Chief of Staff vs. Executive Assistant

The CoS role is decidedly different from that of the leader’s executive assistant (EA). Unlike an EA, a chief of staff works autonomously and does not handle routine correspondence or manage the leader’s day-to-day schedule.

To the greatest extent possible, an executive’s time, output, and influence, both an executive assistant (EA) and a chief of staff (COS) are invaluable. Many characteristics of an EA and COS are similar, including being meticulous, dependable, diplomatic, and resourceful. While keeping an executive prepared, organized, and focused is a fundamental component of both roles, there are some important distinctions. In general, the COS role is more tactical, while the EA role is more strategic.

An executive assistant’s primary responsibility is to manage all administrative duties to keep their boss’s day organized and productive. This includes management of complex calendars, travel, and expenses. EAs frequently do this so expertly that it’s simple to underestimate the dexterity needed to balance all of these details and constantly shifting priorities.

Additionally, executive assistants could prepare agendas, presentations, and research for meetings. They frequently participate in meetings, take notes, and produce action items. Because the EA is the executive’s gatekeeper and first point of contact, interruptions to their executive’s workflow are greatly reduced. They frequently have access to an executive’s email, so they will prioritize messages and, when possible, respond on their behalf. EAs frequently participate in initiatives to promote team culture, such as events and celebrations.

A more experienced Executive Assistant may handle strategic projects. They have a deeper understanding of the company and are adept at prioritizing an executive’s time, foreseeing needs, and resolving problems before they arise. A skilled EA can create processes, improve organization, and guarantee tasks are completed in addition to performing administrative duties. They continue to communicate and build relationships with their subordinates and other important stakeholders. A crucial role for maximizing an executive’s time is that of an executive assistant (EA).

Communication is a big part of the role. Information exchange between the executive and other stakeholders is the responsibility of a COS. They frequently draft correspondence on the executive’s behalf and are able to mimic their communication style. They use extreme discretion because they have access to very sensitive information. They could serve as their executive’s sounding board for fresh concepts. The COS may make decisions on the executive’s behalf when they are not available.

The needs of the executive and the employee’s skills determine the specifics of each Executive Assistant and Chief of Staff position. While a Chief of Staff may on occasion perform administrative duties, a top Executive Assistant may work on special projects in a strategic capacity. Both call for a readiness to support their executive in making the most of their time constraints. While some Chiefs of Staff may be willing to accept the Executive Assistant position, the majority will prefer to concentrate on strategy and higher-level objectives. In this situation, it is best to hire a more conventional EA to handle the administrative duties. It’s crucial to consider your needs and goals when choosing an EA or COS because doing so helps senior executives move the company forward.

Chief of Staff vs Executive Assistant – Grace Sutherland

What is an executive assistant?

An executive assistant is a professional in administration who works for higher management to carry out and supervise administrative tasks. In order to make sure the executive they are working with has all the tools, personnel, and information they need to do their job, executive assistants play important roles in their organizations. The responsibilities of an executive assistant may include:

Job training and qualifications

To start working, administrative assistants typically need a high school diploma or its equivalent. However, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in a business-related field or an associate degree from an accredited executive assistant program can help you advance in your career. In addition, executive assistants may think about enrolling in certification programs for software they frequently use, like spreadsheet applications, presentation design software, and fundamental graphic design.

Executive assistants with a track record of success in administrative roles are frequently sought after by employers. Executive assistant positions are likely to be given consideration to people with several years of experience working as secretaries, office managers, or administrative assistants.

What is a chief of staff?

An executive-level worker tasked with facilitating a company CEO’s or other C-suite leader’s efficient, effective performance of duties is known as a chief of staff. They oversee duties that help an organization’s practices be in line with its mission, enhance policies, deal with difficulties, and manage significant organizational changes. The chief of staff position is most frequently found in military and governmental organizations, but more and more businesses are realizing the value of such a position.

In an organization, chiefs of staff also fulfill a diplomatic role by serving as a mediator between executives and the rest of the staff or external parties. The following are some of the chief of staff’s additional main duties:

Job training and qualifications

Many employers prefer chiefs of staff to have at least a bachelor’s degree in a field relevant to their position, though it is not always a requirement. An accounting firm executive’s chief of staff, for instance, might hold a bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance, or economics. Other degrees may include business administration or management.

Your chances of landing a chief of staff position can also be improved by pursuing a master’s degree in a related field. In your field, such as political science or child development, or for a more general business degree, think about pursuing an advanced degree.

Many chiefs of staff start out in this position as department directors or managers. A chief of staff should have experience in project management, strategy development, and leadership.

Chief of staff vs. executive assistant

Although the roles of chief of staff and executive assistant are related, they play different roles in an organization. Here are some of the differences between the two jobs:


Job outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for executive assistants is expected to decline by 20%, significantly slower than the overall job growth rate of 4%. This decline might be brought on by a greater reliance on administrative tasks that are automated. According to the BLS, top executives like chiefs of staff will see 4% job growth between 2019 and 2029, which is the same as the average growth for all jobs.

Job sector

Executive assistants can find employment across a variety of sectors and establishments. Their administrative responsibilities don’t always call for in-depth expertise in a particular field, but rather a working knowledge of systems, policies, procedures, and administrative duties Because of this, executive assistants have a lot of flexibility when looking for work. Positions for chiefs of staff are typically found in the military and in government organizations. Even though more businesses are hiring chiefs of staff, this position is still relatively new in the private sector.

Types of duties

Chiefs of staff and executive assistants generally serve the same purpose of keeping executives focused on their primary goals. They manage ancillary responsibilities, streamline procedures, and supervise other employees so that executives can focus on the most urgent and crucial tasks. However, the scope of their daily responsibilities can vary considerably.

Executive assistants oversee the daily activities that enable executives to function effectively and efficiently. They assist in organizing and managing daily activities, primarily concentrating on immediate obligations. While their work has an impact on the organization, their performance and planning benefit the executive they are working with.

Chiefs of staff oversee a broader perspective of the company, assisting with broad policies and strategies that will have an impact on the whole company. They deal with long-term planning, setting priorities, and, if necessary, serving in an executive capacity.


What position is higher than Chief of Staff?

“The chief of staff role is an intensely personal one. An executive assistant and a chief operating officer are both required for this position, which is intended for the CEO. A chief of staff, like an executive assistant (EA), reports directly to the CEO and has no other employees besides an intern or executive assistant.

Why CEOS need a chief of staff and an executive assistant?

Your CoS experience gives you the broader perspective required for a more general management track that can lead to a COO position and possibly further. Depending on their level of experience, people in my current position have taken the titles of Vice President (VP) or Chief Operating Officer (COO).

Can an EA become a chief of staff?

They are both force multipliers. They ensure that your vision is carried out by taking it. They typically only answer to the CEO or another senior C-Suite Executive and both lead and support a CEO. They are the ultimate C-Suite Dream Team when it comes to strategy and tactics.

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