Q. I'm newer to corporate security. Can you give me some tips that might eventually help me to make it to the top spot?
A. There are four things that I consider to be lessons learned, or "pearls of wisdom" that I can impart based on my career.
The first one is “succession planning is never ending.” That means recreating yourself and always leaving a place better than when you arrived and keeping that momentum going from one to the next. I also feel great that all three of the corporate leaders that followed me in my positions took the security programs I created and improved upon them. That’s how it’s supposed to work.
Next, I believe certifications are good -- but I think there is a better pathway. Picking up additional languages, experiences, cross-function leadership opportunities are more important. It’s okay to take career path risks with what I believe are certain qualifiers. I think variety is what creates attractiveness. If you look at the leaders in some of your organizations, most often they have taken on a variety of leadership positions to get to where they are now. And it really gives you a complete understanding of the business, whether it’s facilities, real estate, aviation, Environmental Health & Safety. I would encourage you to look for those as opportunities within your organization.
The third thing is to avoid fear-based decisions. For example, taking flight from a job may not always be the best answer. As the old saying goes, “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence but you still have to mow it.” I would also add that you will be faced at least one time with being fired over standing firm on a decision that’s really courageous to make. I think everyone has to be willing to give it all up based on a courageous decision.
The final thing that I will add is in my opinion, generosity, genuineness, and servant leadership always wins out in the end. I’ve always liked to think of it as making your boss look like a genius for hiring you; and you would certainly want the same thing when you hire someone. I have also found that serving others rather than expecting others to serve me has been a real critical path to success. People can smell disingenuousness from afar. I think its part of that self-seeking attitude that is really impossible to hide.
I will end with a very quick story. I call it the Bo Callahan syndrome. Bo Callahan is a character in the movie Draft Day. He was the greatest player in that draft from a skill standpoint but ended up being a terrible teammate. As a result he was not chosen by Sonny Weaver, who was the owner of the Cleveland Browns. Sonny Weaver asked Bo how many people from the team attended your 21st birthday party. Not one of his teammates attended his 21st birthday party. That always stuck with me - I don’t want to ever fall into the Bo Callahan syndrome where you can be highly skilled but you’re just not very fun to be around.
Answer provided by Mark Lex, Security Executive Council Emeritus Faculty. Mark started his career in law enforcement. He has owned his own company and has held three corporate security leadership positions; the most recent was at Abbott Labs. Along the way he took a side trip to go to ministry school.