As cybersecurity threats grow across all global business sectors, it’s more important than ever that we recruit and retain talented people—and ensure that they can contribute fully and develop their skills to prevent and fight the attacks we will surely face.

It requires strong leadership. Here are a few key things I emphasize in leading my team every day: 

  • Removing roadblocks. For my team, I set the strategy and together we set the implementation plan. I point them in the right direction toward their goals and let them move forward. But it’s not uncommon to find systems and processes that are too complex and that hinder colleagues’ ability to do their important work. My role, then, is to either find ways to overcome roadblocks or to pursue other ways to accomplish the objectives.
  • Guiding skill expansion and career development. Given the cybersecurity industry’s talent shortage, we must grow another generation of colleagues and help them pursue new knowledge and skills. 

Each year, I meet with my direct reports to discuss goals and focus on professional development. My favorite question is, “What do you want to do when you grow up?”

By understanding what team members want, I can help guide them through a certification, more schooling, or stretch assignments. In the cyber program, I do require people to have a baseline cyber certification, plus certification in what they do daily, to attain credibility as well as knowledge.

But I also see it as my job to get my team members out of their comfort zones. That means developing the breadth of their knowledge, not just the depth. With breadth, they are positioned to one day apply for a job like mine if it’s their desired career path.

Or maybe they’d prefer to be a technical expert in one cybersecurity area, rather than moving up to managerial positions. In that case, we’re working to provide them ways to increase their salary ranges and experience by creating, for example, a fellowship program to continue to keep them engaged and build their skills.

  • Caring is at the root of all leadership skills, in my opinion. Leadership is about creating paths that are tailored to what team members want—and that dovetail with what the company needs. How do I do it? By listening, having compassion and empathy as well as showing interest in their wellbeing. 

In a highly competitive field, a few important ways to retain people include building a great environment, flexibility in remote work, autonomy, and opportunities to tackle stretch projects. 

Ultimately, the smart colleagues we hire want to contribute. They want to be respected, engaged with their teams, to be comfortable collaborating, and to know they can safely speak up with leaders who will listen. Every day.