Five Skills to Become a Respected C-level Security Executive, #2

career consulting cyber happiness productivity riskmanagement security industry specialties steve hunt Feb 11, 2022

Contributed by Steve Hunt.

Part two in our series “Five Skills to Become a Respected C-level Security Executive.” The path from security director to a respected executive is perilous. Some never make it. These 5 “savvy” skills are the building blocks to executive security leadership but don't come naturally to most people.

To start from the beginning, Click Here

Let's look at some universal questions.

  • How can I engage my employees?
  • How can I gain the respect of my team and colleagues?
  • How can I take back control of my program?
  • What habits can I promote to create a positive employee-culture for my organization?

Not all great leaders are “people” people. In fact, many effective leaders have terrible people skills. Fortunately, engaging people means something other than talking to, meeting with, or getting people to like you. It’s the kind of leadership that builds trust among your constituents (security team, regular employees, line managers, executives, customers, etc.) If the people around you share your vision and passion, they will do much of the heavy lifting for you, and respect you more in the process.

If you’ve ever seen Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why” you know where I’m going with this. Great companies and great leaders don’t “motivate” their constituents. They describe a vision and the people make that vision their own, carrying the banner themselves because it creates the world they want to live in.

Your vision is communicated through your Positive Goals (Skill #1)

Leading your business to excellence is not a one-time exercise. It is a journey. Do not trust a “guru” to wave a magic wand and transform your business into a finely tuned machine. Business transformation takes time. You need to be committed for the long-term, so your team can improve themselves and improve the organization organically.

For example, coach your team. Like players on a sports team who build skills by overcoming real-life challenges, employees who are helped to build skills and overcome obstacles on the path to a shared Positive Goal -- with the guidance of a coach or mentor -- more readily share their knowledge, report issues, suggest ideas, manage projects, collaborate, and learn how to perform at higher levels.

When employees share the goal, they’ll be engaged, not with you, but with the shared vision. That’s what you want. Then show everyone the value of sharing information. Show them that the goal takes the entire team, and that team must share to grow.

Every company has knowledge hoarders, that one engineer who knows how to run the authentication server or the one who knows which ancient access control rules cannot be touched. Have you wondered what would happen if one of those folks wins the lottery next week and never shows up at work again? Tragic, right? They need to document their knowledge and cross-train someone else.

If you are not replaceable, you are not promotable

Knowledge hoarders and anyone who has not taken the time to jot down key steps in important work tasks become a boat anchor to a business. A manager depends on her or his ability to respond with agility to the changing demands of the business. If people are not cross-trained and work activities documented, there is no way to shift veteran team members to new projects, while new employees, temps, or members of other teams move into the previous jobs.

When you promote the vision, the positive goals, for your security program, also produce a formal and effective reward and recognition program. This will reinforce behaviors that result in performance excellence. It will also create role models that your other employees can emulate.

Employee coaching and mentoring is a key to engaging and aligning your people and encouraging them to share the goals, maximize their own development, and perform with excellence. I’ve borrowed these seven habits from to get you there faster.

  1. Promote consistent quality and customer satisfaction.
  2. Actively document process know-how.
  3. Report and help resolve ideas and issues for improving the organization.
  4. Participate in internal strategic improvement initiatives.
  5. Actively learn how to perform new processes as part of an individual learning plan.
  6. Help coach, mentor and cross-train other employees to perform your work.
  7. Actively participate in process and collaboration teams.

Stay alert; there may be obstacles along the way. You may encounter a few resistant employees, or you may experience an unexpected problem that slows your progress. You may want to give up but do not. As the leader of your organization, you must remain steadfast in your pursuit of excellence. It is the key to creating a sustainable, scalable, and highly resilient security program. Certainly, you can slow down and speed up on your highway to excellence, but you must never lose sight of your positive goals and the team that will help you achieve them.

To read the series from the beginning, click HERE

Continue to Skill #3 HERE

Steve Hunt helps security professionals like you to excel on the path to growth and improvement

Drop me an email if you'd like my upcoming e-book for security leaders on building Executive Success. [email protected]

Grab my newest eBook on Security Leadership and join Steve Hunt's Communities of Excellence. Let's Improve Security -- Together!

Get the eBook HERE: