My experience is Washington/Federal government-centric. That said, I think my comments are at least partially applicable across the country and will grow more so in the near future.  Companies and agencies are looking for leaders that can understand and participate in cybersecurity and general cyber activity discussions. Opportunities will come to those with credible cyber chops.

In the same way we looked for people in the past who were proficient in cross cultural communications, or in other managerial skills (think of the success of Lean Six Sigma), cyber is a growing leadership essential. Individuals who have shown they have a command of the key concepts, challenges and solutions for cyber are being sought for leadership jobs in the DC area.

This is not a wholesale move to engineers taking over the world. Those with hard skills in cyber will indeed become more important to the process as they learn to articulate their knowledge to others, but they will still not be the leaders. That may come in the future (as Alan Pallor opined at a recent cyber event at the Willard Hotel), but not yet.

What is happening is a realization that cyber understanding and knowledge is now a critical leadership skill. IT is no longer an ancillary support function. It is an absolutely essential operation aspect of everything a modern organization does. If a leader (be they in the military, government or a corporate C-Suite) leaves cyber solely to their IT staff, they will not hold their leadership position for very long. In fact, they will be less likely to get the interview for the position in the first place.

I would encourage all aspiring leaders in the public sector, and the private sector industries that support it, to aggressively seek out education and knowledge in the cyber realm. You must know the threats that face us, you must know the various methods that can be used to address shortcomings, and you must be conversant in all of these issues.  Leadership programs need to add these things into their curricula, and it better be the real deal, not just cosmetic (much as Homeland Security has been post-9/11), or you will be failing your students.

Leaders do not necessarily have to have the hard engineering skills folks, but being “blissfully ignorant” of technology and its effects is no longer acceptable.

Welcome to the twenty-first century, leaders: Understand cyber or give up the con.

Dr. Steven Bucci is director of the Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation. He was previously a lead consultant to IBM on cyber security policy. Bucci’s military and government service make him a recognized expert in the interagency process and defense of U.S. interests, particularly with regard to critical infrastructure and what he calls the productive interplay of government and the private sector. Read More
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