• United States



by CSO Staff

What Type of Security Leader Are You?

Dec 01, 20047 mins
IT LeadershipSecurity

Security leaders, take this quiz to find out if they love you or loathe you

We tend to lump others into stereotypical roles, sometimes basing our judgment on relatively few data points. Take this quiz to see how others perceive your leadership style. The scoring guide at the end will provide a few practical pointers on how to help others perceive you as well-rounded, not one-dimensional. No peeking until you’ve circled your answers. (Nobody’s going to take you seriously if you’re perceived as a cheater.)

1 After a three-cocktail lunch, a top salesperson loses her laptop, full of proprietary customer lists, at a conference attended by several competitors. What do you do?

a) Immediately demand that the sales manager make an example of the employee by firing her.

b) Sit down with the sales manager and look at the employee’s past record, which is mostly good. Give her a new laptop and a little lecture.

c) Set up a committee to look at security policies, procedures and employee education efforts.

d) Install encryption on all company laptops, using this incident as your rationale. Let the sales manager decide what to do about the employee.

2 You write up a quick Web-surfing policy reminder e-mail to internal staff. Your style is…

a) ALL CAPS, clear and concise

b) Formal punctuation, grammar, signed with full name and title

c) Polite and to the point; punctuation optional

d) A leadoff joke and a quote from Plato

3 It’s Monday morning. You show up at work in…

a) Giorgio Armanidouble-breasted to establish credibility

b) Tommy Hilfigersnappy casual to establish approachability

c) Variabledepending on number and type of meetings scheduled

d) Parrotheada fun workplace gets people jazzed

4 Books/authors you’re most likely to read:

a) George Patton, Rudy Giuliani, Jack Welch

b) Pulitzer Prize winners in history and biography, case studies on business mergers

c) The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Who Moved My Cheese?

d) Martin Luther King Jr., Deepak Chopra

5 Your investigations team has just completed the background check of a new employee, and the results are not good. The employee didn’t list two jobs he briefly held in the last year and fudged his current salary. The hiring manager wants to look the other way, but you have a bad feeling. You decide…

a) You can’t ignore your gut. Insist that the person not be hired under any condition.

b) To coach the hiring manager on how to discuss these concerns with the individual, and design a plan to bring the person on board on a conditional basis.

c) To go by the book. What, specifically, does your policy state is unacceptable, and do any of these offenses meet that criteria? Later, you can review whether these policies are still appropriate.

d) To look for a new job. Why are you doing background investigations anyway, if no one cares about the results? It’s time for you to find a job where they respect security.

6 Leader you most admire on this list:

a) Napoléon Bonaparte

b) Abraham Lincoln

c) Eleanor Roosevelt

d) Joan of Arc

7 When the CEO drops by (once every other year), he finds your office…

a) Army-inspection spotless

b) Wallpapered with org charts and contact lists

c) Unadorned

d) Full of inspirational books and colorful gadgets

8 Posted on your office door is…

d) Notice of today’s DHS alert color

a) Dilbert cartoon making fun of the boss

c) Dilbert cartoon making fun of work life in general

b) Dilbert cartoon making fun of security

9 You’re at an all-day offsite with other executives at a local conference center. Right before lunch, the place is swarmed with cops and ambulances; apparently, gunshots were heard coming from a room upstairs, and you are told there could be a hostage situation. The meeting leader says she talked to the hotel manager, who assured her that everything on the first floor was fine, but now everyone is nervous. You:

a) Take controlthis is a security job, not the job of a conference organizer. Make an executive decision to move the meeting back to the office, which is safer and less distracting.

b) Suggest that the team have lunch at a local restaurant instead of in the conference center. There, you can talk about whether to go back for the rest of the day.

c) Tell everyone to stay calm and eat lunch. You’ll go out and evaluate the situation, then come back with some options.

d) Reassure everyone that the police will take care of things and evacuate the conference center if it’s required.

10 People most often compliment you as:

a) Decisive

b) A good listener

c) Efficient

d) Creative

11 You find a genie lamp in the CFO’s office. Your first wish is for…

a) More staff accountability

b) More boardroom access

c) More security personnel

d) More employee awareness resources

12 When people are angry at you, they most often use words like:

a) Bull-headed (if you hear them say anything)

b) Wishy-washy

c) Boring

d) Wacky


Very simple: Add up your responses by letter. If you have a preponderance in one category (more B answers than anything else, for example), you’re quite likely perceived as a category B leader. Yes, they’re generalizations. We know that your style for writing e-mails does not automatically make you a Negotiator or an Autocrat. You can combat those generalized perceptions by consciously choosing to address future situations in different styles.

A) The Autocrat

Examples: Napoléon Bonaparte, Rudy Giuliani

Perceived Strengths: Particularly effective in a crisis, giving those around you a greater sense of certainty and direction. Some people will love this style of leadership, praising it as decisive and efficient.

Perceived Weaknesses: In the course of everyday business, this style can rub people the wrong way. If they feel that they’re only around to execute your orders, the group’s creativity will be dulled. Behind-your-back words include inflexible, dogmatic.

Action Plan: Pick some specific (and not inconsequential) battles, in which you’ll make a clear effort to solicit input from many sources, and practice consensus-style decision making.

B) The Negotiator

Examples: Abraham Lincoln, Jimmy Carter

Perceived Strengths: Brings multiple parties together despite different agendas. Makes people feel that their input counts. Consensus builder, good listener.

Perceived Weaknesses: Those same parties will still be at loggerheads from time to time; the negotiator may not inspire confidence among those parties that a final decision will be rendered in a timely manner. Behind-your-back words include wishy-washy, pushover.

Action Plan: Identify two or three situations within your authority where discussions are dragging out; pick a course of action and communicate that you’ve made a final decision based on all input.

C) The Pragmatist

Examples: Roald Amundsen, Eleanor Roosevelt

Perceived Strengths: Pragmatists are doers who can accomplish a great deal through steady work, and compromise when necessary. Admired for productivity, efficiency, levelheadedness.

Perceived Weaknesses: Not inspiring; may not be aware of what gets others excited about their work. Behind-your-back words include unimaginative, dull, overly tactical.

Action Plan: Read up on leaders recognized for inspiring passion in others. Getting your staff and employees creatively engaged will accomplish more in the long run.

D) The Visionary

Examples: Joan of Arc, Thomas Edison, Mohandas Gandhi

Perceived Strengths: Inspirational and creative.

Perceived Weaknesses: Opposite of the Pragmatistmay be regarded as too hands-off or as leaving “the real work” to others.

Behind-your-back words include lacking common sense, head-in-the-clouds, too strategic.

Action Plan: Roll up your sleeves; mix your strategic agenda with concrete tasks. Lead staff to greater productivity through example.