Executive director is a term sometimes applied to the chief executive officer (CEO) or managing director of an organization, company, or corporation. It is widely used in North American non-profit organizations, though in recent decades many U.S. nonprofits have adopted the title "President/CEO".
Confusion can arise because the words "executive" and "director" occur both in this title and in those of various members of some organizations' Board of directors. The precise meanings of these terms are discussed in the "Directors" section of the article on Board of directors.
The role of the Executive Director is to design, develop and implement strategic plans for their organization in a cost-effective and time-efficient manner. The Executive Director is also responsible for the day-to-day operation of the organization, including managing committees and staff and developing business plans in collaboration with the board for the future of the organization. In essence, the board grants the Executive Director the authority to run the organization. The Executive Director is accountable to the Chairman of the Board and reports to the board on a regular basis - quarterly, semiannually, or annually. The board may offer suggestions and ideas about how to improve the organization, but the Executive Director decides whether or not, and how, to implement these ideas.
The Executive Director is a leadership role for an organization and often fulfills a motivational role in addition to office-based work. Executive Directors motivate and mentor members, volunteers, and staff, and may chair meetings. The Executive Director leads the organization and develops its organizational culture.
As the title suggests, the Executive Director needs to be informed of everything that goes on in the organization. This includes staff, membership, budget, company assets, and all other company resources, to help make the best use of them and raise the organization's profitability and profile.
See also 
- Policy vs. Paper Clips: Selling the Corporate Model to Your Nonprofit Board, Eugene H. Fram with Vicki Brown, 1995, 2nd Edition, Families International, Milwaukee, WI
- Charles W. L. Hill, and Gareth R. Jones, (2001) Strategic Management. Houghton Mifflin.