10 reasons why today’s cyber leaders are tomorrow’s world leaders

Internet 2019

(Christian Wiediger, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Francesca Bosco, Project Lead, Cyber-Resilience, Centre for Cybersecurity, World Economic Forum & Rebekah Lewis, Project Lead, Governance and Policy, Centre for Cybersecurity, World Economic Forum

Throughout the world, unprecedented levels of innovation, interdependence and change call for strong and ethical leadership. In this promising yet volatile context, a leadership vacuum poses a real threat to global stability and prosperity. Can we look to non-traditional sources for the kind of leadership needed to deliver on both the potential and the challenges of our time?

Professionals in the field of cybersecurity develop many of the leadership traits needed in the broader global context. Considering the speed of digital evolution and its impact on global transformation, emerging cyber leaders are among the most likely candidates to fill the growing global leadership gap.

Why cyber leaders are likely the next world leaders

Responsible cyber leaders possess many of the transversal core competencies required for global leadership, including:

1. Extensive knowledge and a broad skills base

Strong leadership in cybersecurity requires a broad knowledge base and diverse skill sets. Senior executives responsible for cybersecurity must understand both the internal workings of their enterprise – its assets, processes, business objectives, risk management strategy – and external factors, including bilateral and multilateral relationships, regional and global systems, and world events. All these may have direct, indirect or ripple effects on their organization’s cybersecurity posture.

This is in addition to the large number of professional skills in which they have demonstrated proficiency, from data-driven analytics to people management. Beyond these, the ability to maintain and strategically leverage a broad and diverse set of knowledge and skills is critical to leadership on a global level.

2. Ability to anticipate

The nature of cybersecurity forges leaders with a forward-looking, anticipatory mindset and openness to new trends and technologies. With the accelerating pace of technological change and the consequent interconnectedness of society, skillful management of near-term risks and opportunities are vital to maintaining a strong cybersecurity posture, whether defending against a particular variant of ransomware or implementing best practices in third-party vendor management.

Robust cybersecurity leadership also calls for savvy anticipation of the potential impact of larger developments, such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing or the growing tensions between data localization laws, as well as of unexpected and sudden changes, such as the dissolution of a strategic partner company, a natural disaster or the propagation of a global cyber attack.


3. Probing discernment

In the cyber field, knowledge and understanding are important, but they are not solely enough to lead. The ability to differentiate pertinent, actionable information from background noise is essential. Like leaders on the world stage, cyber leaders are constantly inundated with a high volume of diverse inputs, from external and internal sources alike.

They need sharp acumen in distinguishing inaccurate or even fake information from that which is relevant and real, and provides a sound basis for decision-making. Successful leadership in both cyberspace and on the world stage must be quick to understand the contextual nature of continuous information, clearly distinguishing the valuable from the extraneous, the authentic from the fake, the urgent from the latent and the high-impact from the low-grade.

4. Capacity to identify cross-cutting strategic issues

Cyber leaders need to be astute at identifying common themes and pursuing important questions and gaps across vast quantities of information. A cyber leader, for example, must be capable of assessing and managing an organization’s security posture based on numerous elements – statistics, reports, briefings and discussion. Assessing these, they must build and continuously adapt their strategy for maintaining and improving the organization’s security posture, as measured across numerous vectors. Beyond their immediate objectives however, cyber leaders must also extrapolate from those inputs larger themes that can inform more strategic findings and recommendations for future progress, highlighting challenges. For example: Do issues impacting cybersecurity, such as poor asset management, indicate broader management deficiencies that represent strategic, enterprise-level areas for improvement? Is the organization’s inability to enforce third-party security requirements symptomatic of larger issues related to its market leadership?

Effective, efficient and agile cybersecurity requires a unique kind of persistent curiosity and thinking to evaluate information in the context of larger themes and strategy.

5. Crisis management

Cyber leaders must act effectively, responsibly, decisively and quickly in times of crisis. Cyber incidents vary in scale and kind, can occur at any time. And no matter how extensive the preparation for mitigation, there are always unknowns. Managing a crisis typically requires balancing competing interests, relying on incomplete and evolving information, and proceeding with response despite ongoing damage and degradation.

In a cyber crisis, most often under immense time and other pressures, cyber leaders must be able to evaluate information quickly based on its source, reliability, accuracy and relevance; identify and evaluate alternative (potentially unconventional) courses of action; and make impartial, optimal decisions, unaffected by individual or segmented interests.


6. Sound ethics and integrity

The complexity and expansive scope of cyberspace challenges leaders with diverse and unprecedented ethical dilemmas that can have highly tangible and, increasingly, physical implications. In addition, the sensitive nature of cybersecurity issues means that decisions in this space are often based on classified, confidential or proprietary information that cannot be shared widely. Responsible cyber leaders must possess a solid internal compass and the fortitude to make difficult, potentially unpopular decisions.

Strength of character is also required to pursue ethical paths in the face of potential short-term reputational harm (either to the individual or the organization) and pushback from other stakeholders. Moreover, cyber leaders must have the experience and judgement to make difficult decisions in a closed-circuit environment, where confidentiality requirements may limit their ability to confer fully with mentors and external communities when making critical decisions.

7. Balancing details and the big picture

Organizations are increasingly recognizing cybersecurity as a separate and distinct function in their structure, requiring both dedicated full-time employees and a clearly designated, accountable senior executive. The nature of cybersecurity however, concerns wide-ranging responsibilities and touch points (e.g. finance, operations, legal, human resources, insurance, physical security and vendor management) not limited to specific or “traditional” cyber-related functions such as information technology alone. In this potentially boundless portfolio, effective cyber leaders must be able to distinguish between areas in which they need to possess only surface-level awareness, develop a conversant level of knowledge, or delve to deeper levels of nuance and complexity.

To differentiate these knowledge levels effectively, leaders must be skilled in obtaining the right information and understanding how to build and leverage relationships with relevant teams, both internal and external. Since they cannot be experts on the entire broad spectrum of potential issues impacting their responsibilities, cyber leaders must constantly adapt relationships and hone their ability to zoom in or out from details to big picture on a case-by-case basis.

8. Capacity to delegate

Cyber leaders cannot achieve their goals alone. They must know how to delegate specific tasks and, in some cases, authority, to achieve larger goals and foster team growth and development. Cyber leaders, like world leaders, must know how to allocate and distribute team responsibilities and accountability equitably, as well as evaluate team goals and output. On the other hand, both cyber and world leaders need to identify and prioritize aspects of their leadership role that cannot be delegated, such as developing relationships, performance management, strategic thinking and decision-making.

9. Consensus building and decision-making

Cybersecurity leaders regularly work in complex circumstances involving different types of professionals, in a range of specialized areas such as legal, marketing, communication and information technology. Within an organization or ecosystem, cybersecurity cannot be solved by any single actor; all entities are involved. Effective cyber leaders must be able to adapt and modulate their language and approach to various audiences and registers in order to facilitate a common understanding of complex and difficult situations, and build consensus around specific courses of action.

Like world leaders who must communicate with and between diverse groups, cyber leaders must recognize instances where specific terms or entire narratives may be a source of confusion or divergent understanding. They must serve as a translator for different stakeholder profiles to set the stage for more efficient and effective decision-making. In such a context, cyber leaders must also rely on persuasion and negotiation, often in particularly challenging environments (for example, in relation to crisis management). Successful cyber leaders must frequently build, develop and extensively practice these translating and negotiating skills, which are also fundamental for leadership on the global stage.

10. Maximizing workforce potential

Cyber leaders must stay in front of a rapid and exponentially changing technological landscape that brings both significant opportunities and vulnerabilities. To do so, they need to prioritize hiring a highly skilled workforce, improve talent retention and facilitate efficient re-skilling. To find and retain the very best talent, cyber leaders must implement policies that create more performance-based, diverse and inclusive work environments, including by implementing merit-based evaluation and reward systems based on accountability and transparency.

In other words, effective cyber leadership demands a renewed focus on meritocracy, diversity and inclusion in the cybersecurity environment. Similarly, to attract and retain the best teams, world leaders must assess diverse talent pools with multifaceted skill sets (both technical and human), venturing beyond traditional career paths for well-defined professions, and establish solid merit-based mechanisms to cultivate and promote a high-performing workforce.

Today’s cyber leaders are not only well-equipped to lead on a global scale, navigating extremely complex situations, and employing hard and soft skills to create more resilient and secure societies in terms of processes, technology and people. They can also provide much-needed inspiration for what new world leadership could and should be.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

UN human rights chief denounces grave ‘assaults’ on fundamental rights of Palestinian people

Solitary Britain sides with US aggressing Russia and chooses hard Brexit

State aid: Commission invites comments on simplified rules for State aid combined with EU support

The energy industry is changing. Are governments switched on?

Countries must up their game to reduce low birth weights, warns UN-backed report

Trump: Hostile to Europe, voids Tillerson’s “ironclad” ally pledge

The impact of COVID-19 on the life of the elderly

UN aid teams scramble to reach ‘most remote places’ cut off by Cyclone Kenneth in Mozambique

Nearly 900 children released by north-east Nigeria armed group

Trade Committee advocates lower tariffs in Western Sahara

5 post-COVID trends from Indian entrepreneurs

Rights experts call for greater protection of indigenous people during migration

Can I still send mail in the time of coronavirus?

FROM THE FIELD: Powering up health care in Sub-Saharan Africa

Capitalism’s greatest weakness? It confuses price with value

The Commission accused of tolerating corruption and fraud in taxation

4 key ways countries can finance their SDG ambitions

Digital Green Certificate is the right move but speeding up vaccination is key

UN chief praises Malaysia’s death penalty repeal as ‘major step forward’

‘Eco-shaming’ is on the rise, but does it work?

Population in crisis hit EU countries will suffer for decades

Total US cases quadruple in one week – Today’s coronavirus updates

How blockchain can manage the future electricity grid

The EU threatens to impose extra import duties on Chinese products

CLIMATE CHANGE FOCUS: The fruits of sustainability and decent work

Venezuelan crisis: MEPs reaffirm their support for Juan Guaidó

Brexit: European Commission recommends the European Council (Article 50) to endorse the agreement reached on the revised Protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland and revised Political Declaration

Banks must take bold action to fight climate change. This is how they can do it

The Collapse of the Brazilian Health Care System

UN working to prevent attacks on civilians in eastern DR Congo

Adjust UN force in Abyei to current realities, peacekeeping chief urges Security Council

Sweden has a plan to end all traffic accident deaths

The zero that every investment portfolio needs

UN ‘prioritizing needs’, ramping up aid, as Hurricane Dorian continues to batter the Bahamas

Chatterbox Rome Declaration cannot save the EU; Germany has to pay more to do that

4 fixes for equipment supply chains before the next COVID-19 waves hit

IMF: The global economy keeps growing except Eurozone

Climate finance for developing countries reached USD 71 billion in 2017

The Mobile World Congress in Shanghai will take place on 27-29 June 2018

Women in leadership: closing the gender gap in medicine

Why trust and technology go hand-in-hand

Growing a future free of terrorism: UN News special report from Cameroon

The world needs carbon-neutral flying. Here’s how to bring it one step closer

Economic sentiment and business climate stagnate in miserable euro area

Water pollution is killing millions of Indians. Here’s how technology and reliable data can change that

The two big uncertainties shaping our future

‘Water-forecasting’ and fish farms fed on waste: how innovation is driving the blue economy

Blockchain is facing a backlash. Can it survive?

Creating zero-emission aviation with hydrogen and electric power

COVID-19: Commission creates first ever rescEU stockpile of medical equipment

Taxation: Commission refers Poland to Court for failing to remove certain tax exemptions on the use of energy products by highly polluting businesses

A new roadmap for corporate climate governance

It’s time to stop talking about ethics in AI and start doing it

These countries are driving global demand for coal

Protecting workers from biological agents: how to classify SARS-CoV-2

Don’t let smoking steal life’s breathtaking moments, urges UN health agency

Major humanitarian hub in north-east Nigeria burned in attack

From diamonds to recycling: how blockchain can drive responsible and ethical businesses

Migration Crisis: how to open the borders and make way for the uprooted

UN investigates systematic sexual violence across South Sudan

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s