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ISD 2005: Five strategies security managers can't afford to ignore

Anne Saita

CHICAGO -- Creative security leaders envision ideas beyond the conventional and support those who stand behind them. Such an approach -- moving beyond hard technical skills and developing emotional intelligence -- will spur innovation and benefit the organization.

"It's important to understand the essence of what you do," Richard Thieme, motivational speaker and author of Islands in the Clickstream, offered during a keynote at this week's Information

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Security Decisions conference in Chicago. Leadership, he maintained, requires periodic introspection and focus on the "soft stuff," rather than just an enhanced set of job skills.

In his unconventional approach to security leadership, Thieme emphasized how innovation, communication and affirmation -- especially during times of radical change -- can move an organization forward. All thought leaders, he reminded the crowd, were at one time viewed as unorthodox and maybe even insane until the culture shifted to their vantage point.

The key to becoming such a leader is in understanding the rules and then realizing where they can and need to be broken. He used the example of a boat, in which the crew keeps the vessel on course. "Leadership," he contended, "consists of seeing where the water goes."

Some strategies Thieme offered to reach that intellectual potential, regardless of your title or organizational structure, involve asking the following:

1. What tools do you use to evaluate your "intentionality"? What are you missing personally and professionally? Thieme describes this process as essentially a personal inventory that ultimately provides clarity of purpose. "We get the results in work and in life that we intend to get," he explained.

2. What unofficial channels have you created to accomplish tasks that are inhibited by the organizational culture or structure? This may involve skunkworks, a small group of people who work on a project, sometimes in secret, that falls outside the usual rules and management constraints.

3. What structures for feedback and accountability have you created for yourself? Here Thieme stressed the importance of communication, affirmation and lifelong learning to gain and maintain resources. "The more authority you exercise in an organization, the more support you need from others within that organization," he stressed.

4. What strange ideas do you have that may run counter to popular thought? "All great truths began as blasphemy," Thieme said. Creative leaders develop alternative approaches to a problem and realize their breakthroughs may initially be seen as crazy before becoming conventional.

5. Have you done anything to evaluate, measure or enhance your ability to communicate effectively? "Learn you cannot 'over-communicate' because people don't always get it the first time…or the second, or third, or fourth, or fifth," he said.

By devoting time to understanding your own motivations and how they fit within the organization, action can be achieved. Important, Thieme noted, is for creative leaders show true appreciation to those who support their vision. "If you mean it and you give a damn about the people, they have bonded to you for life."


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