The Future of Leadership in Cyberspace

by Carl W. Hunt, Walter E. Natemeyer[1] and Chuck Hunt

This post[2] marks the first of several that lay out the case for what we are calling Adaptive Leadership and Power for Secure Cyberspace Operations. As RAP has done from time-to-time, we want to offer America and our leaders new ways of thinking about how we operate in cyberspace and how we build an even more secure nation for our progeny. We want to talk about the future of leadership in the connected age.

Our intent is that these ideas help shape and strengthen national connectivity. We want to talk about how industry, academia and government, as well as all of our citizens and communities, might safely connect with each other and the leaders of our nation.

The topics we’ll cover include how we can more effectively define the environments of cyberspace and how we might better orient to these environments. In addition, we’ll discuss what styles and techniques of leadership and organizational influence we have in our national cyberspace toolkit and how we can consistently practice the risk management techniques we need to succeed as a cyberspace power now and in the future. We’ll also introduce a few graphic models to help tie these things together visually.

Part One: Identifying the Environments of Cyberspace

Operating securely in cyberspace has been a tough challenge for many years. Gone are the days when we could easily analyze and respond to simple cause and effect relationships where a single threat such as a computer virus or a corrupted document file could be dealt with by one direct solution. Or, when we could simply tell a follower “don’t do unsafe things in cyberspace!” That kind of leadership in highly technical settings such as cyberspace doesn’t work anymore, if indeed it ever did.

Secure cyberspace operations (SCO) demands excellent leadership and organizational skills to stay competitive, collaborative and innovative. Both leaders and followers must understand the risks and opportunities that cyberspace presents to their organizations. Cyberspace offers one of the most challenging but potentially rewarding leadership environments that any boss at any level has ever faced in the history of organizations.

Perhaps the major challenge we all face in sustaining SCO arises from observing and orienting to where we are in the information-rich cyberspace world. For leaders to provide needed direction, motivation and support to their organization and followers, it’s imperative to understand the nature of the environment in which they work. That takes observation and orientation.

With a realistic orientation, leaders can make decisions that offer better opportunities for success. In cyberspace, there are instances where we operate in simple or even complicated settings, or in complex environments or even times when we are in all-out chaos. Each environment is distinct and requires different leadership behaviors: leadership behaviors that adapt to the environment as well as to the followers and organizational requirements. We must act as leaders appropriately, and often quite differently, in each environment. A mismatch in leader behavior to the demands of the environment will almost certainly bring about some level of failure to operate securely in cyberspace.

But, even if we can actually identify the four environments, how can we truly tell which setting we are in? It is important to know because each these four settings necessitate a different focus and approach for effective decision-making and leadership action. The rapid pace of information flow and new connections ensure orientation challenges will arise.

The vast multidimensionality of cyberspace, subjected to constant attacks and exploitations, makes it extremely difficult for anyone to consistently succeed. Therefore, leaders must develop the skills to assess, adapt and communicate effectively. In truth, we are just starting to explore, lead and operate in cyberspace, and leaders must orient and adapt to this truth.

We could label these four distinct environments as Leadership Orientation Domains (LOD). We suggest this labeling since the key to leading and operating in these four LODs is orientation to the environment. This orientation is what makes it possible to appreciate where the leadership challenges reside and what the likelihood of success might be in deciding and acting under this orientation. Orientation also impacts how leaders assess and use the tools and methods that offer the best chance of success.

In other words, adaptation in leadership is a required characteristic to understand and maneuver, in order to operate successfully across the environments of cyberspace.

By way of a teaser for the next installment of The Future of Leadership in Cyberspace, we’ll clue our readers that we as a nation can not only operate securely in cyberspace, but we can thrive in it. Next time, we’ll define the LODs more specifically and introduce John Boyd and his OODA Loop to show how we improve adaptability in leadership. The future of leadership in cyberspace is actually quite bright!

As an additional teaser, below is the top-level model that we’ll follow. See ya’ next time!

ALP-SOC Graphic 1Originally posted: 8/1/2016

[1] Walter E. Natemeyer, Ph.D., is the CEO of North American Training and Development, Inc., Houston, TX. He taught at the university graduate level for over ten years before devoting full-time effort to teaching basic and advanced leadership skills in business and government sectors, including teaching at the Johnson Space Center in Houston for over 40 years. He has authored numerous books, articles, and training instruments on a variety of management topics.

[2] Editor’s Note: This blog post changes the current theme of Reconnecting to the American Promise (RAP) just a bit. To be sure, it’s still all about connection and the American people. For America to remain the world’s greatest center for connecting and balancing freedom and security, we must set the global standard for operating securely in cyberspace. In the wake of the recently reported intrusions of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic National Committee email files, this seems even more important. With costs of some data breaches now reaching into the millions of dollars, the effects to the bottom line are clearly increasing. The United States must demonstrate leadership in secure cyberspace operations on behalf of all of our people and our friends abroad.

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