We all have a built-in “compass” that offers values for decision-making. Just as a mechanical compass shows Magnetic North, an internal compass shows Magnetic North values. These values should be considered whenever security executives have crucial choices to make.
Effective leaders rely upon this internal compass to guide their choices in everyday life, which increases trust among their followers. These leaders have an awareness of a personal Magnetic North to keep them on the right path.
There are five crucial leadership choices in alignment with Magnetic North.
1. Set the Mood
The mood you choose to display when you arrive each morning to meet and greet your security staff and followers is the first observable behavior noticed. Leaders often underestimate the significance of these moments, but staff tend to take a “reading” from the leader’s mood and internalize it. It’s quite natural for people to make assumptions about a department’s health and future based on the climate created by the mood of the leader. On any given day, the prospect of smooth sailing or impending doom is implied by the facial expressions of a leader. The mood of the leader becomes the mood of the group and ripples throughout an organization like electricity; the mood of the group never exceeds the mood of the leader.
For this reason, a leader must be a good actor, at least to the point of projecting hope and optimism. It doesn’t mean you can’t have a bad day, but if you expect your colleagues to work with hope and optimism like the future is bright, you must display that emotion when you walk through the door.
2. Respond to Challenges
Security executives’ demeanor when reacting to business challenges is another indication of your commitment to Magnetic North. A calm voice tone says, “I’m confident we can handle this situation,” whereas a panic voice says, “I’m threatened by this and you should be, too.” When a crisis or challenge hits the team, all eyes will look to the head of security for a reaction. It’s relatively easy to voice confidence in the workforce when things run smoothly; but when things are under attack, be sure to reflect a calm resolve that says, “I believe in you and our ability to solve this issue.” All leaders expect their colleagues and workers to be conscientious problem solvers, so be sure to send that message when the seas are rough as well as during smooth sailing.
3. Initiate Change
A choice in how to initiate change within the organization is critical to the success of that change. While change is inevitable, and creating change is part of a job description, the choices made regarding how and when will say volumes about Magnetic North. Staff members expect leaders to understand the implications, and the difficulty, of adjusting to change. Sharing an understanding of the discomfort that change will create, and breaking down new procedures into small bites helps.
4. Judge Performances
How a chief security officer chooses to react to great performances and sub-par performances indicates a belief about coaching and people. When it comes to praise, staff watches for consistency. Do A+ performances receive equal recognition, regardless of the performer? When a performance does not meet standards, is coaching or mentoring readily available? Performances should be measured against the agreed upon standards. This process will be fair if Magnetic North includes a precise and clear definition of what excellence looks like.
5. Treat Customers
Nothing speaks louder to staff members than how they boss treats customers. True Magnetic North is exposed when customers are involved. Values in terms of service, product value, profit, and goodwill are obvious to staff as they watch you react to both the easy customers and the tougher ones. Make consistent choices.
Choices are made each day – some of greater importance than others. The choice to honor Magnetic North values is observed by everyone; and, likewise, a choice to ignore those values is equally noticed. Leaders with high credibility are the ones who have strong convictions about what they value. They are admired because their beliefs are very clear, and their actions are consistent with those beliefs.
Chief security officers should demonstrate that only they know Magnetic North, but intend to practice and honor it – even when it’s not the easiest thing to do. Have meetings at every level within the organization to discuss and digest the true meaning of Magnetic North, and define how both leaders and employees can “walk the talk.”
Acting as a person of conviction, knowing your values and honoring your compass is the first sign of effective leadership.