New Security Executives: Learn How to Avoid The 5 Most Common Pitfalls as a New Security Leader

New Security Executives: Learn How to Avoid The 5 Most Common Pitfalls as a New Security Leader

January 13, 2021 | David Lammert – Pinnacle Placements Executive Search Firm


If you’re a new security management executive, you may be both excited and a bit apprehensive about your new role.


Chances are you’re eager for your role, but you may have a natural apprehension about your ability to excel at it.


As a security executive, you’re expected to build a legacy of considerable success because of your special collection of personal attributes and professional skills – after all, that’s why you were hired!


Gaining an awareness of the most common hurdles that new security leaders fail to clear will help you know what to evade. In my history of discussing career success and setbacks with a wide variety of security executives: Here are five pitfalls most first-time security management executives encounter.


  1. Failing to Take Time to Establish & Build Trust with Your Team

When those being led feel trusted by their leader, they’re not only happier but more likely to put in the extra effort to make team goals a success. Yes, it can take time to schedule one-on-one meetings with each person who directly reports to you, but it is a worthy investment that will pay off.


Ask your staff about their goals and about particular skills they want to develop or improve. You may be able to assign certain duties that will help them build their skills and develop the experience they desire. Besides, meeting with team members to develop rapport lets you practice and demonstrate transparency and soft skills, which will go a long way toward putting team members at ease.


  1. Not Communicating the “Why” Behind What You Do

Simply doing what your predecessor did might be the easy and safe option, but it’s not ideal and it is probably not what you were hired to do. You need to understand and communicate the “why” behind what you do. Having a vision for your leadership requires understanding why you do what you do and being able to tell and sell that story to your team, so the vision becomes reality.


If the vision is clear to you and you communicate it properly, it will be contagious to those who report to you. Though team members don’t have to know the granular details, make sure you yourself are clear about where you want to be in five years, three years, one year, this quarter, and this week.


  1. Avoiding the Elephant in the Room Denial of Problems and Avoidance of Difficult Conversations

Avoiding complex problems, conflict or uncomfortable conversations will not make them go away. Tackling problems head-on is hard, but it’s crucial. Allowing issues to fester will often lead to larger problems with far greater consequences.


Difficult conversations may take place between you and your peers, you, and your superiors, or you and your security team members. While you should make sure you have all the facts gathered, keep in mind the longer you wait to address an issue, the more complex it will become. As a security professional and management executive, you should expect to call upon your conflict resolution skills. The better you’re able to do this, the better off you and your team will be.


  1. Trying to Do Everything Yourself

As a security management executive, you will have many responsibilities, you simply can’t do all of it by yourself. If you haven’t already, make sure you assemble an informal circle of people you can turn to as advisors and mentors, and don’t be afraid to delegate.


Knowing how and when to delegate is one of your most important leadership skills, and like any other skill, it gets better with practice. Keep in mind, delegation is much more than simply “telling people what to do.” To be effective, delegation empowers others and elicits the best of them – given they understand what you’re asking them to do and why you’re asking it.


  1. Relying Solely on What Got You to Your Current Position

You may feel as if you have found the “Holy Grail” when you take your first executive-level security management position but be aware that there is always a learning curve, and that sometimes it’s steep. Many new security leaders have made the mistake of thinking that what got them to the executive suite is enough to make them successful as an executive, but this isn’t so. Your success isn’t that simple. It relies on much more than that.


If you haven’t already, make sure you assemble an informal circle of people you can turn to as advisors and mentors. They should be an external network of trusted people from a cross-section of backgrounds and levels of experience that can help you when you need to turn to people for business, security management, and leadership advice. They would be in addition to your own network of internal colleagues and peers on the job. This external network can provide perspective, knowledge and advice detached from emotional entanglements. Make sure you give these advisors and mentors the green light to speak freely and not tell you what they think you want to hear. You might also consider hiring a professional coach you can turn to when occasions arise where you might need them.



Mentors, advisors, and executive coaches can be valuable resources in helping new security executives transition to their new role and help them understand and map out which skills they need to develop and what shortcomings they need to shore-up to thrive in their new role. You must remember, yes, your past successes matter, however, this is not the time to rest on them.


In my work with security management and leadership executives in my experience as an executive recruiter & search consultant, I have seen and heard of many of the common mistakes new security executives make. However, if you remain open-minded and commit to being self-aware and continuous professional development, you can and likely will build a remarkably successful tenure as a security professional and executive leader.


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