An executive assistant differs slightly from a personal assistant or administrative assistant in the connotation of supporting an officer of a company, either public or private, who carries the authority to make crucial decisions affecting the direction of said organization, and is therefore a sought-after resource in decision-making and policy setting. The EA performs the usual roles of managing correspondence, preparing research, and communication while also acting as the “gatekeeper,” understanding in varying degree the requirements of the executive, and with an ability through this understanding to decide which scheduled events or meetings are most appropriate for allocation of the executive’s time.
An EA may from time to time act as proxy for the executives, representing them in meetings or communications. They differ from an administrative assistant or secretary also in that he or she is expected to possess a higher degree of business acumen, as well as the capacity to influence others on behalf of the executive. A certain amount of project management is commonly required of an executive assistant, as well as the ability to accept the delegation of less consequential executive tasks. Some executive assistants and administrative assistants may work together as a team. The role of the administrative assistant varies widely between and even within organizations. In some cases, the executive assistant delegates work to the administrative assistant based on competence, experience, and knowledge of the context, confidentiality, priority, urgency and availability.