Mid-sized enterprises

of one

IT Executives Personality Traits and Motivators

CIOs are like other C-suite executives at a basic level--ambitious and hard-working. However, they tend to be technically-oriented and typically do not have the best soft skills. They are more fearful of losing their jobs than others in leadership roles and tend to be driven by that fear.


  • The average CIO is a 43-year old male who has been a CIO for five years. Typically, he has worked in the IT function all his life and has no aspiration to switch out of it. Sixty-four percent CIOs enjoy the scope and responsibilities of their role.
  • Half the CIOs have a degree in IT and only 10% have an MBA. Many CIOs have underdeveloped soft skills and acknowledge the same. They tend to fall short on leadership and communication skills.
  • Sixty-four percent of CIOs see the role as an end-destination itself; 63% of other C-suite executives have a similar perception of CIOs.
  • Thirty-five percent of CIOs don't have a career strategy. A poll by E&Y found that one in three CIOs want to move to a larger and more powerful CIO role.


  • At a basic level, they are like any other C-suite executives: driven by self-interest and looking to fulfill their organizational objectives.
  • CIOs are highly motivated and very hard-working. They want to be the best they can be and succeed in their jobs.
  • CIOs are mature men in leadership positions who are not vocal about or willing to recognize their weaknesses and fears.
  • CIOs know and understand that perception is 90% of reality. They are aware that they are likely to do well if they are perceived as talented. CIOs want to be regarded as successful CIOs.


  • CIOs have tenures shorter than other C-suite executives. They are more likely to be concerned about losing their jobs.
  • A Booz Allen study found that one in three CIOs are forced out of their jobs. In 70% of such cases, the failure of a large IT project was the primarily reason. Big IT projects can either make or break their careers.
  • Fifty-four percent CIOs strongly believe that managing a large business transformation played an important part in them becoming CIO.
  • Another major reason for a CIO to get fired is a security breach. A study found that "43% of CEOs would fire their CIO if there was a security breach from a tech investment".
  • Loss aversion, a behavioral psychology concept, applies to CIOs. They are more fearful of loss than they are enthusiastic about gain. Marketers who sell something that can help a CIO avoid a major error on a large IT project are likely to succeed.
  • Accenture has a campaign that is based on the insight that CIOs are afraid of losing their jobs. They target new CIOs and help them prepare for the first 120 days to avoid failures.


  • Other than the CIO, IT products or services require to be sold to business executives and IT staff. IT managers have the power to veto purchase decisions.
  • IT managers are well-informed individuals who read a lot and are up-to-date on all developments in their field. They are skeptical of the pushy salesperson who is biased towards a particular solution set and prefer those who have a more consultative approach.
  • IT managers do not like change as it puts them at a risk for failure and subsequently losing their job. However, they are often willing to try the newest and latest to upgrade their skills.
  • IT managers are not always acting in the best interest of the organization. As job security is a concern to them selling new solutions can be difficult even if they align with organizational objectives.


  • Even the most cynical CIOs are influenced by recommendations made by right influencers on social media.
  • Seventy-two percent CIOs strongly believe that "building relationship and trust with internal stakeholders" played an important role in helping them get to where they are.


The personality traits and motivators of IT executives are likely to have not changed significantly in recent years. Information in sources that are up to five years old has been used as it is still likely to be relevant. It is understood that the personality and motivations of IT leaders are required to market/sell products or services to them. The insights have been provided based on that perspective.

Dive deeper

Only the project owner can select the next research path.
Need related research? Let's launch your next project!

  • "Social recommendations from the right influencers can make even the most cynical CIO sit up and take notice of your brand. "
  • "First, recognize that CIOs are mostly mature men who are not willing to talk and recognize their fears and weaknesses."
  • "At the most basic level, CIOs are no different than other business leaders. They’re driven by self-interest and the achievement of a set of objectives for their IT organizations."
  • "In essence, great CIOs want to be the best CIOs they can be. They recognize that the only way they can do that is by selecting great technology vendors."
  • "Your ability to make a CIO successful influences the CIO’s willingness to establish a business relationship and implement your technology products or services."
  • "The average CIO receives thousands of email and phone messages each year about technology products."
  • "To sell to CIOs, you typically need to sell to many different people to close a deal – in addition to the CIO, you also need to sell to a business executive and the IT staff. Any one of these three groups can kill a deal if they don't like it."
  • "Indeed, a study by Booz Allen notes that a variety of factors "make it difficult for the CIO to perform effectively, leading to a tenure shorter than those of other C-suite executives." In other words, more than other senior executives, a CIO is likely to be worried about losing their job."
  • " It's not about our success in closing the deal. It's about helping the CIO to succeed. If you can do that, you'll get the meeting and you'll likely get the contract."
  • "This campaign targets new CIOs, and it effectively says "Hey, new CIO. You're at risk of losing your job. Failure is not an option. Here's how to succeed.""
  • "In behavioral psychology, there is the concept of loss aversion. You may already be familiar with it. The idea is that we are more fearful of loss than we are enthusiastic for gain.As an example, a person who has lost $1,000 of their own money will lose more satisfaction from that loss than they would gain if they had instead found $1,000 lying on the street. In other words, the negative event has more impact."
  • "This is certainly the case with the CIO -- and being fired is a worst-case scenario they desperately want to avoid!"
  • "The Booz Allen study I mentioned earlier found that that one-third of CIOs are forced out of their jobs. Booz Allen also found that for "70 percent of our respondents, the failure of a major IT project is one of the primary reasons that the tide turns against the CIO.""
  • "So, as a marketer, if you're selling something that can help the CIO avoid failure on a big project, you'll get his or her attention."
  • " The CIOs have much more important things to attend to -- they are worried about the big IT projects that can make or break their careers."
  • "Of course, there are other reasons CIOs get fired. For example, a study commissioned by software firm Actian found that 43% of CEOs would fire their CIO if there was a security breach from a tech investment, and former Target CIO Beth Jacob is no longer with Target after their big data breach."
  • "CIOs know that image matters, and they understand that perception is nine-tenths of reality. The more they are recognized as being talented, the better they'll do."
  • "As might be expected from anyone with a C-level title, he is highly motivated, works extremely hard and delivers on the (often too low) expectations of the leadership."
  • "There is room for improvement when it comes to communication and leadership skills."
  • "The average CIO is a 43-year-old male. He has typically been in his job for five years. "
  • "Nearly 72% of CIOs rated the need to build relationships and trust with key internal stakeholders as highly important."
  • "Of the CIOs interviewed, 64% enjoy the scope and remit of their role."
  • "This view gets to the heart of the change in skillset that CIOs are finding: balancing their technology expertise with softer skills. Many CIOs directly acknowledge that the necessary skills are yet to be developed."
  • "The majority of CIOs do not aspire to move out of IT. Overall, about 64% see the role of CIO as an end-destination in itself."
  • "The rest of the C-suite is overwhelmingly in agreement: about 63% simply don't think their CIOs aspire to any other role within the business. "
  • "Most CIOs may be happy in their role, but this does not suggest that a significant proportion is without ambition for higher office. However, only 8% of the C-suite recognize such ambitions, with a further 13% acknowledging that the CIO may be happy in the position, but still ambitious for a larger CIO role."
  • "One-third of the CIOs polled plan to move into a bigger, more powerful CIO role – either one with a position in the executive management team, or else scaling up into a role within a significantly larger business."
  • "For a number of CIOs, not enough time or priority is given to the development of a clear career strategy. About 35% admit that they are strongly in need of advice on how best to develop their career, which reflects the lack of attention that many within technology have given to this aspect of the role."