This paper discusses responses provided by 31 Pro Vice-Chancellors (PVCs) and Deputy Vice-Chancellors (DVCs) who were part of a larger study of more than 500 higher education leaders in roles ranging from DVC to head of programme in 20 Australian universities. Using both quantitative and qualitative data the paper gives an insider's perspective on what the roles of DVC and PVC are like at the daily level. It identifies the key focus of the roles, highlights the criteria these leaders use to judge that they are effectively performing them and outlines the relative impact of different influences on their work. It then discusses their views on what being in such a role is like, including its key satisfactions and challenges; and identifies the capabilities seen to be central to managing in such a context. Finally, it provides insights into how such leaders have gone about learning their role.