Leadership Moment: A Critique
Last week, I delivered the first public version of my new keynote (title in flux, but tentatively named Stop Destroying Value: Six Leadership Disciplines). When I give a talk, I’m not following a script, so some of my comments are more off-the-cuff than others. Sometimes, I take a great concept, and say it really badly.
I was talking about how uncomfortable I get around the language of “Inspirational” Leadership; it draws too heavily on military metaphors, like “getting people to charge up a hill.” And we should remember that those people often died, and most of us aren’t in organizations where that’s a risk. It was an off-hand comment. My phrasing was probably worse than I just summarized it. After the talk, one attendee came up, and quietly said, “I saw you were in the Air Force, thank you for your service. I’m a Marine, and I liked your talk, but your comment about people dying to take a hill was really hurtful.”
The Marine was right (does that hurt to admit that a Marine was right). The idea I was trying to communicate was fine – be really careful about basing your leadership style on someone else’s especially when they’re in a very different environment than yours – but my phrasing gave little respect to the men and women of our armed forces who’ve given the last full measure of devotion in service of their country. I may or may not use that parallel again; but if I do, it’ll be much better phrased.
One Minute Pro Tip: Soliciting Feedback
Have you ever been in a room when someone (it might be you) finishes some presentation and then asks for feedback? Or asks if anyone has any questions, and the room is silent? It’s rarely that the presentation was perfect, it’s that people are caught off guard.
Before you begin, tell people that you’ll be soliciting feedback. Give them a shared document to take notes in for feedback. If you have a friendly co-conspirator in the room, tell them that it’s their job to give a piece of feedback quickly to get the conversation going. People are happy to give feedback, but context switching when surprised is hard, and the best feedback you’ll get comes when people are paying attention to what feedback they can give during your pitch.
June 14: Keynote & book signing, RVASec, Richmond, VA
June 15: SANS Executive Roundtable, The CISO’s Guide to Managing Cloud Security Risks
June 27: Fireside chat with Myrna Soto, Two Hall of Fame CISOs walk into a Zoom
June 28: Panel Moderator: C is for Change: The Evolving Role of the CISO, Cyberweek
June 29: Lightning Talk: Hacking Harry Potter: The Untold Story of Fantastical Social Engineering, BSidesTLV
July 20: Webinar, The First 91 Days of a CISO’s tenure, with Christina Shannon, KIK
Interested in having me speak at an upcoming event? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chapter Cameo: Learning
Chapter 4 of 1% Leadership is “Becoming right requires accepting that you might be wrong”
When someone tells us something different than what we know, it’s really hard as a human to accept the input. Our brain has a hard time reconciling the conflicting data point with the other data in our head (which all says something else). Learning to adopt a mindset where, whenever someone disagrees with you, you first ask yourself how you could be wrong, is essential to growth. All too often our first move is to ask how could the other person be wrong, and if we can find even one flaw in their argument, we throw it all out, and merely head on our way, happy to have found out that we were right all along.
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Leader R asks, You seem to have successfully made the transition to post-CISO life. What advice do you have for other aspiring ex-CISOs who are looking for their next opportunity?