Paul Goldenberg, who has been in the security and police community for decades, remembers the moment in early November last year during a global law enforcement exchange mission on transnational security involving senior members of Canada’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police. “As I sat across the table from several deputy commissioners, none of whom I recognized, they looked at me and said, ‘Oh, Goldenberg, we know that name.’” He wasn’t surprised because he is well known in international law enforcement. Then one of the deputies said, “‘Yes, we know Alex Goldenberg, we have read a lot of material by him.’”
The deputy had heard of Paul’s son, Alex, but not Paul. In just a few years, Alex Goldenberg had made a name for himself as an analyst and research fellow authoring influential papers for nonprofits, think tanks and universities.
“I was tremendously proud,” Paul recalls. Even as Paul had inspired Alex to enter the field, Paul has been learning from his son. “When I was in charge of a police intelligence group, I was able to determine what gangs or organized criminals were doing by reading graffiti on walls,” he points out. Now his son leverages technology to do the same and more. “I find myself learning things from my young protégé,” he says.
This type of transfer of generational leadership through bloodlines isn’t unique to security, of course, but it points to how the older generation can instill a sense of mission in the younger cohort, who then return the favor by passing their own education and wisdom back to the parents.
Saran Purcell grew up working for her father, Wilbur Purcell, who ran the largest security company in Antigua and Barbuda. As early as age 12, Saran was enlisted as a receptionist for the firm, dealing with customers and learning the operations and vernacular of guarding, CCTV, cash in transit, canines and other services. “My dad is stern,” Saran recounts with a laugh. “He told me that every second counts when it comes to security. I thought, ‘I can’t mess up!”
Saran attended Florida International University in the U.S., but she couldn’t resist the pull of returning to her father’s business. “I loved protecting people. I moved back to Antigua because I wanted to do something that aligned with protection.”
And she used her father’s leadership skills as a template. “I’ve been able to see how he operates, and I mimic what he does with my own leadership style,” Saran says, a style she describes as “more modern” than her father’s. “His leadership helps me propel the company forward,” which she does by managing six departments, involving duties such as drafting standard operating procedures, contracts and job descriptions.
Wilbur Purcell now gets the benefit of having introduced his daughter to the world of security. “I think I’m giving him a new outlook,” she says. While her father focused on manned security, Saran has introduced technology such as guard tour systems. “Technology can go hand in hand with [traditional] security,” she says.
Sean Komendat also grew up at the knee of a security legend. His father, David Komendat, is the Chief Security Officer of Boeing and has held senior roles in organizations such as the Domestic Security Alliance Council and the International Security Management Association. “I grew up watching my dad working late at home, intrigued by his travel,” Sean says. He eventually took a job managing supply chain security for a large tech company.
Sean recalls joining his father at the Overseas Security Advisory Council annual briefing a few Novembers ago. “It was a big milestone to attend with my dad. To see him there in his environment was incredible. It filled my heart because my dad loves what he does. Seeing him, I thought, ‘This is exactly where I want to be.’”
So what lessons did he learn from his dad? “I have a playbook on how to be a great leader because of him,” Sean says. He says his father greets and acknowledges everyone, every day. “For him, people come first,” Sean adds.
David helped lay out the path for Sean, but not with a heavy hand, according to his son, because he wanted Sean to find his own place. The older Komendat suggested that Sean explore the digital landscape, introducing him to mentors. That stuck, and Sean now serves as a link between physical and digital security teams at his company. For instance, he created a cloud infrastructure policy for storing sensitive data in the cloud.
Now Sean helps his father a bit on the cyber side, even helping him set up his iPhone. “Because of him, I’m a student and people leader first, and I try to be the calmest person in the room. His demeanor, the way he connects, the strong brand he creates — I want to emulate that.”
And what parent wouldn’t be proud of that?