Modern CISOs: 4 Habits Of Highly Effective Leaders

What makes the modern CISO effective? Here are 4 keys to leadership for today’s increasingly complex security landscape.

With the fast-evolving IT security landscape come ever-changing expectations for Chief Information Security Officers. Our idea of the “modern CISO” transforms year to year, and in the era of remote work, amid a rise in spear phishing and other cyber-criminal tactics targeting employee data, leaders are expected to be more connected and proactive than ever.

Yet there’s never been a more fruitful time to be a part of information security leadership. Matt Hancocks for Gartner’s CIO Leadership initiative reports that as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, leaders in infosec and business have developed stronger and more essential relationships, resulting in “60% to 70% more requests for higher-value and more strategic IT” depending on the sector—not to mention an overall 6.9% increase in funding.

But what can CISOs do to rise to an occasion that’s never the same twice? Like the business of IT security, we can’t perfectly predict what the job description will entail even a year from now. However, there are several keys to modern CISO leadership in today’s increasingly complex business landscape.

1. Be A Strategic Influencer

Networking is a core strategy across nearly every industry. In IT, however, it’s common for the human element to take a back seat. And yet, collegial connections are actually central to organization-wide impact. According to Hancocks, effective and successful CISOs take internal relationships to the next level—making connections to collaborate on risk management, influencing decisions on the enterprise level, and evolving their behavior and beliefs, as well as relational and creative skills. And when CISOs engage others in formulating plans for data protection, security protocols, and risk mitigation, they have the opportunity to push IT security as a priority organization-wide.

The CIO Leadership initiative also notes that honing your social skills has another strategic advantage—supporting employees and teams with effective communication. By having established relationships with coworkers, collaborators, and clients, CISOs streamline organization and communication in ways that foster a more security-conscious work culture.

2. Prioritize Foresight In Risk Management

In the CISO seat, risk management is the name of the game. But that doesn’t just mean keeping an eye on the newest threats to your IT security structures—it also means surveying new trends and technologies in security, especially if your organization is keeping up with industry standards.

With any new priority in the IT security world comes a slew of new risks and opportunities for cybercriminals to slip through the cracks. Gartner’s Information Risk Research Team notes that efficient CISOs will know how to “[position] risk management as an accelerator of emerging technology adoption,” while evaluating those technologies for potential risks, and adapting broader mitigation strategies accordingly.

This could mean anything from doing your research on new organization-wide software and applications to monitoring methods of data storage and transfer in your field, and building risk response and recovery plans accordingly. Remember—cyber-risks don’t always come knocking at your front door. Endpoint security and supply chains should be major points of consideration in any solid risk strategy.

3. Build A Diversified Workforce

Highly effective CISOs depend upon highly effective teams. With IT security experiencing exponential hiring growth, Gartner’s initiative for Security and Risk Management Leaders highlights bringing a new lineup of experts and budding IT security professionals on board as high-priority.

Why? Apart from managing the skills gap, a problem exacerbated by the demand for prior experience and certification in IT security positions, developing a spectrum of “diverse competencies” will equip your team all the better for addressing the expanding variety of cyber-threats. Bringing in and creatively managing an arsenal of talent also opens up your team to innovative new perspectives on risk management and data protection—an invaluable internal resource to apply to a malleable threat landscape.

4. Keep A Work-Life Balance

Although this is a decidedly less business-oriented point, the Information Risk Research Team identifies the most effective CISOs as “stress navigators,” able to “diligently manage their time by keeping firm boundaries between work/nonwork and make time for personal development.”

Whether that’s taking a break or prioritizing new projects, efficient stress management produces significant benefits in all aspects of life and work. The Information Risk Research Team emphasizes how CISOs and teams as a whole will benefit from a strong support network—bringing it full circle to the importance of making friends and influencing people. Healthy work culture focuses on the stressors within one’s control and emphasizes separating work from life, which, in the era of remote work, is more relevant than ever.

Work Smarter

Along with wise leadership, CISOs also need to ensure they’re on top of their environment’s total risk posture, which is revealed by our comprehensive IT Risk Assessment and IT Security Assessment, followed by customized steps for quick remediation.

CISOs also need to bear in mind that an organization’s biggest vulnerability is often the one that goes egregiously unremediated: their own employees. This is where our Social Engineering Evaluation is most valuable, as it’s designed using the same methods of today’s cyber-criminals, to raise your workforce’s security awareness with an expansive, handcrafted simulation developed by our seasoned team of in-house security experts.

Whether you’re in leadership or a member of the IT team, take a committed partner in prioritizing your security. Contact us to learn about affordable options for your organization!