Time is ticking: Where Tech CEOs spend too much and too little time

Leadership StrategiesLeadershipCulture RiskTechnologyBoard and CEO AdvisoryTeam Effectiveness
min Report
December 06, 2022
4 min
Leadership StrategiesLeadershipCulture RiskTechnologyBoard and CEO AdvisoryTeam Effectiveness
Executive summary
Technology CEOs need to increase their time spent preparing for challenges ahead, but doing so requires better aligned C-suite teams.


Modern technology companies were built on a culture of competition, with tightly guarded IP and innovation secrets. However, the zero-sum-game mentality that bolstered tech’s market cap dominance and out-sized influence is now working squarely in opposition to the industry’s progress.

Compared to CEOs in other industries, tech CEOs are significantly less likely to say they spend the right amount of time working with other leaders in the industry to solve industry-wide problems. While it’s well known that technology companies engage heavily with complimentary technology business partners across the broader ecosystem (such as channel partners, consulting firms and creative partnerships) in order to scale quickly in adjacent areas, tech CEOs say they are not applying the same principles for collaboration with technology CEO peers. A mere 10% of tech CEOs say they spend the right amount of time collaborating with industry peers, which is three times less than CEOs from other industries (30%).


To understand what actions perpetuate this gap, we surveyed technology CEOs about how they wish they allocated their time across key activities. CEOs told us on which efforts they spend too little, just right, or too much of their time.  


CEO Efficiency Index Analysis: Time overspent vs. time underspent


Figure 1: CEO Time Efficiency Index: Time Overspent


Compared to other CEOs, tech CEOs are better at managing the amount of time they spend resolving challenging dynamics with their boards and operational change management efforts. But, collaboration with other technology CEOs falls to the bottom of the list. While levels of CEO collaboration are far from ideal across industries, it’s least common among tech industry CEOs—tech leaders scoring a zero on the activity (the lowest possible score) in our analysis of time efficiency.


But where will the time to collaborate come from?
Time overspent managing dynamics of the C-suite might be the answer

Tech CEOs believe they spend too much time getting their own executive leadership teams aligned on key issues. This outsized effort implies that many tech CEOs are putting in an overabundance of effort towards selling individual C-suite leaders on their vision, rather than rallying a group of team-players to the task. Agile cross functional collaboration is a major core capability of CEOs in agile tech company, and the differentiator of successful companies – but the balance must be right. 

C-suites lacking cohesion are not working as a unit to deliver against the complex challenges of today and tomorrow. Top performing leadership teams are able to adapt, pivot, and orientate nimbly towards new realities because they work together—and with their CEO—as a dynamic team. With a stack of complex issues staring CEOs in the face, spending outsized time rectifying the divergent agendas of a misaligned C-suite will put the company at a competitive disadvantage.

In fact, our analysis shows that technology leaders who believe their organizations are prepared for the economic instability ahead are significantly more likely (three times as likely) to say they are part of executive leadership teams work together effectively as a team.



So, imagine if all of the time saved by having a well-functioning C-suite team was invested in the areas that need more attention, like collaboration, change management, strategy and innovation?

These activities are crucial for keeping up with rapidly accelerating technology improvements and customer expectations. Without investment in innovation, it’s impossible to compete or to avoid disruption. Tech businesses helmed by CEOs only looking inward are almost guaranteed to be caught off guard and unprepared for looming challenges.


Three questions tech CEOs should ask themselves about the quality of their time spend:



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Robert Alexander is a member of Russell Reynolds Associates’ Technology Knowledge Team. He is based in New York City.

Jemi Crookes leads Russell Reynolds Associates’ Technology Knowledge team. She is based in Washington, D.C.

Agnes Greaves co-leads Russell Reynolds Associates’ Core and Growth Tech practice globally. She is based in London.

Puneet Kalra is leads Russell Reynolds Associates’ Business and Professional Services practice globally. He is based in New Delhi.

Georgia Mackay is a member of Russell Reynolds Associates’ Technology Knowledge Team. She is based in London.

Tuck Rickards co-leads Russell Reynolds Associates’ Core and Growth Tech practice globally. He is based in San Francisco.


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