Organizational Leadership and Cybersecurity Success

The fast pace of technological advancements are impacting individuals’ lives and businesses performance nowadays. On one hand, with the ongoing hype of digital transformation combined with continuous developments of tools such as machine learning, Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, cloud computing, robotics and Internet of Things; organizations are faced with unprecedented array of technologies that could push performance to higher levels and realize a potential that was not made available before.

On the other hand, increasing organizational digital interconnectivity brings a wide range of rapidly evolving cyber threats and risks for organizations. According to Gartner, due to the inability of IT security teams to manage digital risks, 60% of digital businesses will suffer a major service failure by 2020.

In the same vein, cyber-attacks, data frauds and thefts are among the top ten risks in terms of likelihood, according to the WEF global risks report 2019.

According to a PwC report surveying 3000 Business leaders in 81 countries, it was found that businesses of all sizes are “ill-prepared” to protect themselves and their customers against cybersecurity threats. Furthermore, according to a report by Cognizant that 45% of senior executives view cybersecurity as a purely IT initiative rather than a board’s top priority.

We should ask a critical question: how does the leadership of an organization affect the successful (or unsuccessful) implementation of a comprehensive cybersecurity program in an organization? Which leadership traits serves the organization’s mission efficiently and effectively in this respect? In this regards, there are two key leadership styles: transformational and transactional.

Transactional leaders are more concerned with maintaining the normal flow of the business operations and managing day-to-day operations, while transformational leaders are typically concerned with developing future strategies with the aim of taking the organization to further levels of performance. 

Though many would argue that each of the two leadership styles has its own set of benefits and unique qualities, we can argue that transformational leadership style would be best suited for organizations nowadays, especially those that aim to leverage digital and technological advancements to enhance performance while at the same time realizing the cyber risks that’s comes along and the essentiality to be as close as possible to being cyber-secure.

Not only that transformational leaders are visionaries and can craft strategies with strong emphasis on future outlook in our rapidly changing world, but they also empower their subordinates to effectively express, contribute, develop and be part of the organizational objectives towards being cyber-secure. That said, we would then see more CEOs of organizations:

  1. Empowering and involving their CISOs in discussions and planning to address and tackle cyber risks. 
  2. Central involvement of the organization’s cybersecurity team when planning to adopt a new technological solution in the organization, whether it’s a simple software or sophisticated digitized and automated production machine.

This would not only bring the CEO or the business leaders closer to the CISO and their technical cybersecurity team in order to smoothly align their strategic organizational interests, but also would aid the gradual development of an organizational culture that fosters an overall cyber-secure behavior and cyber threat awareness among all employees. However it all has to start from the top.

Mohamed ELDoh, MBA. is the Director of International Business Development at United Investment- Egypt & a Business Doctoral student at Grenoble Ecole de Management, France.

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