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Managing Director/​Chief Executive

Kaihautū Whakahaere/​Tumu Matua

Alternative titles for this job

Managing directors/chief executives organise and take responsibility for the effective operation of an organisation.


Managing directors/chief executives in the public sector usually earn

$120K-$700K per year

Managing directors/chief executives in the private sector usually earn

$120K-$1M per year

Source: State Services Commission and NZ Herald, 2017.

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as a managing director/chief executive are good for people with relevant qualifications and experience.


Pay for managing directors/chief executives varies depending on the size and function of the organisation, and their qualifications and experience.

Public sector salaries

Public sector chief executives can earn between $120,000 and $700,000 a year, with a few earning more than $1 million.

Private sector salaries

Most private sector managing directors/chief executives earn between $120,000 and $1 million or more a year.

Those working for small organisations usually earn less. New Zealand's biggest companies pay their chief executives between $2 million and $4.5 million a year.

Additional benefits and ownership shares

In addition to a base salary, some managing directors/chief executives may receive benefits such as a car or pension.

Some managing directors, particularly those who work for themselves, may have a share in the ownership of the company and therefore only take a small salary from the company.

Sources: State Services Commission 'Executive Pay in the State Services'; and NZ Herald, 2017.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

Managing directors/chief executives may do some or all of the following:

  • provide the overall leadership, direction and management of an organisation
  • lead development of an organisational culture supporting the values and objectives of the business
  • ensure strategic and business plans are in place and monitored
  • ensure realistic goals are set for an organisation, and that these goals are met
  • ensure the organisation complies with company law and other relevant legislation
  • monitor financial performance and make sure the organisation remains profitable
  • manage risks to the organisation
  • ensure the organisation's policies and procedures are followed
  • consult with management staff on issues
  • report regularly to stakeholders, often through the board of directors
  • act as a bridge between the organisation, its shareholders and the outside world
  • represent the organisation at conferences and official occasions.

Skills and knowledge

Managing directors/chief executives need to have:

  • a broad understanding of all areas of management, including knowledge of finance, marketing and communications, strategic planning, human resources and information technology
  • a strong understanding of what customers, clients and stakeholders need from an organisation
  • an understanding of how to enable cultural development within an organisation
  • knowledge of company law and other legislation relevant to their area of business
  • ability to lead and motivate others.

Working conditions

Managing directors/chief executives:

  • often work long and irregular hours, which may include evenings and weekends
  • work in offices, but may spend time at different worksites within their organisation
  • often travel to meet with clients and to attend conferences.

What's the job really like?

Robyn Pask

Robyn Pask

Chief Executive Officer

For chief executive Robyn Pask, authenticity is the key to her role. "If you're not authentic – forget it. You have to be who you are, not aiming at an idealised image of what a chief executive should be."

Robyn's role in the not-for-profit sector, as chief executive of Interpreting New Zealand, which provides language interpreters in the community, suits her in a way a corporate role would not. "I am unlikely to apply to be a chief executive in the corporate sector. It probably wouldn't suit me and I wouldn't be happy. Here I have a job that uses all my skills and I feel like I'm really making a difference to something I believe in."

Robyn's top tips for chief executives: "Take the long view. Making effective decisions sometimes means that changing nothing is the best idea. And treat your staff and customers right – you have to respect all of them; thinking about what they want and giving them your best. Then you get the best possible result."

Respecting people is all about good communication and Robyn notes: "I spend a lot of time and effort getting words right, whether it be for a presentation, a board report or a request for my team to do something – a whole host of situations."

Kauahi Ngapora talks about working as a chief executive officer - 3.11 mins. (Video courtesy of Te Puni Kōkiri - for more videos go to www.maorifuturemakers.com)

My name’s Kauahi Ngapora, Waikato-Tainui, Ngāti Mahanga, Ngāti Haua, Ngai Tahu, Ngāti Kuri.

Well I’m the senior executive for Whale Watch Kaikoura, which is a 100% Māori owned business, located in a small coastal town called Kaikoura.

I failed at school, I left school with nothing, my first flash job at Whale Watch was called a caregiver, which had me emptying spew buckets so I had about 10–12 buckets lined up and if you felt sick, I’d hand you a seasickness bucket, you’d you know, you’d spew in it, I’d clean it and give it back you. Then I got the opportunity to become a guide or narrator which was quite daunting for a 15-16 year old, talking to a boatload of strangers, but after a while they couldn’t keep me quiet. Then I became a senior guide so I started training up new guides, then an opportunity come along to be a junior skipper, so I went away and did my qualifications, developed through that role and became a senior skipper, so I started training up new ones and then had the opportunity to move into the office, just managing rosters and so on, so become a supervisor, a manager and then obviously the company’s senior executive today, so I’ve been at whale watch for about 20 years, so started off at the bottom and now sitting up on the top, which has given me a good perspective of how the business operates as I’ve been through most of the stages in there.

Most of my learnings really are good mentors, learning from your mistakes and just life experience really, the company’s about whanaungatanga, see ourselves as a family business, but it’s also about manaakitanga, be hospitable to our guests and look after them and then other factors about kaitiakitanga, so we’re there to look after our town, look after the marine mammals that we all generate a living from as we go forward.

The founders of our business they were poor people, they mortgaged their houses to raise the funds to start the business, they risked everything they had on a vision and a dream and so it’s important for me to make sure that that vision and dream continues, so that’s what drives me every day. Because it’s a Māori business it’s intergenerational so my key goal is when the reins get passed on to ensure that the business is in a strong position for the next generation that comes through to look after it.

The youth are quite lucky today because there are a number of institutes around the place that you know in terms of the tourism here they can offer quality training, just as long as you want to learn, you’re hungry to learn, you know you have weaknesses, you want to improve on those weaknesses, when you have great mentors. I think if you get those things right I think you’ll be on the right path.

So we have our logo where we have tohora the whale and we have Paikea the whale rider and we tell the story and the connection of that logo like this. Obviously we have Paikea who came from Hawaiki on the back of the whale up to the North Island, so the whale brought Paikea to a new land and new prosperity and then generations down from him our ancestor Tahu Pōtiki who did the migration south of Ngāi Tahu, actually he came down with those whale riding traditions, so we tell people it’s quite fitting that our ancestor rode on the back of a whale to a new life and a new start and his descendants in Kaikoura have done the same. So we continue to ride on the back of the whale today for our own prosperity and the prosperity of our community.

Entry requirements

To become a managing director/chief executive you usually need experience in a senior leadership role for an organisation.

A tertiary qualification in business administration, commerce or law, or a qualification relevant to the organisation's area of business is also useful.

Secondary education

A tertiary entrance qualification is required to enter further training.

Personal requirements

Managing directors/chief executives need to be:

  • able to multitask and delegate
  • skilled at planning and organising
  • skilled at problem-solving and decision-making
  • good at communicating
  • able to analyse information
  • positive and adaptable
  • able to work well under pressure.

Useful experience

Useful experience for managing directors/chief executives includes:

  • using leadership skills in challenging and complex situations
  • any senior leadership position where you have entered the role and started performing straight away.

Find out more about training

Institute of Directors in New Zealand
(04) 499 0076 - mail@iod.org.nz - www.iod.org.nz
Institute of Management New Zealand (IMNZ)
(09) 303 9100 - enquiries@imnz.net.nz - www.imnz.co.nz
Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

Managing directors/chief executives with experience have a better chance

Managing directors/chief executives with relevant experience have a higher chance of employment as it is a high risk position and employers usually prefer those with a proven track record. To increase your chances, be prepared to move or travel for a position.

Opportunities for private sector chief executive roles are highest in Auckland and other urban centres. Opportunities for public sector chief executive roles are highest in Wellington.

According to the Census, 54,480 managing directors/chief executives worked in New Zealand in 2018.


  • Careers New Zealand research, April 2017.
  • Fletcher, H, 'Salaries interactive: What CEOs of top NZ companies earn', 16 June 2015 (www.nzherald.co.nz).
  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.
  • State Services Commission, 'Executive Pay in the State Services' accessed April 2017, (www.ssc.govt.nz).
  • Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
  • Suckling, S, chair of the board, Callahan Innovation, Careers New Zealand interview, April 2017.
  • Watkins, T, 'Revealed: The highest paid public servants', 26 November 2015 (www.stuff.co.nz).

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

Managing directors/chief executives may start their own business in a range of industries, or move into local or national politics.

Robyn Pask (right) and a colleague sitting at a table looking at budgets

Robyn Pask (right) discussing a budget with her colleague

Last updated 16 September 2020