors achieve this by networking in their communities. Similar to for-profit organizations, the board usually appoints an executive director. 

    Vice President

    A vice president is usually second in line to the president. A company’s CEO is often also the president. Both for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations can have a vice president. Many times there are multiple vice presidents. Some companies use vice president titles in place of “Chief” titles. Others have vice president positions in line underneath the Chief Officers. 


    Leaders in upper management help to oversee high level business operations. They report directly to the CEO and often specialize in a niche area in the company. Examples include technology, finance, and marketing. Upper managers may have “Chief” or “Vice President” titles. Both for-profit and nonprofit organizations have upper management roles. Specific job titles and responsibilities vary from company to company.

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    Frequently Asked Questions About Upper Management

    What is upper management vs. C-suite?

    These two are often the same. Upper management may include other roles in addition to C-suite executives. 

    How can you improve upper management skills?

    Never stop learning. Seek out professional training that helps you in areas where you’re the weakest. Take constructive criticism and apply it to your future projects. 

    How can you get into upper management?

    Upper management personnel members often have higher education degrees. Earn at least a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field. Then, work your way up through management roles to gain experience. Invest in continuing your education. 

    What is the difference between lower upper and upper management?

    Lower level management serves as an example or role model for the employees that they manage. Their main focus is to control and direct. Upper management is focused on business strategy and making complex decisions that make the company profitable.

    How do you influence upper management?

    Influencing upper management starts with seeing things from their perspective and understanding what motivates them and what their goals are. Your communication skills must be effective, direct, and persuasive. You may also need to garner support from other colleagues.


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