A leader leads a team up a rugged mountain slope.

What Makes A Good Cyber Leader And Role Model?

Navigating the evolving challenges and the diversifying and intensifying cyber threat landscape of today cannot be done without strong, effective leadership. Cyber threats are becoming more commonplace and sophisticated, with many attacks involving the use of AI and automation, which is why organisations can ill afford to fall behind in their cybersecurity strategies.

Safeguarding consumer, client, and stakeholder data is becoming increasingly difficult, and organisations need capable and driven leaders to influence how they lead by example and navigate this complex and rapidly evolving field.

It’s been said a thousand times, but there is a huge difference between being a cybersecurity manager and a leader. One delegates responsibilities and manages their team, while the other has the potential to be an influential role model and someone who steers the company in the right direction as far as their cybersecurity operations are concerned.

C-suite executives, Executive Assistants (EAs) or Chiefs of Staff (COSs) are just a few examples of people in an organisation who can be capable managers and leaders in equal measure. However, this hybrid is not exclusively reserved for people at the top. Anyone in a position of influence can use effective management and leadership to drive a culture of continuous improvement, improve cyber resilience, and encourage broader security awareness, all with the end goal of reducing an organisation’s attack surface and threat exposure.

So how can cyber managers demonstrate exceptional leadership in their organisation? This article will explore the key attributes that distinguish effective leaders in fortifying business infrastructure, which will empower you to determine how best to convey your qualities in the field.

Vision and Strategic Thinking

Effective cyber leaders possess a clear vision for their business’ security posture and formulate strategies at various touchpoints to achieve that vision and, ideally, exceed expectations. 

Cyber-aware individuals rightfully recognise that cyber threats are constantly evolving in severity, frequency, and impetus. They also realise that an organisation’s incumbent defences cannot always mitigate and contain these threats, should a malicious actor weave their way into their systems or networks (something which is incredibly likely based on recent trends). A good leader recognises that it’s better to be proactive rather than reactive and that their teams must be equipped to anticipate and respond to emerging risks.

These leaders stay informed about new threats, trends, and defence mechanisms, collaborate with stakeholders and CEOs to develop strong strategies aligned with organisational goals and empower their teams to learn, train, upskill, and adapt with confidence. All of these are demonstrative of a strategic and forward-thinking approach.

Dedication to Continuous Improvement

Complacency is ill-advised in any cybersecurity context, and effective cyber leaders rightfully recognise that security is an ongoing operation, not a one-and-done exercise. 

Effective and driven leaders seek opportunities for improvement and continuous learning and development (L&D) at every opportunity. This includes (but is not limited to):

  • Regularly reviewing and updating security policies and procedures in the wake of emerging attack vectors.
  • Upgrading and patching technologies to address new threats and vulnerabilities.
  • Vetting new solutions and software as a means of strengthening incumbent infrastructure.
  • Encouraging team members to pursue professional cybersecurity development opportunities, such as certifications, training, courses, and expos.
  • Initiating regular risk assessments (in-house or via a third party) and implementing measures based on identified vulnerabilities and practical advice.
  • Leveraging solutions like Phishing Tackle’s automated security awareness training and simulated phishing campaigns to continually educate and test employees.

Leaders who make continuous development a priority empower their teams to adopt a more flexible, resilient, and collaborative environment.

Mentorship and Coaching

Exceptional cyber leaders understand the value of nurturing cybersecurity talent and investing in the growth of their teams, however many they number. By proving themselves to be effective mentors and coaches, they can help team members discover areas for improvement, and develop the skills and knowledge they need to excel in their roles and thus help the wider security function. This is particularly useful if you want to help certain team members upskill and earn cybersecurity certifications such as CISSP, CISA, Security+ and others.

Regular feedback, confidential one-to-one meetings, guidance, and tailored support to team members are crucial. Wider team consultations will also go a long way in communicating new goals and objectives, but bespoke coaching for individual team members will help them identify opportunities for professional growth. 

Through effective mentorship and coaching, cyber leaders cultivate a highly skilled, motivated, and loyal workforce capable of addressing even the most complex security challenges.

Transparency and Open Communication

Effective cyber leaders understand that transparency and open dialogue are integral across an organisation. If these are not present, then they need to be encouraged and brought to the forefront of all cybersecurity tasks, where information can be shared freely, concerns can be addressed promptly, and collaboration is emphasised. 

Encourage team members to voice concerns and suggestions without fear of repercussions, establish clear escalation and reporting procedures, implement strict incident response steps, and promote cross-functional information sharing between teams.

Resilience and Crisis Management

Even with enterprise-wide detection and response procedures in place, cyber incidents can still occur. People are invariably the first line of defence in any security operation, but in the face of adversity, strong leadership is a vital piece of the crisis management puzzle. 

Strong leaders can – knowingly and unknowingly – minimise the impact on the business by maintaining composure during emergencies and demonstrating level-headedness when incidents are ongoing.

Effective cyber leaders communicate transparently with stakeholders and executives, providing unambiguous and timely updates, reassurance, and peace of mind that the incident has been handled in line with organisational policies and defined practices.

It’s clear to see that effective leadership is an irreplaceable quality in the ever-changing world of cybersecurity. Good cyber leaders don’t necessarily have to possess full knowledge of intricate, technical cybersecurity processes, nor do they have to hold relevant industry accreditation. They have to, however, demonstrate the qualities above and recognise that their strategies and policies influence the cyber professionals working on the ground and help them perform their tasks with greater confidence, reassurance, and to a higher standard.

Cyber leaders and role models are exemplars of strategic thinking and interpersonal strength. However, as threats continue to grow and materialise in numerous ways nowadays, technical expertise and awareness of how to apply preventative measures in a realistic context can be invaluable. That’s where Phishing Tackle’s simulated phishing campaigns and training tools can augment these efforts, ensuring employees (regardless of seniority) remain vigilant and well-prepared to identify and respond to potential threats. 

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