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Team ISA Daring to Lead with Whole Hearts and Open Minds

Thu, 20 Jun 2019

As CEO of ISA, I aspire to be a daring leader. I may fall short at times, I'm only human, but I keep trying, and I think that's the important thing. The executive team at ISA recently went on a two-day leadership retreat where we came together, collaborated, talked, laughed and learned alongside each other with an end goal of becoming better leaders. Athletic teams practice together before they compete. I considered this retreat our Spring training camp for #leadership. An office getaway where we could focus, hone our skills and become better together before facing business competitors, cyber threats and the day-to-day challenges of running a corporation.

ISA Leadership

“The courage to be vulnerable is not about winning or losing, it’s about the courage to show up when you can’t predict or control the outcome.” – Brené Brown

Our Spring training centred on #BreneBrown’s book, Dare to Lead. We all read it, absorbed her words and reflected on our own leadership practice. ISA often conducts vulnerability testing on software frameworks – it’s one of our specialties. Under the guidance of Brown’s book, we underwent a different sort of vulnerability assessment, this time applying it to ourselves and our leadership framework. We grappled with our own fears, notions of shame and vulnerabilities. I think that we all took away some powerful lessons.

“If we want people to fully show up, to bring their whole selves including their unarmored, whole hearts—so that we can innovate, solve problems, and serve people—we have to be vigilant about creating a culture in which people feel safe, seen, heard, and respected.”  – Brené Brown

Strong cybersecurity relies heavily on diversity in perception, governance, and experience. What sets each of us at ISA apart, whether it be gender, race, education and so on, strengthens our business. We need people with different backgrounds and points of view analyzing, problem-solving and innovating for us because the threat actors also have varied backgrounds and experiences. The more angles we can look at a situation from, the better our chances of successfully defending our clients. We want all members of Team ISA to feel secure in voicing their ideas. ISA benefits from our rich and varied human tapestry. At ISA, we respect each other, listen to each other, and value the strengths that each of us brings to the team.

"Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgement, and shame. It’s a shield. It’s a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from flight." – Brené Brown

The expectations that we place on ourselves, and on our employees need to be realistic. People make mistakes. No one is perfect. If perfection is what you are seeking in an employee, you’ll never be satisfied with anyone you hire because no one will live up to those expectations.

From a cybersecurity standpoint, this quotation really resonated with me. It goes back to creating a culture of cybersecurity in your company. The truth is that your CISO, or CIO or IT team – whoever is in charge of your company's cybersecurity aren’t perfect. There is no perfect when it comes to preventing cyber attacks. In the digital era, these people are all under a great deal of pressure to demonstrate quick wins while being under intense scrutiny. If your IT team feels like they will be thrown under the corporate bus in the aftermath of a breach, then you’ve created a culture of fear in your workplace. The pressure of thinking each time you walk into work that your job is on the line should a cyber incident occur will prevent your IT team from excelling.

Cybercriminals only have to be right once, your cyber team are expected to be right all the time – perfection, especially in cybersecurity, is not a tangible goal (being prepared and having a robust incident response strategy, however, is). Creating a culture of support for your security team, giving them the resources that they need and supporting them if things go sideways, is essential. Making space for employees to admit if they've made an error that could allow a cyber incident to occur is vital. If an employee is too scared to speak up, a breach could go undetected amplifying the situation. Making room for imperfection is part of creating a culture of cybersecurity as well as the mark of great leadership.

“At the end of the day, at the end of the week, at the end of my life, I want to say I contributed more than I criticized.” – Brené Brown

I am more than a CEO. I am also a husband and a father. In all aspects of life from work, to partnering, to parenting, this quotation rings true for me. I want to give more than I take, contribute more than I criticize and, as Brown said in her book, live in a world with braver, bolder leaders so that I can pass that kind of world on to my children. That world begins with each leader making a choice to lead in that way.

ISA Women in Leadership

What I’ve come to learn over my career is that the best leaders surround themselves with the best people. I feel fortunate to be surrounded by a brilliant team. Brown writes about practicing gratitude. Well, I am grateful for my team roster of all-stars consisting of Enza Alexander, Bruce White, Bryan Pollitt, Wadeed Mian, Olivia Purchase, Julie Vi, Andrea Interior, Kevin Pearson, and all the other daring leaders at ISA who step up on a daily basis and enter into the arena. Each of them, with their unique skill set and perspective, plays an integral role in the success of ISA, and each of them are daring leaders.   

ISA Men in Leadership

Like I wrote at the start, my leadership may fall short at times, I may give into fear, put up a shield, or not be open to someone when they need to be heard - but I keep trying. And, in those instances when I do inevitably fall short, I know that my leadership team at ISA is there to both rumble with me and support me.

- Kevin Dawson, CEO & President

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