Once someone reaches an executive leadership role in their organization, it’s easy to believe that the learning is over. The C-suite level, which includes people who are experts in their field, is typically composed of the top professionals at an organization.
But that doesn’t mean these professionals have no room to grow or shouldn’t have any knowledge of other areas. Technology, for example, is something that affects practically every worker in today’s world.
A Gartner TalentNeuron study looked at the top hard and soft skills for C-level jobs by examining the 400 job postings for executives all over the world over 3 years and found that the most in-demand skills for people in these positions were largely technological. Artificial intelligence, data science, machine learning, and cybersecurity all took the top slots. So, what does this mean for high-level executives and the competencies they need?
What Is C-Suite?
The C in C-suite refers to chief, indicating that a person with this title has the chief leadership role in their field in their business. A chief executive officer (CEO), for example, is usually at the very top, although often other C-suite roles serve as peers to the CEO, lending counsel, and support while governing their teams and areas of expertise.
Other common C-suite roles are chief marketing officer (CMO), chief financial officer (CFO), and COO (chief operations officer).
C-Suite Tech Roles
C-suite executives who govern technology at organizations are becoming increasingly prevalent as technology is more and more integral to businesses in nearly every sector. For example, a chief information officer (CIO) oversees an organization’s internal technological infrastructure, while a chief technology officer (CTO) governs the development of new software and technologies to be used by consumers and the general public.
In some cases, an organization might have a chief product officer (CPO), who is responsible for overseeing the production and release of new products, as well as leading the strategy behind their development.
Meanwhile, some companies have a chief data officer (CDO), who serves as the top official for handling data and other important information, including devising methodologies for maintaining, responsibly utilizing, and leveraging this data.
Because these roles often overlap in some ways, many smaller businesses and startups only have one of these positions to manage all of the different technology-related pieces. Regardless, it’s clear that in order to reach this level in their careers, C-suite professionals must have extraordinarily strong technical skills in a variety of areas and disciplines.
Why Tech Skills Matter for Other C-Suite Roles
So, are tech skills only integral to C-suite technology roles? In short, no. It’s often said that when you reach this level, you have more in common, skill-wise, with your C-level peers than you do with your direct and indirect reports. And everyone at this level must possess a host of hard and soft skills along with a deep knowledge of their specific specialty in order to manage and lead strategies effectively.
Because technology touches a myriad of operations, C-level executives must be competent with everyday technologies to inform them and their strategies to fill certain roles, as described below. There are the basic technologies — such as email clients and word-processing tools like G-Suite — as well as company-specific tools, such as content management systems (CMSs) and customer relationship management (CRM) software.
The Innovative Leader
Every business in every niche must seek to innovate in order to stay relevant, profitable, and ahead of their competition. C-suite leaders are usually not involved in the nitty-gritty of the operations at their business but rather creating long-view strategies.
In order to develop effective strategies that will move your business forward, a CEO must stay on top of the landscape of their industry. Thus, they should be able to answer questions like:
• What do my customers really want?
• What are my competitors doing?
• How are they doing it?
• What is changing within my industry?
• What are the current trends?
Technology can be used both to answer these questions and devise solutions for addressing them. For example, a CRM can help you gain insights about your consumers, while marketing analytics will allow you to measure the efficacy of campaigns.
Why is this important for an executive to understand these tools? So they can devise and develop plans and strategies for improving your business. No, as a CEO you don’t have to have an in-depth knowledge of how to best leverage these technologies, but you should have a working knowledge of what they can do in order for you to innovate.
The Knowledgeable Leader
Every leader must be at the top of their game. Even if the topic isn’t their area of expertise, they should be able to act and speak competently and be willing to learn. And that’s something you’re certainly capable of doing — after all, you made it to the top level in your profession!
Demonstrating a willingness to learn and grow also demonstrates confidence, something that’s critical for a C-suite executive. And technology skills are one area you can’t afford not to have.
If you’re constantly calling IT to fix every little issue, you’re showing your team that you aren’t willing to learn basic technologies and lack fundamental knowledge to tackle problems. Moreover, if you don’t understand the technology issues others are discussing in meetings, such that they have to explain topics you should understand, you’re showing the same weakness.
It’s certainly okay not to be an expert in everything, but at your stage, you should have a working knowledge of fundamental technologies that are important to your business.
No matter what your area of expertise, every leader should possess critical knowledge and skills — and technology skills fall into this category. Not only will they serve you well in your current role, but they’ll be relevant and important for years to come.