What are the top skills needed by CEOs to succeed in tech?

SOURCE: Josh Edelson / AFP
Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks during the Google I/O 2019 keynote session at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California on May 7, 2019.

By U2B Staff 

Read all stories

Technology is a dynamic and rapidly-evolving field, with start-ups and tech companies mushrooming exponentially in certain countries.

Not only are there an abundance of tech-specific companies, but businesses in all sectors are also increasingly relying on technology to drive the company forward and into the digital revolution.

It’s such a crucial aspect of a business today that software engineers and developers are now in a position to gain a seat at the leadership table, even in the running to become CEO.

If you’re looking to build a successful career in tech and work your way up the ladder to becoming a CEO or other leadership position, you must develop certain soft skills in order to succeed in this competitive industry.

According to the Corporate Leadership Council, nearly 40% of CEOs fail in their roles within the first year and a half.

So who better to learn from than current leaders and CEOs in tech?

Peter Pezaris, Founder & CEO of CodeStream, a service that helps development teams discuss, review, and understand code, recently gave advice to aspiring C-suites on IDGConnect.

He explained that having a great idea is not enough to become a tech entrepreneur, and the truth is that a great idea gets you 5% of the way there. “The other 95% is execution, manifested by wanting it more and working harder than your competitors.”

He also said that the essential skills needed by CEOs and tech leaders are integrity, hard work, and an ability to keep learning. “Leadership isn’t for everyone, and don’t underestimate the amount of stress that being a leader can bring.”

When hiring new employees, he advised CEOs to choose carefully and look for certain skills and abilities in prospective candidates.

These include “ability to learn, ability to clearly articulate skills and abilities, and a demonstrated and easy to comprehend track record of success.”


Mark Hurd, the CEO of Oracle, said that leadership is not only about managing people but also understanding the company’s direction and knowing they’re a crucial part of reaching a common goal.

“Leading is not just about managing people. To lead, you have to help people understand where we’re trying to take the company and what their role is in getting it there.”

Leaders must also be resilient and innovative, and be prepared for the hard work that comes with the title.

Jonah Peretti – co-founder and CEO of Buzzfeed said, “You shouldn’t be a CEO or even a startup executive or employee if you don’t like things that are hard and challenging and you don’t like trying to do things that are difficult where you have to figure out new things that don’t exist yet. That has to be part of why you do it. It has to be part of the fun.”

Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM, is one of the most notable female CEOs in business. She focuses her leadership efforts on spurring constant change and innovation, believing there’s always room for improvement.

She said, “For CEOs today, it’s all about achieving growth and efficiency through innovation. It’s not about product innovation so much anymore as about innovating business models, process, culture and management.”

Furthermore, a good leader knows that successful companies are founded on strong teamwork and collaboration. Dan Schulman, CEO of PayPal, believes that leadership means giving credit where credit is due, and he recognises that his company would not be successful without his team of employees.

“In many ways, leadership is about defining reality and inspiring hope, but if you have these great people around you and they know that what they do is going to be recognized, it can be incredibly powerful.”

Looking for the opportunity to develop these skills? You can take short online courses on leadership training such as Leadership: How to become an effective CEO, Leader, Manager by Udemy, or take an online certification programme like the Technology Leadership programme by Cornell University.

These courses help you learn how to develop soft skills necessary to lead tech teams and organisations, preparing you for leadership roles in technology.