The role of executive director of the United Nations’ intellectual division involves major political and intellectual stakes. Both the executive director’s institutional position as head of Secretariat and the conditions of his/her assignment by member States contribute to making this role particularly difficult to fulfill. The history of past executive directors for UNESCO is enlightening on the many hindrances that lie on this path. It also reveals that an efficient cooperation between thinkers and politicians derives from a precarious balance. Recent events that surrounded the assignment of UNESCO’s first female executive director confirm this and show that today, the Organization relies heavily on its executive director to help it strengthen its position with major contemporary matters.