The "Boss" or Don is the top position in the pyramidal organization of the mafia. Occasionally referred to as the (loosely, "head of the kingdom"). the boss has the job of keeping the family's criminal enterprises running at maximum profitability. The extremely complex duties of the position include making all major personnel decisions within the family, settling disputes between captains, dealing with outside interests (including other mafia families), initiating new business ventures, and developing schemes to avoid interference from law enforcement agencies. It is also the boss' job to sanction both executions of made members of his own crime family and hits on members of other families (killing civilians or non-made family associates does not necessarily require the boss' approval). For his troubles, the boss is rewarded with a percentage of the earnings of every captain under him. To quote Tony Soprano, "Money flows uphill, shit flows downhill."
Getting the job of boss can be tricky: the position is ideally filled through a pre-arranged promotion from among the various crew captains, perhaps the one with the most seniority. In families big or important enough to include an underboss, usually that person would be first in line to move into the top position when the old boss retires (dies).
Ideal situations, however, are rare and there is almost always an amount of disharmony following the elevation of a new boss. In the case of the DiMeo family, boss Jackie Aprile, Sr. died of cancer before any arrangements could be set in stone for a succession, resulting in a brief struggle for power between Tony Soprano and his uncle Corrado ("Junior"). The captains generally assumed that Tony, as the family's "rising star", would have been given the post, but Uncle Junior had other ideas. In the end, to avoid profit-hindering strife, Tony agreed to let his uncle have the title, albeit mostly to provide the family with a "lightning rod" to take the major hits from the FBI while Tony made most of the day-to-day business decisions. The plan worked brilliantly, as Junior was soon to land in jail, allowing Tony to run things as he saw fit.