What It Takes To Be A Great Software CEO

Over the last few years, we have read thousands of nomination submissions from software professionals all over the world recommending their CEO to make one of our awards lists.  What we’ve come to understand is that the best CEOs have certain traits that inspire and empower their workforces over the long term.  It’s easy to say ‘focus on teamwork’ or ‘encourage collaboration’, but it’s a much different thing to execute. 

Become a Subscriber

Please purchase a subscription to continue reading this article.

Subscribe Now

Communication: An open door policy and transparency not only makes people feel heard, it makes a statement that the organization believes in keeping everyone on the same page and apprised of developments of the company on a timely basis.  It also encourages each person to share what they know, improving the ability to collaborate and complete projects in an efficient manner.   The top CEOs are seemingly ubiquitous to the hundreds or thousands or in some cases tens of thousands of employees, because they make themselves available to listen to their people and communicate important updates.

Personal: Not to be confused with personable, high performing CEOs are not afraid to be personal with their colleagues, meaning they share about themselves and also seek to learn more about each individual they work with.  And they tend to remember the details of a person’s life and make the effort to form genuine relationships, such as a CEO taking the time to visit and chat with an employee’s father who had stopped by to see the office, or committing time, effort and financial support towards a cause that’s especially important to a colleague. 

Vision: The world and all its various little pieces is complex.  When a CEO can consistently navigate complexity in the marketplace or within its own organization and hold true to the grand vision, colleagues recognize and admire the CEO for doing so.  Vision is what pulls the workforce together and it’s what pulls them forward to keep marching despite the massive highs and lows that are frequently encountered in the software world.  Great CEOs have extreme clarity on the company’s vision and ensure the organization as a whole is aligned in moving towards that vision.

It goes without saying that CEOs should have fundamental skills around knowledge of the industry, competition, product development, capital strategy, talent development and other operational matters.  What rung most true through the nomination submissions we received was that leading effectively and optimizing an organization’s capabilities was much more of an art than science.  And the best artists each had their own unique ways of communicating, getting personal and driving towards a grand vision.