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

Syria: Civilians caught in crossfire, UN refugee chief urges Jordan to open its border

Miguel Arias Cañete European Commission

EU should invest more in climate and not sit back on its laurels and watch

Partner countries get €3bn in loans to prop up economies affected by pandemic

Here are five tips to make your message clear in a crowded world

Autonomous vehicles could clog city centres: a lesson from Boston

Banks launch green charter to help shipping reduce its carbon footprint

What is a ‘vaccine passport’ and will you need one the next time you travel?

Migrants, asylum seekers detained in Hungary ‘deliberately deprived of food’: UN human rights office

A new approach to scaling-up renewable power in emerging markets

Think you’re safe at home? Think again. 5 household demons to be mindful about

Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon should be free to earn a living

Migration crisis update: mutual actions and solidarity needed as anti-migrant policies thrive

End ‘cycle of violence’ in Gaza, UN deputy chief tells forum on Palestine

Macro-Financial Assistance: Europe’s way to control Ukraine?

The UK’s River Thames has come back to life – with a seal population to prove it

Commission takes further action to ensure professionals can fully benefit from the Single Market

MEPs push for high ambitions at the COP25 in Madrid

Close to 7,000 evacuated from Syrian towns after enduring nearly 3-year siege

Coronavirus could trigger a hunger pandemic – unless urgent action is taken

Intensifying Negotiations on transatlantic Data Privacy Flows: A Joint Press Statement by European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo

5 Black heroes of the environmental movement

Why digital inclusion must be at the centre of resetting education in Africa

Here’s how we can rethink the way we eat meat

Europe’s richest regions actively seek investment from China’s biggest banks

A Union that strives for more: the first 100 days

Why rich countries are seeing more poverty

Mali just took a huge step towards universal healthcare

Can Europe and the US reverse their nationalist and xenophobic drift? Is the West becoming belligerent?

On the first day of 2019, over 395,000 babies to be born worldwide: UNICEF

3 ways business leaders can build digital trust

First EU collective redress mechanism to protect consumers

FROM THE FIELD: For refugees and migrants in Europe, healthcare’s essential but a challenge to find

GSMA head urges regulators to help Europe regain leadership

EU budget: Commission helps prepare new Cohesion programmes with Regional Competitiveness Index and Eurobarometer

A breath of fresh air: How three disused industrial areas became beautiful parks

New rules to help consumers join forces to seek compensation

Eurogroup: IMF proposes Germany disposes

Launch of Pact for Youth: European Youth Forum calls for real business engagement

We need to measure innovation better. Here’s how

Internet milestone reached, as more than 50 per cent go online: UN telecoms agency

Young activists share four ways to create a more inclusive world

ILO discusses world of work response to global refugee crisis

Tougher defence tools against unfair imports to protect EU jobs and industry

The EU Commission does nothing about the food retailing oligopoly

Do the giant banks ‘tell’ Britain to choose a good soft Brexit and ‘remain’ or else…?

Is Eurozone heading towards a long stagnation?

Euronest: delivering reforms is the best way forward for EU’s Eastern Partners

Gender equality and medicine in the 21st century: an equity unachieved

How we measure stakeholder capitalism will determine our recovery

The European Union’s Balkan Double Standard

Sustainable Development Summit: ‘We must step up our efforts – now’, Guterres declares

Is there a de facto impossibility for the Brexit to kick-start?

World Migratory Bird Day highlights deadly risks of plastic pollution

Migration surge leaves children stranded, begging on Djibouti’s streets

Cross-border cooperation: the EU Interreg programme celebrates 30 years of bringing citizens closer together

2,300 migrant children in Central American ‘caravan’ need protection, UNICEF says

Bringing nuclear test ban treaty into force a ‘central pillar’ of global disarmament push, says UN chief

HPV vaccine: the silver bullet that saves women

Are we at the edge of anti-vaccination health crisis?

Wednesday’s Daily Brief: #NoTobacco Day, China’s economy, family farming, #ClimateAction

More Stings?

Advertising

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