Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Tale of Two Leaders…or Maybe Only One Leader

I’m nearly a quarter century into my recruiting career.  A couple of years ago, after being prompted by several people who were clients, candidates and personal advisers  I went out and found the best business coaching training that money could buy.  I discovered through a variety of processes and experiences that my natural giftedness and natural hard wiring aligns me very well with the profession of coaching.  

We've created and launched SecurityJobCoach.com.  We’re working on SecuityCareerCoach.com and we’re working on SecurityLeadershipCoach.com.

Each website will communicate a different level of coaching to meet the variety of professional needs technology professionals have come to me with since I started recruiting in 1990.

Putting certifications and training aside, part of what comes naturally to me is the ability to read between lines and to see what others sometimes don’t see.  What I see that separates leaders from leader hopefuls is what I want to share today.

As I delve deeper and deeper into what makes leaders great, many human traits are clearly standing out as the traits that leaders possess.  I won’t cover the entire list today but I’ll focus on one trait today and that trait is communication.  My examples come from my interactions with two separate security executives that I worked to serve simultaneously to reach the same objective.

Client 1:  Communicates Clearly and Frequently

My client isn’t yet a CISO but she’s on her way.  What will take her to the CISO role in my opinion is her ability to communicate up, down, to the side and outside of her company.  She understands relationships and importance of taking care of the people who take care of her better than most of her peers do.

When we first met in the Summer of 2012, she asked me to find the best CISO I could find for her company so she’d have a boss who could mentor her to one day become a CISO.  My experience working with this person was outstanding one year ago and today, I’m working on a search with this person again.  Same person, same outstanding experience one year later.

What has stood out to me as I interact with this person for a second time is her ability and willingness to communicate.  From time-to-time, we’ll have long and deep conversations.  This normally happens at the outset of a search when I’m in an information gathering mode.  Most of our communication is short and to the point once we've set the parameters for a search.

This client knows that a job description is just a starting point for discussion.  The opportunity I have to work directly with a hiring decision maker to ask questions and to gain an understanding of the organization’s culture, opportunities, challenges, road blocks, etc. is a conversation that must be shared before I’ll make the first recruiting call.

Whether her communication is a brief email or a brief voice mail or a significant live interactive conversation, my point of contact gets results from those around her because she communicates her expectations clearly and she communicates regularly along the way to make fine-tuning adjustments to previously stated expectations.

My contact makes me want to deliver to her because she communicates and shows respect for our mutual relationship.

Client 2: Promised to Communicate Weekly but Didn't Live Up To His Word

The other end of the spectrum is a “C” level security executive I’ve worked with in the past who clearly stated his expectations for desired results and then agreed to a regular check-in communication schedule but he failed to communicate even once according to the agreed-upon schedule.

When I approached this “C” level executive to address the gap between what he agreed to do and what he actually did, he tried to deflect the issue rather than facing his shortcoming head on. 

The person he deflected to is the CSO’s second in command.  Cut from the same cloth in that both the CSO and his second in command had first careers in government service, neither the CSO or the second in command grew up in a business where they had to learn to communicate in order to get things done.

The second in command in this case only knows how to write emails.  He never picks up the phone to speak.  The CSO doesn’t communicate like Client 1 does.  Therefore, he misses out on the opportunity to meet top of the Bell Curve candidates.

Compare and Contrast

While the two security professionals in this example have different titles and they’re positioned at different places within their respective companies, one leader demonstrates traits that cause people to follow. 

The other person, a “C” level security professional who is supposed to be a leader demonstrates traits that cause people to run away.


While today’s example compared and contrasted the behaviors of only two people, I could provide similar examples that would make this blog into a book.  There’s an idea!

Great leaders and even those who are on their way to becoming great leaders actively and deliberately communicate with purpose, speed and clarity.

Help Me Please by Sharing Answers to these Questions

  • Are you aware of people who work for a poor leader and who keep working there?  Why do you think they stay? 
  • Are you aware of people who work for an outstanding leader?  What traits make that leader outstanding?

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