As security professionals during routine activities we are faced with a vast number of actions every day. Let’s take a step back to basics and explore what effective leadership during a protective operation actually means.
Have a good, simple plan
One of the most important and often neglected points about operational planning is that it should give you a platform from which to adapt and change things. Put together the best plan you can but try to avoid falling in love with it, and then rigidly forcing it onto a situation that has already changed. A good plan should fit the situation, not the other way around. As soon as you take into account that the reality in the field will almost always differ from expectations and that original plans will often have to be modified, you should realize that plans must be simple. If a plan is too complex, it will be very difficult to tweak and adjust it on the fly. You might feel fine with it, but the plan is not just for you. You have a whole security team to lead. If they already have to deal with a complex plan, it’s very likely you will lose them as soon as you start making adjustments to it. A good plan is more of a platform than a script. Keep it super simple! (K.I.S.S).
Be flexible during the execution phase
When the facts on the ground start changing, your plan should adjust accordingly. This does not mean that you should immediately abandon your plan as soon as things change. The realities in the field have a funny way of toying with prior expectations. Unfortunately, Mike Tyson’s quote, “Everyone has a plan till they get punched in the face” holds very true. Of course you will not get punched every time you go out into the field, but the likelihood of it is very high and your plan should reflect that. Good security leaders have a flexible mindset and the best leaders I have seen not only know how to roll with the punches, but actually enjoy rolling with them.
Take care of your team
Many professionals miss the point that leadership is a relationship and like any other is a two-way street. Team members do work for their leader, but a leader also works for his/her team members. In many ways a leader needs his/her subordinates more they need him/her. You could be a fantastic security operator but your leadership skills are not judged by how well you operate-they are judged by how well your team members operate. In a weird kind of way, your reputation as a leader is “held hostage’ by your subordinates. Never forget how much you need them and how much they deserve for constantly backing you up. Take care of your team and treat them well. Most people think that a security service provider only needs to take care of their client. When you take care of your team it gets noticed by clients and the teams tend to perform better because of this. So, once again, take very good care of your team!
Motivate your team
A common security leadership mistake we have seen over the years is the “my way or the highway” style of personnel management. This might look like a solid no-nonsense type of leadership, but honestly it is not really sustainable. All or nothing is just too simple-and leaders who try to tell you that this is just their style, that they don’t babysit or hold hands, are actually telling you that they don’t really know how to properly lead. Anyone can set rules and then kick out subordinates who deviate-a machine could do that. Leadership is about motivating people and getting them to willingly follow on to the mission. It is not always simple and it’s not hand-holding either-It’s just good leadership.
Handle weak team members in a positive way
Almost any security leader has to face the fact that will not always going to have an A- team under him/her, and that he/she cannot always just get rid of weaker team members. The best way to handle underperforming security operators is to pull them aside, tell them how important they are to the mission, and how you personally need them to deploy the top-notch skill-set you know they have. If you don’t feel the operator has a good skill-set, this kind of encouragement tends to put some wind behind people’s sails. They might still be weak, but at least they will try harder and make it easier for you to accomplish the mission. Does this type of motivation always work? Of course not. And there might eventually be a need to take stricter measures with a weak team member, but reserve those unfortunate options for later… after you have tried the positive approach. Remember: Leadership is mostly about guiding and motivating not reprimanding and firing.
If you can’t control yourself how will you control, or lead others? Think of it from their perspective-why would a subordinate want to follow someone who can’t control themselves? The biggest problem in maintaining self-control is that you often don’t realize when and how you tend to lose it. The key to fixing this is to develop good self-awareness and empathy. Try to look at yourself from the outside. How do you appear to others? How are you coming across? How is your tone of voice affecting the people you are addressing? Try to notice how fast and loud you are talking. Notice the expression you have on your face. Self -awareness is the key.
Slow down and be calm
Many operatives tend to forget how important this is, especially during stressful crunch-times. A calmer disposition has two important functions: First, it will help you make better decisions. Even when everything is erupting around you and you are about to get tackled, calm down, look around and make a decision. The second function has to do with the above mentioned self-reflection thing. Regardless of whether you personally can handle a frenzied pace of running and yelling orders, how do you think you come across to your team and clients when you do this? The line between setting a good example and coming across as confused and frantic, is quite thin and easily crossed…It is very important for the leader to instill calm and control and it starts with calming and controlling yourself first. So take a few deep breaths and slow down. Look around, assess the situation and make better decisions. Your team and your client will be happy about it. Be professional!
© 2016 J.D & Associates