Secretary vs An Executive Assistant

A Secretary vs An Executive Assistant

As the CEO and founder of Office Dynamics International, I’ve been fortunate to work side-by-side with CEOs, Presidents, and Vice Presidents for more than 40 years. I highly respect and admire these individuals. I always learn a great deal from them. One aspect I love about the executive leader is that they have a way of sharing important insights in a unique way. Here is an example of what I mean.

A Secretary vs An Executive Assistant

A CEO wrote: the difference between a Secretary and a fully-functioning Executive Assistant is that a secretary has a series of tasks they perform and the routine of them becomes easier and easier so they almost don’t have to add much value. The executive assistant has the skills of the secretary PLUS they’re able to anticipate and manipulate the outcomes for improvement.

Another example: A year ago, during a workshop I was doing with Sr. VPs of a large construction company, I heard a few comments that: Just because someone has the title, Executive Assistant, doesn’t mean they are a true Executive’s Assistant. An Executive Assistant is a set of certain competencies that are not found in other levels of the administrative profession. (I guess it’s like the title, CEO, this doesn’t make one a CEO; it’s their leadership and set of competencies that make them so.)

Based on the descriptors above:

  • Which do you have—a secretary or an executive assistant?
  • Which do you need to support your role in the organization?
  • Which would you like to have working with you?

I recently wrote a guide for executives who long to learn how to create the working partnership they desire with their administrative office professional.

executives and assistants working in partnership


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4 thoughts on “A Secretary vs An Executive Assistant”

  1. I feel compelled to remind everyone that despite having the appropriate competencies to warrant the title of Executive Assistant, being able to utilise those competencies is, to a large extent, dependent upon the ability of your executive to trust and to relinquish some of their control to allow you fulfil that role and utilise those competencies to truly be that executive assistant and provide the value add that they and the organisation expect!

  2. Titles….in our profession, this is a very difficult subject. When I began my position here, I was hired as an Executive Administrative Assistant. I then took on the title of Executive Assistant to the President/CEO. After a few years of major growth in my responsibilities, my CEO asked me to create a new title for myself. What a fun job that was! I am now the Director of Executive and Board Affairs. I report to the CEO, President/COO, Chief Philanthropy Officer, and also serve the Board of Directors. In addition, I am the Assistant Secretary to the Board. One thing about this new title – I cannot substantiate my salary rate, because there are not many out there with the same title.

    I really think that as long as your partnership with your supervisor is strong and a good fit, then your title really doesn’t matter as in our hearts we know that we are a much needed part of our company.

  3. The subject of titles always gets under my skin, especially in the case of your second example. If they don’t have the qualifications, don’t give them the title. People with the wrong talents in a position, cheapens and ruins the reputation of said titles for everyone.

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