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What is a Senior Vice President?

By Ken Black
Updated May 16, 2024
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In the corporate hierarchy, the senior vice president (SVP) is considered one of the members of upper management. Often, this is a person of great influence in an organization who is stationed at the corporate headquarters and is usually in charge of an entire division or department. He or she is usually appointed by the head of the organization, either a CEO or president, but could also be appointed by the board of directors or confirmed by the board of directors.

In most cases, this senior employee will often have a long form of the title, noting his or her area of direct responsibility. For example, this executive could be called the senior vice president of product development or any one of a number of other titles, depending on the business involved. While this will denote the specific area of expertise, this individual will also be responsible for contributing ideas and thoughts to meetings of senior management. The role is a very high profile one, and one that often gets the brunt of the blame when things go wrong.

A senior vice president will often have say outside his or her specific area of expertise. In senior management meetings, the overall goal is usually to come up with a cohesive and comprehensive strategy that will keep all departments or divisions moving in the same general direction. Once that direction is set, it will then be up to the vice president to implement a more specific strategy for the department.

For the most part, the training for this position can be very extensive. Most have some sort of advanced graduate degree in an area related to the business, or at least have spent many decades working their way up through the company's corporate structure. Often, at this point, performance is more important than education. In cases where there are two candidates of nearly equal experience, however, education can play a role in who gets the final nod.

Many senior vice presidents may find that such as position is the pinnacle of their career. A few may move on into the role of president of the company or of another organization. The tenure and salary that comes with this position is often attractive enough to keep individuals from wanting to stray too much, however. This is one reason, outside of a company emergency or scandal, that turnover in the position is so low.

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Discussion Comments

By Windchime — On May 13, 2011

Sometimes I think that hierarchies can be a bad thing. In my previous job there were four levels of vice presidents: assistant, regular, senior and then executive. They were all so busy trying to manage and out perform each other that us minions were quite neglected!

By Acracadabra — On May 12, 2011

@ZsaZsa56 - The idea of a senior vice president using an executive coach is interesting. If they are acting as a high flyer's lifecoach that's fine. But when you stray into them advising you on your 'business strategies' it starts to sound a bit off to me.

I also wonder if the SVP could end up relying on an outsider too much, which would be pretty bad for the company paying their salary!

The business world is a hotbed for industrial espionage. It would be unwise to be sharing too many secrets with someone who may have your rivals as their clients, don't you think?

By ZsaZsa56 — On May 10, 2011

If you want to become a Senior Vice President, you might consider hiring an executive coach. The services offered by these professionals vary, but most assist new or upward looking executives to advance their careers. They can help form business strategies, rework a person's image and offer lifestyle coaching. Not all people who claim to be executive coaches have anything to offer but some can be a real boost to a career.

I know that mine really helped me get to where I am today.

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