In past articles, I have written about behaviors and style characteristics that tend not to be valued by organizations and that have proven often to be the underpinnings of why some security leaders fail in their roles. The counterbalance to that are leadership attributes and behaviors that are essential for success.

By their nature, organizations are complex in structure and processes. Layer on personalities, strong egos and pockets of groups bent on driving their own personal agendas that are not necessarily aligned with leadership’s objectives and you can run into problems. If you have personal core principals, an ethical compass and treat people with respect as you move through your career, these will serve you very well.

Following are some characteristics that exhibit those ideals when put into practice:

  • Dedicate yourself to the acquisition and development of talent. You should have an appreciation and understanding of how this will support and accelerate the success of the enterprise.
  • Challenge your team to aid in their growth. Provide opportunities to stretch them strategically and creatively. Give them exposure to a wide variety of business situations across many different functional areas. Do not silo them to just the security verticals that are your primary accountabilities. Encourage participation in cross-functional initiatives and educational development.
  • Be mindful of and build upon both your teams’ and your own self-awareness. Keep egos in check. While a certain amount of ego is healthy in drive and leadership, self-aggrandizing narcissism is ultimately destructive and will not be perceived as an admirable characteristic.
  • Build and encourage innate curiosity, visionary and imaginative thinking and listening skills.
  • Coach, mentor and challenge. Encourage open dialog and engagement.
  • Promote proactive problem solving. Be able to anticipate significant impact issues before they occur by recognizing the “trip wire” indicators in advance.
  • Find and hire people who can outperform you and encourage your team to do the same. It is critical to have not just a succession plan, but people who are recognized by your organization as capable future talent. Do not hire only people who look and sound like you.
  • Know your own limitations and what you do not know or do well. Be willing to ask for help.
  • Leaders can be strong and driven, yet emotionally sensitive. Be respectful of everyone you deal with. Empathy toward people will go a long way. If you must fake this, you really should not be in a leadership role.
  • Be willing and able to take unqualified responsibility for not only your accomplishments but your mistakes, failures, missteps and words resulting in unintended consequences.

The resilient security executive must be able to function and embrace the same underlying skills expected of the senior most leaders in the organization in today’s environment. Unlike many other roles within the enterprise, an effective security program touches and supports every corner of the organization.

This requires a high level of sophistication and the desire and ability to gain an understanding of the business drivers and concerns of a wide cross section of functions. A high level of intellectual maturity, cross-cultural understanding and a comfort level as part of diverse, geographically spread team, will enable you to easily shift between tactical and strategic on a daily basis.