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Measuring perceptions of tech leaders

Earlier this year, our In IT Together blog series explored how the job market for IT decision makers is looking, uncovering what organisations might be doing to attract talent.

Thus far we haven’t looked at the impact that leaders might have upon their organisation’s image and the potential impact their presence and actions can have upon employees and prospective employees. So how do IT decision makers rate the CEO or leader of their organisation?

How do tech leaders compare when scored on their attributes?

First up: are respondents even aware of their organisation’s leader? 72% said they are aware of their organisation’s leader, which indicates a certain lack of engagement with the business from the leaders of the other 28% of organisations. Of the 72%, 91% say that they are either very or fairly familiar with their organisation’s leader, emphasizing the relationship gap between this segment and the 28%.

We asked respondents to rate their leader on various positive qualities. Respondents are most likely to rate their organisation’s leader highly on passion (average score 7.6 out of 10), intelligence (7.6) and reliability (7.4).

However, to make sense of these individual attribute scores, we need someone to compare them with. Luckily, the business and technology world is packed with leaders who, struggle as they might, cannot help but make headlines with every utterance that tumbles from their mouth. And inevitably this means that our respondents consider themselves to have enough awareness of these leaders to form their own conclusions.

Encouragingly, respondents tend to rate their own leaders highly compared to these behemoths of business. They scored well compared to more famous leaders when it came to relatability (6.4, just ahead of Susan Wojcicki on 6.3), and trustworthiness (7.1, followed again by Wojcicki on 6.5).

They fared less well however on creativity (6.5, putting them near the bottom of the list headed by Elon Must on 7.8). And despite intelligence being one of their most highly rated aspects, they came dead last on the list topped by Wojcicki (clearly we all need a Susan in our professional life) on 8.8.

There are more attribute ratings here than I can possibly hope to include in a single blog, although suffice to say that ‘you know who’ scored very well when it came to creativity, intelligence, and passion. But they scored less well when it came to some of the other attributes mentioned above.

Can I interest you in fruit or dessert?

However, this study is about more than just taking cheap shots at Elon Musk. A significant minority of respondents also demonstrate a level of affinity with their leader, with 21% of those familiar with them saying that they would be their first choice to invite around to a dinner at their home (surely the acid test in any professional relationship), and 38% saying that their leader would be among their top three choices. Only slightly more (24%), of those who are familiar with him, would prefer to invite Tim Cook over as their first choice. Musk rounded out the top 3 (19%).

Potentially the most interesting finding of this study is the importance respondents assign to conducting research about the leader of an organisation that they were considering joining. 28% say that they would conduct a lot of research about the leader, and a further 63% say that they would conduct a little research.

Red flags and egomaniacs

The motivations behind this are made clear from additional comments made by respondents. The below is only a brief selection, but broadly reflect the feelings of the 28% who would conduct a lot of research about their potential future leader:

The 63% gave a more mixed picture, impacted somewhat by the role level of the respondents, but also by their outlook on how much influence the CEO has upon the organisation:

As ever I’m bowled over and fascinated by the insight that our community’s responses provide into the world of IT – I’d put them all here if there was space.

Final thoughts

What these, and the many other, responses above may show is that the leader of organisations can have a huge impact upon the culture of an organisation. But this link between leader and organisation culture does not always exist, or if it does exist, it is not recognised by employees. If leaders really want to make a difference to their organisation, and be seen to make a difference, they need to display as many positive traits (such as those mentioned above) as often and as widely as they can. I don’t think it’s too much to ask of our leaders.

I want to finish by mentioning that the results from all great research studies raise questions that have previously not been asked, providing new avenues to explore in the future. And this study is no different, prompting many in our office to wonder: why does nobody want to invite Marc Benioff around to dinner?


112 UK IT decision makers from the Vanson Bourne Community were interviewed in April 2023. All respondents were from organisations in the private sector, with 1,000 or more employees.