Among the 18 tracks running at this year’s (ISC)2 Security Congress was Personal & Career Development. Folks, let me tell you, the speakers really nailed it. Another experienced RSA Conference speaker, Andrew Hay, COO, Lares, took a small step outside of his comfort zone and focused not so much on infosec but on how to be an inspirational coach within the industry.

“Security is full of heavy-handed dictators that demand strict and uncompromising adherence with the organization’s security program,” Hay said, comparing industry leaders to autocratic sports coaches who bark out orders and throw barbs in an effort to motivate. Even in amateur and professional sports, it’s arguably not the best approach to coaching, but Hay said it’s definitely not best practice for leading an entire organization. “This outdated model may not be the best way to communicate security goals and objectives to stakeholders.”

Enter the athlete-centric coaching style Hay said is commonly seen in rugby and soccer. “Coaches who use this style encourage players to voice their opinions and thoughts in order to make the best decisions, which usually results in a stronger relationship with the team as well as a closer inter-team bond.”

Focusing less on telling the team members what to do, inspirational coaches establish objectives and seek to understand how they can help the team succeed. One of the main takeaways Hay hoped attendees took with them was an appreciation for the fact that there are different ways to instruct or to help and guide the people you work with.

Exploring a different coaching style only benefits you as a leader by adding another tool to your tool belt. “Coaches need to be able to use a range of styles and to select the most appropriate for the given participant, context, purpose. Also, there is a time to tell and a time to show. Showing may feel like a big time-suck or an inefficient use of your time, but some people learn differently,” Hay said.

Putting the emphasis on winning personally and professionally was also a theme that rang through in Sandy Silk’s talk, From Surviving to Thriving as a Woman in Cybersecurity. Silk, a Cyber Risk & Resilience Consulting and Director of Security, Information Consulting at Harvard University, engaged the audience by first showing her own vulnerability.

While the goal of her session was to help participants emerge as a confident leader by overcoming negative self-talk, Silk admitted, “I have experienced this. I always experience negative self-talk. I have thought to myself, ‘If you make a mistake you’ve represented all women everywhere.’”

Part of good leadership requires looking in the mirror and seeing your potential, Silk said, complimented by the image of a kitten looking into the mirror to see a lion staring back at her. So many women, and human beings in general, suffer from imposter syndrome, though. Rather than seeing their strengths, many people—Silk included—are instead the lion who looks in the mirror and sees a little kitten.

“What holds me back?” she asked. “I still remember my first-grade report card when my teacher said Sandy is little Miss Chatter Box or a little Bossy Boots. There’s no Mr. Chatter Box and no Mr. Bossy Boots, and these were not positive things.”

Working with an executive coach was a turning point for Silk, who was encouraged to find answers to the questions of why she struggled at work and consider ways to reframe the narrative.

“When you experience a bad situation, your body remembers the emotional response. We get pre-mad, we imagine conflicts, and plan what we are going to say, all of which triggers the adrenaline. The body says it will protect, so a freeze takes over and we procrastinate or avoid or evade situations and use coping mechanisms for self-comfort,” Silk said.

Affirming the power of inspirational coaches that Hay had talked about, Silk credited her executive coach for helping her identify the signs of negative self-talk and redirect those thoughts in order to focus on being present and honing in on the connections and influence that will enable people to thrive.

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