Traditionally, Mafia families have been under the command of a boss, whose commands are transmitted to underlings through an underboss, one or more capos and finally soldiers of the crime family. Beneath the soldiers are the gang's associates, and the boss may be under a loose obligation to other families via the Syndicate, a unified council of Mafia families.
The Syndicate was founded in 1931 by Charles "Lucky" Luciano. It brought all of the important bosses together in a coalition to divvy up territory and resolve disputes without bloodshed. Each member of the Syndicate is a boss of his own family.
The boss has the final authority in any family, though his orders are usually transmitted via intermediaries such as the underboss, who is the second-in-command, or the consigliere, who is a largely legitimate professional, such as a lawyer or stockbroker, with a consulting role in the family.
Beneath the underboss, any number of capos, or captains, directly manage a team of soldiers. These soldiers are usually "made men," which insulates them from pressures and threats from outside the family. Soldiers often transmit instructions to and collect revenue from the mostly non-Italian associates who are in some way affiliated with the family, such as numbers runners or loan sharks who pay tribute to the family. Corrupt public officials are also treated as family associates.