Essential Soft Skills for CTOs, CIOs, and CDOs

Essential Soft Skills for CTOs, CIOs, and CDOs

In the rapidly evolving tech industry, hard skills can get you the job, but it's the soft skills that make you successful and allow you to advance in your career. Stephan Schmidt, CTO coach and author of the book Amazing CTO, emphasizes the importance of leadership, vision, and stakeholder management for CTOs.

In this post, we will explore the key soft skills every CTO needs to cultivate, based on insights from Schmidt's experience and expertise.

The Misconception of Hard Skills Over Soft Skills

Many aspiring CTOs focus heavily on technical prowess, assuming that their coding expertise and architectural know-how will propel them to the top. However, as Schmidt notes, "The hard skills get you into a position, but the soft skills and all the other small things as a manager, those are the things that make you successful."

Key Soft Skills for CTOs

1. Leadership and Vision

Leadership is about setting a direction and helping your team get there. Schmidt states, "Leadership is leading people somewhere. If you don't lead people somewhere, you're not a leader."

Having a clear vision for the tech department is crucial. This vision acts as the guiding star for all strategic decisions and actions.

2. Stakeholder Management

Trust is foundational in any leadership role. Schmidt emphasizes, "Trust is not happening by email. You don't build trust by emailing people, but you build trust by meeting people."

Regular communication with stakeholders ensures alignment and builds confidence in your leadership.

3. Adaptability and Continuous Learning

Schmidt advises CTOs to acknowledge their gaps and proactively seek opportunities to learn. "The first step is to acknowledge the gap in knowledge and the veracity and the importance of that knowledge."

Interacting with other departments can provide valuable insights. For instance, understanding the financial side from the CFO can enhance strategic decision-making.

4. Networking and Relationship Building

Establish regular one-on-ones with other department heads. This not only builds relationships but also ensures a cohesive strategy across the organization.

Join CTO communities, attend industry conferences, and participate in online forums to exchange ideas and stay updated with industry trends.

5. Management Skills

Effective management is about developing and supporting your team. "Management is mainly focused around developing people and growing people, supporting people," says Schmidt.

It's important to recognize that being a good manager is just as crucial as being a good leader.

Practical Tips from Stephan

1. Visualize Your Dream Job

Think about what your dream job looks like. What kind of company do you want to work for? What role do you want to play? Understanding this will help you identify the skills and experiences you need to acquire.

Write down a detailed description of your ideal job, including the company culture, responsibilities, and the impact you want to make.

2. Build Trust Through Personal Interactions

Even in a remote working environment, face-to-face interactions are crucial for building trust. Regularly schedule video calls with your team and other departments.

Arrange bi-weekly virtual coffee meetings with key stakeholders. This informal setting helps build rapport and fosters open communication.

3. Enhance Your CV with Testimonials

Start your CV with a powerful testimonial from a respected professional. This can immediately capture the attention of hiring managers.

Reach out to former colleagues or supervisors for testimonials that highlight your strengths and achievements. Use these quotes as a cover page for your CV.

4. Engage in Continuous Learning and Skill Development

Look for areas where you need improvement and seek out courses, workshops, and certifications to fill those gaps.

Allocate time each week for learning activities. Use platforms like Coursera, edX, and LinkedIn Learning to stay updated with industry trends and technologies.

5. Expand Your Network Systematically

Define who you want to connect with, such as industry leaders, peers, and potential mentors. Set a target for the number of new connections to make each month.

Join relevant professional organizations and online communities. Attend industry events and actively participate in discussions to expand your network.

6. Leverage Online Presence and Content Creation

Create a plan for regular content creation that aligns with your career goals. This includes blog posts, LinkedIn articles, videos, and participation in industry forums.

Schedule and produce content that showcases your expertise and thought leadership. Aim to publish at least one piece of content per month.


As Stephan Schmidt highlights, the journey to becoming an amazing CTO is not just about mastering the latest technologies but also about cultivating the right soft skills.

By focusing on leadership, stakeholder management, continuous learning, networking, and effective management, you can enhance your effectiveness and advance your career. Start developing these soft skills today to navigate the complexities of your role and lead your team to success.

At CareerCrackers, we offer personalized career coaching and support to help you develop these essential soft skills and create a strategic career roadmap. Contact us to learn more about how we can assist you in achieving your career goals.

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Michal Juhas

Michal Juhas