“Security is about enabling a mission. Business leaders are able to take our tools and apply them to a variety of settings to create success. Our job is to create an environment of success for the enterprise. It is not what we do, rather, it is how we enable the enterprise to achieve its goals,” shares Frank Taylor, Vice President and Chief Security Officer for The General Electric Company. It is important to note that as you read this, one of America’s (not just security’s) greatest leaders and thinkers will have retired, again.
Frank retired earlier in his career at the rank of Brigadier General in the Air Force. He continued to serve his country as Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security and Director of the Office of Foreign Missions, with the rank of Ambassador. After 9/11 he became a key advisor to President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell as Ambassador at Large and Coordinator for Counterterrorism until November 2002. He joined General Electric in March 2005.
“The only job I ever applied for was to join the Air Force,” he says. “A headhunter got my resume and after three interviews at General Electric, I became their first Global CSO. For anyone migrating from law enforcement or the military to the private sector, they should expect to be uncomfortable,” coaches Frank, noting the need to become a team player, deal with new and unfamiliar issues, learn new jargon and understand and respect new processes. “But, what the military and General Electric have in common is the diversity of what they do and how they recognize and reward leadership and accountability. The company is big, exciting and dynamic, but you still feel in control because processes and procedures are in place.”
Asked how General Electric’s first global CSO got his arms around the global business and leading security, Frank shares his successful plan. First, he liked the structure at General Electric because it was diversified but simple, similar to the military. And the many businesses and geographies across the company were akin to his Air Force and State Department experiences of overseeing more than 200 detachments and more than 265 embassies and diplomatic facilities, respectively.
“First we sorted out the structure and organization to identify policies and procedures, ensuring a successful global system,” he explains. “Next we identified the key deliverables to the businesses from security. The business unit security leaders are direct reports in the business units and dotted line to global security. That enables us to set policies and procedures, conduct audits and create guidelines.”
With 70 percent of General Electric’s business outside the United States, Frank’s experience and thoughts on leadership are compelling and insightful.
“Leaders get recognized for their ability to mitigate problems and choose effective strategies. The same is true for security. Leaders see the problems coming and plan for them. They see the changes ahead and plan. They attack issues. The status quo or yesterday’s success is never good enough. Leadership is also about influencing, collaborating and sharing knowledge. People sometimes don’t realize that leadership learned in the military translates very well to the private sector. The challenge for people is translating that leadership experience into the business environment and adapting it to the mission.”
During his storied career, Frank has had many mentors. “Every boss I have worked for, in one way or another, has been a great mentor.” Of particular note he points to Major General Pierce Smith who encouraged young leaders to retain more than 200 contacts outside their core area whom they can call and seek advice or discuss issues. He still does so.
Thoughtful about what CEOs should know about security, Frank says, “That they need an entity in the organization to think about risk and security full time. We learn from every crisis and get better as a result. We have warts, yes, but we work on removing those warts every day.”
Proud of being part of a team that added great value to General Electric he points to the company’s compliance policy: We have no greater responsibility than the security of our employees noting, “Global security has created a confidence among the employees that the company is committed to their safety and security,” he says. “As a result, there is no market in the world in which the company cannot operate. The most rewarding experience has been how we protect our people and feedback that security did a great job and make a difference for our 323,000 employees, thousands of contractors and customers who comprise the General Electric enterprise.”
Frank will pursue his passions of gardening and landscaping where, “I can immediately see the results.” He looks forward to spending more time with his two grandchildren and, of course, plans to continue his contribution to our national security. Securitythanks him for his service.
- Revenue: $160 Billion
- Security Budget: $115 Million
- Manmade Disasters
- Natural Disasters
- Political Unrest
- Asset Protection/Loss Prevention (for Resale)
- Enterprise Resilience
- Enterprise Risk Management
- Global Security Operations Center
- Intellectual Property
- Physical/Asset Protection (Not for Resale)
- Regulatory Compliance
- Supply Chain/Logistics
- Workforce Protection