Adaptability and the ability to evolve are core components of cybersecurity. To combat threats and mitigate risk, an organization has to make security a priority and a pillar. Managing this dynamic environment and ensuring these things are part of a company’s foundation means cybersecurity deserves a seat at the leadership table. Cybersecurity leadership is essential to any business’ pursuit of cyber resilience.
However, not every organization has provided this space. Even those with CISOs don’t necessarily bring them into the C-suite. As a result, cybersecurity doesn’t have support at the highest levels. Often, it’s due to culture or a misconception about security’s role in the enterprise. With the threat landscape only becoming vaster and more complex, it’s a pivotal time for cybersecurity leadership to step up.
Cybersecurity Leadership Must Make Risk Real
Senior leaders in most companies have an awareness of risks and threats. They see the same headlines as everyone else and likely know of peers who have been the victim of an attack. Awareness is a start, but you’ll need something more tangible than words. Your communication of this to non-technical people doesn’t have to be fear-mongering. Instead, you can discuss emerging trends that need attention and a plan.
Here are some examples.
Digital transformation and the proliferation of identities.
Your organization is likely on a digital transformation journey. These pursuits push companies forward, allowing them to be more agile, reduce costs, and improve productivity. Those are business goals from a technology strategy. However, with digital transformation comes cyber risk.
A diverse set of endpoints, identities, and access points create more vulnerabilities, giving hackers more opportunities to cause harm. Identity compromise is a favored attack mode, so you must express how this progress needs a security guide.
Attack techniques continue to rise in sophistication.
Cybercriminals are persistent and focused on the goals of infiltration and breaching. They continue evolving their toolset to deliver more realistic phishing messages in many channels to launch a ransomware attack or steal valuable data. Further complicating this is the cybercrime-as-a-service trend. Threat actors don’t have to be technically astute. They can simply hire a hacker.
This is a concerning topic and one your C-suite needs to know. They need to understand that as cybercriminal tactics evolve, your strategy must, as well, which often requires funding for headcount and/or technology.
Cybersecurity talent is scarce.
The cybersecurity workforce landscape remains challenging. The ISC 2022 Cybersecurity Workforce Study reported that there are over 3.4 million jobs unfilled in the field. As a cyber leader, you’ll get all too aware of this problem. Without the right staff, risk increases, and 80% of organizations that experienced a breach attributed it to a lack of cybersecurity talent or awareness.
Your company’s leadership needs the facts on how cybersecurity recruitment and retention impact risk and security. Making them realize how crucial this is can result in more funding for you to attract and upskill cyber professionals.
By giving people concrete examples of why cybersecurity matters, you get your seat at the table. Then you can turn to maturing the program. With that comes new challenges to keep that place.
Maturing and Modernizing Cybersecurity Requires Leadership Support
There are discussions you’ll need to have on an ongoing basis with your leadership peers. Don’t keep cybersecurity in a black box. Instead, communicate what’s really happening in a way that they’ll get. Some of those conversations should include these topics.
- Emphasize the need for automation: You can’t introduce automation into cybersecurity workflows without consensus and support. Embracing automation can deliver a high return, as it reduces manual, repetitive work, so your cyber employees can focus on more strategic work. Overall, it promotes efficiency, consistency, and productivity.
- Play offense with cybersecurity: Most C-suite members who aren’t technical think of cybersecurity as a defensive strategy. Being proactive is what will keep you in the game. With this approach, you can identify the most serious risks and map your cybersecurity strategy to them. You’ll be able to close gaps faster and stay ahead of threats.
- Make the business case for cybersecurity: There’s often a disconnect between business goals and cybersecurity. They need a connection for all leaders to understand the implications and the quantifiable impact of risk. You and your team must be able to simplify the messaging and hit the right points for the business side to consider cybersecurity as a bedrock to everything versus an afterthought.
What’s the key to all these actions you need to take? It hinges on people skills, not technical skills. A CISO isn’t a technical role, at least not anymore. Today, CISOs are risk assessors, strategy builders, people developers, and priority determiners.
Enhancing and building your people skills along with those of your staff is imperative to remain at the table. So, what people skills do CISOs need?
Cybersecurity Leadership and People Skills
Cybersecurity leaders will need a high number of soft skills to be successful at the table. Geek speak won’t work with this crowd. Continuing to work on these skills and impart their importance to your staff matters. Here are the things that will make a difference in keeping your seat.
Be a great communicator and speaker.
Communication skills are at the top of the list. You’ll need to be sincere, genuine, and honest with what you say and be an expert listener. As a strong communicator, you can engage others in a discussion that helps them learn about risks and countermeasures. Presenting findings and information to the board and C-suite requires explanations that make sense and are relevant to the audience.
Develop policies that serve the enterprise.
You are now responsible for many policies about security. When bringing these to leadership, you’ll need to do so in a way that benefits and means something to the entire organization.
Interact and persuade.
You’ll need some political skills to manage priorities and deliver recommendations. You should do so by listening first and responding with convincing arguments with proof.
Understand the business and its objectives.
As a CISO, you must ensure that what’s important is secure. Being successful with this requires you to be aware of what the big picture is for the company.
Embrace collaboration and manage conflict.
You’re making the case that cybersecurity doesn’t live in a silo and that it impacts every area of the business. As such, you have to develop deep collaboration with your leadership peers and foster within your team and their work with others. Being able to manage conflict is vital, as well, as others will have competing opinions and priorities.
Act strategically at all times.
Every plan you design needs a strategy behind it. There are often many layers to this, and you must balance the protocols of security with innovation and business goals. Your approach should also be flexible, as you’ll always need to pivot in cybersecurity.
Manage your people effectively and with transparency.
Another critical part of your soft skill toolbox is being an excellent manager for your team. Your staff executes the strategies you’re presenting to leadership. They are essential to keeping everything secure and thwarting attacks. Being open and transparent builds trust and respect. If you achieve this, it’s easier to express how your team will implement plans.
It’s not always easy to be consistent here, as cybersecurity is a high-stress environment. However, there are ways to keep yourself on the right path and instill this in others.
Ensure empathy is part of how you lead and collaborate.
Empathy in business means seeing the perspective and view of others. Organizations that lack it often have rampant mistrust and disengagement. Expressing it within your team and your collaboration with colleagues can go a long way to demonstrating the value of cybersecurity to the organization.
If you want to further your own soft skill development and that of your team, you can with the proper framework. This idea is the central theme of the Secure Methodology™. It’s a seven-step process for encouraging and developing people skills.
How the Secure Methodology Helps You Keep Your Seat
In seven phases, you can improve how you interact and communicate. It’s important to have the skills and build them in others. If your cyber team operates in this way, all the things you need to do as a leader become easier.
Each step has specific lessons and exercises that focus on communication, collaboration, change, growth, motivation, and transparency. It’s a framework designed for technical people to transform how they behave and react to be more positive, inclusive, and aware. There’s also an element of continuous improvement. The evolution of yourself and your team propels you forward with less friction, animosity, posturing, and strain.
The Secure Methodology is something that can support cybersecurity and the whole enterprise. Its pillars promote a healthy culture so that innovation and security can walk parallel. This is really important to other leaders who often think security is the enemy of innovation.