5 Habits of Highly Successful CTOs| By |Tahir Akbar

Part of my current role at IQVIS is to interact with industry leaders and CTOs about various products and solutions they need/offer. This interaction is beneficial not only in the business terms but also from a learning perspective.

I have noticed that success of a technology company – or say any organization, largely depends upon the leadership type and quality. Particularly if we look at success from business transformation or technology perspective, the role of a visionary CTO can’t be ignored. In fact, her role turns more critical than CEO in the case of transformation and technology integration.

However, not every CTO can be declared successful – or say, critical to his organization’s success. There are certain traits and abilities that make her different from the rest. For example, one of the key responsibilities of a CTO is to support and enable the enterprise business and the obvious way of doing this is to anticipate and react to technology changes. If she cannot do this, the business won’t be able to ensure its leadership in changing landscape.

While successful Chief Technology Officers have different personality traits, they do have some shared characteristics. In this piece, we will look at the 5 shared and the most common habits or traits of highly successful CTOs.

1. They Think Beyond the Code

Unlike the general perception, a chief technology officer does not code (all the times). Being the technology leader, they have a strategic and long-term vision of what they are doing – taking them beyond mere coding or programming exercise. Take the example of a technology company, which (let’s suppose) is developing a software/app for event management. Their CTO’s approach towards the software development exercise would be beyond codes. He’ll think about the end-product, end-benefits, and the end-market.

They understand what the market needs, what it already has, and what will make this new product successful than the rest. They have a mind of a programmer but the heart of a strategic marketer or sales person, forcing them to think about the marketability of the product first. If they can’t understand the modern perspective of digital customer experience, they will remain mere coders and not the technology leader.

2. They Make Quick but Quality Decisions

A software engineer is primarily a solution architect but she needs to have specs, resources, and requirements in advance to make the right one. This is not the case with the Chief Technology Officer. CTOs often face difficult situations where they have to come up with solutions on a quick note. In many cases, they don’t have the desired or required information. All they have is to analyze the situation and present quick action items.

Since a good CTO is always a team player, he is ready to put her or his ego aside and take the necessary advice from the most competent advice from the subject experts. On the basis of insights available, he is able to decide the next step!

3. They are Master at Core Technology & Transition

A smart CTO is a knowledge worker who is up to date on the key technology his organization is expert at. For example, if the organization’s core competency is in artificial intelligence or mobile VR, the CTO knows the trends, ins and outs, and changes in the core service area.

Take another example; if the organization is thinking about application re-engineering to upgrade its product’s technology from an old to new one, the CTO has the ability to manage the transition well and they do it only if they’re expert at core

A successful CTO maintains up-to-date knowledge of latest tech and software standards, emerging technologies, and best practices of software development. They never cease to learn; instead, keep on updating their knowledge by taking courses, attending seminars, and reading on the core subject. At the same time, a smart technology leader keeps her/his mind open and be able to learn better technologies to facilitate transition and upgrades.

4. They are Good Communicators

The importance of effective and quality communication cannot be overstated. The path of becoming an excellent CTO starts with communication. CTOs have the primary responsibility of sharing knowledge and educating stakeholders, partners, and employees about the company’s long-term technology vision, challenges, and strategy. They need to have the ability to communicate high-tech content in plain simple text for a non-technical audience.

They not only know how to manage the code but also how to communicate (the end solution’s) benefits to everyone. Think of the CTO’s role as a bridge between business and technology teams. She must be able to effective communicate to all stakeholders about her technical choices will impact the company’s long-term business goals.

5. They are Google People Managers

Interestingly, smart CTOs are unbelievably strong people manager. They are very good listeners and pay close attention to details. They never let their ego decide their action; instead, take suggestions and encourage feedback of the team members (no matter how junior) to make the right decision.

Whether it’s their immediate boss or subordinate, they think about making a strong and respectful relationship. Particularly if we talk about the ‘boss management’, successful CTOs have it on the top of their agenda because unless their suggestions are endorsed by the boss, they will not be able to implement. Moreover, CEO has to convince a whole lot of stakeholders about the changes being made, long-term vision, new products’ philosophy etc. a smart CTO has to develop a good relationship with the boss.

Most of the CTOs do realize the very importance of the people’s role in their success, they work smart and hard to hire and maintain good talent to build successful products.


While we cannot sum up all traits of successful CTOs in this article, this precise list will elaborate key functional or work areas where CTOs need to pay attention. If you are a CTO and miss any of these, don’t worry; start working on developing the new habits. Everyone always has a good reason and big room to improve – and you certainly aren’t an exception. Conduct your SWOT analysis, build a strategic roadmap and start working today!

If you think I missed out some important points, do let me know in the comment box below.

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